Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Facebook -- an excuse for trivial communication

Social networking is a buzz term of the Web 2.0 world composed of older teens, twenty and thirty-somethings and a few older people thrown together in a sound bite world lacking any true discourse or substance. It is significant that the metaphor used is "writing on the wall." One of the prominent forums for this new form of personal graffiti is Facebook. Some of the participants can claim thousands of "friends" who are mostly people they would never greet or even recognize if met in person. How much real content can you get from a comment written on a wall? I get more social interaction than this from waving at people in traffic on the freeway.

I cannot claim to be a long time participant in this particular social phenomenon, but I am certain that increased familiarity will not disclose any deeper significance to the superficiality. I have yet to determine how my world is enriched by knowing that someone is tired or fixed dinner or that some one gave a gift of a coconut tree or a cow. It is certain that there is no clear writing or understandable communication going on in this venue.

Aside from the brief novelty of recognizing old friends and relatives, the content seems to have less substance than chewing gum. Taking a quiz on "How Hick Are You?" is like reading the throw away weekly magazines in the Sunday newspapers, without having to make the effort to bring the paper in from the front porch. Finding out that someone you hardly know is a fan of some prominent person, is like watching the gossip columns. At one level, attending wedding receptions and funerals, in person, serve a function of binding people together in a common social network. But what is utility of have hundreds of people, who you do not know and who you never see, attend a virtual wedding reception? What kind of social bond comes from clicking on a "I want to join" link?

I guess it is too much to expect that a generation who's deepest thoughts consists of "Cool" and "Hey, Dude" could compose anything that approached real discussion or discourse. Historians have found a rich source for analysis in personal letters. What kind of historical significance will this ephemeral note taking have in the future? How do we get some kind of perspective on the thoughts of a generation, when those thoughts are confined to comments like "Hope,you're OK" and "What cuties!" Not to mention the fact that someone found a seven letter word in Scramble?


  1. That may be true but it's more interaction than I'd have with a lot of people. I've even been able to reconnect with friends from Elementary School or Jr. High or High School or college that I had been wondering how they were doing or what they were doing - now I know. Even if much of the interaction is trivial, it still is some interaction.

  2. I don't have much to say in defense of the superficiality of Facebook--how are you supposed to strengthen or even preserve a friendship with somebody when the deepest the conversation gets is, "lol thx, i no wat u mean so wat r u up 2 o sorry g2g 2 work c ya" (rough translation--laugh out loud/hahaha. Thanks, I know what you mean. So what are you up to? Oh, sorry, I've got to go to work. See ya!") Not everybody's like that, but it's still pretty common, (and incomprehensible).

    I do appreciate that I have a way to contact my old friends or find out what they are up to instead of just wondering--and in some cases worrying. Without Facebook I probably would never see or talk to any of my old friends again because I wouldn't know how to get in touch with them. I also like to see the websites and pictures that some of my really close friends post, and being able to post links or thoughts when there are things I would like to spread the word about.