Thursday, July 23, 2009

Facebook's shadow culture...

My Dad came across this article and shared it with me. He knows the "struggles" I've had with Facebook in the past...and why I removed myself from the frustrations it was causing me this year. I tried to explain in my ladies Bible study what I was going through...and let me just tell you that the older ladies really struggled with the term "de-friending." Everyone should though...think about it! At the time, I wasn't really able to clearly formulate all the things that bothered me about Facebook. This article does a great job of articulating many of my concerns. I highlighted the things I like, for emphasis!!

Facebook's shadow culture
By Emily Walshe
Thu Jun 11, 5:00 am ET
Brookville, N.Y. –

I remember the day I became blood sisters
with my friend Kristine. We planned for weeks; but in the end,
nobody noticed us steal into the cornfield, prick our
prepubescent palms, and press them firmly together.
Kris is now on Facebook and she's pestering me to join.
She's one of the 200 million Facebook users who tend
networks of friends online. I am among a dwindling number
who don't.

A common criticism of such social-networking sites is that
they cheapen friendship. But they're doing more than
reducing its value: They're creating a shadow culture of
friendship that spins cosmic sympathy into crowd sourcing.

With greater connectedness has come the ability for people to influence one another with more speed and efficiency. Social-networking sites – spurred by a resurgent "Secret" interpretation of the ancient Greek doctrine "like attracts like" – have become a potent medium for mass persuasion.

The age-old law of attraction is manifest and multiplied to the nth degree in social-media realms. Facebook's exponential success lies in its ability to get its users to do the work for them – friends persuading friends to join, comment, and feed. Twitterers compete to attract followers – 140 characters at a time. On sites like eHarmony, affinity is an algorithmic compatibility coefficient.

Friendship, like marriage, is a big attraction – a deep commitment to a nonblood relation. It is a relationship predicated on trust and nurtured, over time, through physical and metaphysical connection.

Critics consider the phenomena of chronic "friending" to be a kind of memetic narcissism, and excessive self-regard is surely part of its appeal. But these ever-widening concentric circles of congeniality are subtly turning the desire for friendship into sinister temptations for power or profit.

In these labyrinths of mutuality, the pulls and pokes of influence are embedded in Facebook's highly targeted Groups and Notes. New "apps" are turning Facebook into a colossal interpersonal ploy that, ever-so-subtly, blurs the distinction between community and commodity. On Kris's page, I can browse her lemonade stand – a widget that pays her when people buy items from her list of favorite things. I can link to her brother and buy his garage band's music. Or I can help out Afghan refugees by purchasing "gifts," such as a virtual United Nations tent for $10.

Influence is the elephant in the chat room. Self-promoting and moneymaking apps are deceptivelydisplacing the gold standard of trust with a fiat currency of clout.

As I watch our kids acquire the habit of thinking and experiencing on behalf of an audience, I worry that they won't develop the wherewithal to effectively relate one-on-one, or to appreciate people as people and not as payoff. I see their Ponzified friend-building schemes and resent the ephemera of new-age amity. To them, friend is a technical term – a time suck.

"A friend to all," said Aristotle, "is a friend to none." We need a renaissance of intimacy and commitment. Now is the time to renew, in our hearts and in our souls and in our First Life experience, the perennial sense that friendship is both miracle and magic, and treat it less as cohort and more as covenant.

Emily Walshe is a librarian and professor at Long Island University in New York.

1 comment:

Kayren, Pink Daisy Girl said...

I have stayed off of Facebook and so have my kids. They don't really have an interest, although they do know a couple of people that have accounts on it, or whatever you call it.

The reason Robert and I primarily have stayed off is so people can't track us down. Not that we've done anything wrong, it's just that we really don't have things in common with people we went to high school with unless we are already keeping in touch with them, so why do I want to track them down, or vice-versa, through Facebook. I also have a very uncommon name, so it would be simple for people to find me that were simple acquaintances at any point in time.

I think the things this article said are very valid. I just heard some of the ladies talking at get 'er done at the beginning of the month, and one of them was saying how she was all about Facebook for a while, and she'd be asking people to be friends or agreeing to be friends, but now she doesn't have a clue who they are and hardly uses it. Pretty much the cheapening of friendship thing.