What I loath about Facebook

I wrote the polemic below as a comment on Facebook, in both senses. I was responding to a Johnnie friend’s comment, “David Pierce loathes fb as a forum for real discussion.” “Johnnies” are alumnae and alumni of St John’s College, the one with campuses in Annapolis and Santa Fe. My own view of our College is expressed in an article called simply St John’s College published in the De Morgan Journal in 2012. Since then, I have written about the College in the present blog, especially in an article called The Tradition of Western Philosophy, where I said I had attended the College because

I was living in a tradition, whether I liked it or not, and I wanted to know what it meant. I wanted to know what it really was. I thought the tradition needed questioning: here I was fired up by Robert Pirsig’s philosophical travel book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Main­tenance. (I recently wrote about this book and others in another blog article, Books hung out with.)

Thus I wrote here on September 10, 2013. On October 15, 2015, I wrote on Facebook as follows.

What I loathe about Facebook is that account holders are not (even) customers, but are a product to be sold to advertisers. More than that, we are experimental subjects. Like laboratory rats, the only payment we receive for our services is the pellets (the “likes,” even the comments, from other test subjects) that we receive for engaging in the behavior that the Facebook laboratory workers wish to study.

Those laboratory workers—I do not call them scientists, because a real scientist makes all relevent information public. The most relevant aspect of Facebook, the “algorithm,” is secret.

Beyond this, I do not positively loathe, but neither do I like, the Facebook mechanism for conversation. It encourages brevity and haste. It makes reference to earlier comments difficult. In my view, the best way for distant Johnnies, at least, to have conversation is through email groups, the J-list in particular. Alternatively, a blog like a WordPress blog at least gives a URL to every comment, so that it can be reached easily (at least if one keeps the link; but one can also arrange to be informed by email of any responses).

The existence of social media like Facebook may actually improve the J-list as a medium of conversation, by providing an alternative home for those people who really do just want to post amusing links without comment. On the other hand, this “alternative home” may be drawing so much attention that people find they have no time for anything else beyond their usual obligations. In that case, Facebook may be a habit like cigarettes, and breaking the habit might be worth the effort needed to do so.

Thus I wrote last October, and I continue to agree. I can acknowledge that Facebook made it fairly easy for me to retrieve my comment. I could not obtain it with the view friendship option for the person on whose page I originally wrote; but I did find it through the comments option in my activity log. On the other hand, perhaps it is the paucity of my comments on Facebook that made finding the one above easy.

I do not object to social media as such; I depend on them. This very blog is a social medium, albeit not very social in practice. I am surprised by how much I have enjoyed and appreciated Twitter; but I needed time to figure out how to do this. I still have not figured out how to use Tumblr, or if I even want to use it, though I do have a blog there with a few postings. I am also on Diaspora*, the online social world where you are in control, based on three key philosophies: Decentralization, Freedom, Privacy; but somehow these are not strong selling points.

One Trackback

  1. By Narnia « Polytropy on August 4, 2016 at 7:57 am

    […] The following notes about C. S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia, are from four emails that I wrote in the fall of 2015. The emails rebut various objections to the Narnia books. I have put my emails here, because I noticed that a friend on Facebook was wondering whether her daughter was ready to read, or perhaps to be read to from, the Chronicles. I do not wish to write much on Facebook, for reasons detailed elsewhere in this blog. […]

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