05 November, 2012

Why it is you and not Facebook that is the problem

Picture from Orlandeli 

There is a constant grumble I hear from people about the bane of our generation: Facebook. It is one of those things people love to bash up. We like and we share, we poke and we post but we also crib and we crib and we crib. By defending Facebook, I often find myself on a lonely island. People look at me in incomprehension. "You're trying to tell us you don't waste time on it?" "Are you saying you actually have that many friends?"

I explain. I don't use Facebook to nurture my friendships. I know and accept that the 560 people on my account are not my friends; not in the sense I understand the import of what being a friend is. They are a list of people I know (some well, some not so well) and link with from time to time. Facebook to me however, is a tool. It is a place to gather information about things I am interested in; a literary event next month or perhaps a screening of Moonrise Kingdom close by. It serves as a venue to subscribe to interesting insights from organisations and people I am interested in personally and academically. It is a place to network with former classmates and colleagues; no, not to become 'friends' but to perhaps discover similar interests and as a result, form an interesting 'peer group'. A long-lost school friend on Facebook whom I used to edit articles with is now my favourite critic. No, we aren't the friends we used to be, we acknowledge we have grown along different paths, but we have, through Facebook, found that there are bits of our old selves that exist and are still mirrored in each other. Facebook is not where I disclose my inner torments, it does not serve as a solace for loneliness.  

Facebook  and my time spent on it is never a contradiction. I take the good parts and have no problem in ignoring the unnecessary. I don't chat on Facebook, I don't upload pictures from my travels. I share an occasional article I'd like people to read, and I like the occasional picture that makes me laugh. Facebook to me is a phenomenon that helps me connect to the things I like. It is, in a way a customisable channel where I can choose what I want. Like someone said recently, MS Word is a word processing software. If you want to get that chapter written, you have to think of it. Word will help you organise and manage it, but you still have to type it out. Similarly, Facebook is what you make of it. You can grumble how you barely know the 726 friends on your list and how you waste all your time on Facebook. Well, don't. You have a choice. And no one is going to make it for you. The whole game of deactivating one's account to 'disconnect' and 'take time off' amuses me. Don't you see? It is not Facebook that is the problem, it is you. 

*                   *                 *
We (and by that I mean urban, educated 20-something Indians) are living in an increasingly solitary age. None of my friends (most in their late twenties or early thirties) are married, something quite unheard of just a generation ago. At my age, my mother was married, ran a household, was bringing up a daughter and was well-entrenched in her job. I on the other hand, am studying, am far removed from domesticity, and do not have either spouse or child. Something is afoot. The structure of our social space is changing. Caught between family that keeps one threaded to a place that is familiar but often conflicting with our notions, I see many people live by the "friends are the family we choose" axiom. And many people, I see extrapolate that to "the more friends I have the better". Facebook helps us reaffirm this myth. But as Deresiewicz, points out in his must-read article:
"The more people we know, the lonelier we get.
This weekend, I set off, mufflered against the chill, to meet a friend. Bruised by disturbing events in both our lives, we found laughter crinkle our faces and we chattered incessantly; the warmth of a friend well-loved enveloping us both. We threw out ideas to each other, hop-skipping from one beautiful tangent to another, we gobbled a freshly cooked meal, we laughed into our coffees, reliving memories from another time, we walked about, and shivered at the end of autumn. When we returned to our own homes, she sent me a link to that website I wanted. On Facebook of course.

Follow up with some Seinfield Seinfeld.

17 comments:

  1. Abhijit12:40 am

    Tch tch.. Seinfeld ke naam mein spelling mistake. Shocking! :P

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    Replies
    1. And that is when I thought I checked it twice. Inexcusable. Bleh.

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  2. New UI is flashy, but hard to follow!

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    Replies
    1. Flashy but hard to follow is exactly what I didn't want.
      Excuse for the above: Boredom.

      But really, hard to follow? :|

      Delete
    2. Too jumpy. Lack of content separation. Either that or I am not the brightest bulb in the box [ my mom always suspected so ].

      Why facebook [ or most online tools ] are evil, are for the simple reason that its easier to communicate behind a mask. Like how its easier to comment on a blog than to approach someone irl and be appreciative or criticize them. At some level, I feel, they also lead to a loss of desire to interact with people around us. The web is full of strangers and stranger experiences, new stories to share and what not. If this is hard to grasp, consider the nerds and dorks 10 years yonder and why they were considered abnormal and anti-social.

      But most of all, why facebook is evil is because it allows you to connect to people you never imagined. And while this can be good, consider the populace that has access to your private details that one of a sane mind would ever share with random folks around. That facebook flaunts this invasion is privacy enough should call for pitchforks and the sort.

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    3. Damn. And here I was enjoying the newness so much!

      My point was, the populace will only have access to details you (and this is important) willfully share with them. You can't post ever thought that flits through your mind and then attack Facebook for invading your 'space'.

      Delete
    4. But facebook itself, does not sufficiently or easily inform its users of implications of using the tool. Not many people understand how open and intrusive internet is because to a layman, its in no way obvious. It gets worse when tools like facebook, in their fine print, talk about how your personal information is sold and used for their benefits. Google does it too, but at least they let you opt out of it as well as inform you of it in simple words than a legal document. This is my biggest issue against facebook than it being a waste of time.

      People do act retarded on the internet as they do under influence of recreational drugs. Social networks and micro-messaging tools like facebook and twitter exemplify this in the best possible way, where people share nearly every damn thing they do or thing or feel attached to. Its the sequel to those chain mails about poor old legless brainless cancer riddled children who got a dime every time someone forwarded them.

      Lastly, thank you for the recent changes. Much more appealing.

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    5. Hmm Facebook doesn't. I guess those interested in their privacy can educate themselves about it. Though experience says they don't.

      I agree with all you say. People act retarded online. But that is not the fault of the internet or the tools they use. That's what I was getting at.

      Lastly, your welcome. The pages don't open on IE but who the hell uses that anyway. And the comments on the pages have disappeared, but I'm learning, I'm learning.

      Delete
  3. Anonymous3:04 am

    The comments on the pages can disappear because of faulty options. Go to each page in the editor and click on options (the button is on the right hand side). There will be an option to allow comments, show only existing ones, or block them entirely.

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    Replies
    1. Hmm I already checked that and though the option to allow comments has always been ticked, they don't show up.

      Delete
  4. More bugs on site, try clicking green scene or other links in the right of the navbar. Then hit the down arrow. Your website scrolls a complete different section.

    On another note, who developed this UX?

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    1. The pages open fine on my browser. The only thing I see wrong is that the comments have disappeared.

      I did.

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    2. Okay, the UI has changed yet again :) Also, kudos on developing the UX yourself. Rarely, if I ever I've seen women take up programming as an interest than a job.

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    3. Err..I didn't 'develop' it. I chose it from what blogger has to offer and tweaked it a bit. So much for that :)

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  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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