Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Dehumanization of Facebook

When did you join Facebook? Why did you join Facebook? And finally, are you still ON Facebook

Earlier this summer, my son's social commentary Some People video series mocked  Facebook for many reasons. Membership on that site is dying out, he reports. The youth of today bailed on it ages ago, he says. Although his observations and tone seemed a bit hostile, his arguments rang true.

I remember joining Facebook in 2008. A friend had posted photos of me from a New Years Eve party on her page. To view them, I had to join. Not long after that initial viewing had taken place, I discovered we had a mutual friend and connected with her. We'd message each other. How FUN, I thought. She had moved to the Grand Rapids area a while ago and we had lost touch. At that time, Facebook reminded me of the 1970's Wella Balsam commercial as it guided me to another friend and another friend and so on and so on and so on.

So I set up my Home Page and began scanning and uploading old photos, finding long-lost high school and college friends and discovering a fun new way to stay in touch with local friends who I didn't see as often as I'd like. Suddenly, I had access to photos I might otherwise never see. I could post videos of show clips I was especially proud of to share with "the on-line world." My friends and I could message each other conversationally. Typing my thoughts and having a chance to edit as I went appealed to the writer in me who likes to get the wording right. (Much easier to edit my thoughts by typing than speaking!) Facebook offered a novel way to reconnect with people lost to time and distance. And that's why I joined ... to stay connected. That was its initial purpose after all ... to provide a "Social Connection." 

In the olden days -- back when Facebook was black & white like Pleasantville -- I visited and posted with abandon. The site provided an easy way to make quick plans and invite people to events ... and to receive invites from the moms from my kids' schools. I planned my husband's 50th birthday party using Facebook. Sending out virtual friend requests with on-line notifications was easier (and less costly) than making tons of phone calls or using snail mail. It offered a simple way to invite acquaintances unknown to me personally who live out of the area in various places within the Metro Detroit community.

With Facebook I'd receive updates about Birthdays. Oh, I'm organized and I have a Franklin planner page dedicated to all my family and friends' birthdays and anniversaries ... and kids' birthdays too. (My organizational skills are frightening when it comes to remembering dates.) But reminders are helpful.. And receiving thoughtful little posts via Facebook on birthdays, special days and at important times has meaning. It's nice ... 

BUT ...

Things have changed on Facebook. (Obviously the youth of today knew this first.) I noticed it during the election. I note it daily as the opinions posted by a "Friend" lead to unkind remarks and "Unfriending." I notice it evolved from the initial social link I enjoyed to a place to argue and defend and divide. I notice that some of the posts seem rather ridiculous. That I just don't care to read every occurrence and wonder why anyone thinks that providing every single minute detail of daily life is interesting to anyone but themselves.  Is it just me that notices the banality of this site? I'm over the diatribes and campaigns, too. The egocentric nature of this "communication tool" has evolved into a weapon of mass destruction. Anonymity of the typed word to an invisible audience can be empowering to people who might be too intimidated or passive aggressive to share their ideas in a face-to-face scenario.

I find it interesting that Facebook -- and other social networking sites -- use blue  lettering for their logo and images. As a color, blue reflects sincerity. It is reserved, calming and quiet. It doesn't like to make a fuss or call attention to itself. Through color psychology research, I discovered that Blue is a color that has always sought peace and tranquility above all else. A color that presumably reduces stress, creating a sense of calmness, relaxation and order. Blue is considered the helper ... a giver not a taker ... building strong trusting relationships.

How intriguing that color choice, for something that has evolved into a lot of posturing and self-aggrandizing.  I see more harmful self-promotion then real relationships. 

I don't visit the site much but Yes, I'm still on it. Why? Mostly because of how I choose to use it, which is the way I believe it was originally designed. I enjoy messages and chats with friends. I share photos and enjoy those shared by people I care for. But then I log out and choose to connect physically or verbally.

I use Facebook on my terms ... because people I care about are out there. I stay out of the hot and heavy debates and I won't argue with a cursor flashing before my eyes as it's really easy to type mean stuff. You may call me naive, but I believe and choose to honor the purity of Facebook's original intent. So there are people out there who hi-jacked it. Doesn't mean I have to play by their rules when I use it. 

In my naivete, I still believe that Facebook originated to bridge distance and enhance interpersonal relationships. I believe it still can when used appropriately with a blend of other relational communication mechanisms. After all, it is nice to see a glimpse into the lives of friends and family members in other places. Though at times when I browse sites of photo albums of my Friends, I confess that I feel a bit like a voyeur and a stalker ... 

Status Update Jenni Carmichael Clark: 
Doing well but would like to catch up. What's new? Let's get together. Bring a picture or two of your kids or your cats or your landscaping or whatever is going on and exciting in your life. Let's Stay Connected with FaceTime instead of Facebook.

                                                                                                 -- Jenni