You're Anti, You're Anti-social

Clearly, I'm anti-social.

I don't have a Facebook account.

I did have one, though I rarely used it and only had a few friends. But I dropped it permanently after the emotional manipulation experiment came to light. I was disappointed, but not surprised, that others didn't follow suit.

This great image comes from a Facebook sucks site... however the gist of the article is that content on Facebook and scams suck... whereas the truth is that it's the very existence of Facebook that sucks

If you don't include blogs and forums, the only social media I have is a professional LinkedIn profile. This is a requirement for my career, but I don't use it as a social media platform so much as a combination online resume and professional contact tracker. It's incredibly useful (and yes, I've gotten jobs from LinkedIn -- people always ask this), but the groups and posting and other social elements I ignore. I also use a couple of other tools with social components, but I don't treat them as social platforms (Waze, for example). I use them to inform myself, but don't have any inclination to chat, message, track points, etc.

The spouse has a Facebook still, with a handful of people from his high school or that we've known in the years since. He's also becoming increasingly frustrated with the... tone of the discourse (and I say it's about time). He's slowly dropping people who he's got nothing in common with and I predict he will soon end up like me.

He recently told me about a rant on Facebook that stated that you shouldn't unfriend people for disagreeing with you politically because IRL you don't drop your friends if you have differences. I can't begin to express how wrong headed this is. First, because IRL you and your friends probably have a gentleman's agreement not to discuss the things you disagree on. Like I don't talk about Witchcraft with my grandmother. If I had to listen to my actual friends rant about politics endlessly or hand me numerous articles on things they know I disagree with... I would drop them, IRL or not. Second, people on Facebook that you don't have any other connection with ARE NOT YOUR FRIENDS. If your entire interaction is liking stuff on their wall while they like stuff on your wall, that's not friendship. It's more like a lukewarm fandom, where you keep desultory track of people because what they're doing looks marginally more interesting than what you're doing (which is surfing on Facebook).

Compare that to my daughter, who's busy documenting "The Best Summer Ever" with and for her friends -- separately and together. And who uses these tools the way I used the family phone as a teen (to endlessly chatter with my real friends).

Disclaimer: this is not my daughter. The Budding Psychonaut (as Gordon once referred to her)
currently has purple hair and a fondness for Harajuku fashion.

One of the reasons that many forms of social media don't seem to appeal to or work for me is that I strongly believe that the medium is the message. The limits and rules of online communication greatly affect the content and meaning it can carry.

For example, Twitter: The character limitation, the lack of connectivity between tweets and the disjointed context for conversations (via tags) means that, in my opinion, Twitter completely fails as a means of discussion or conversation. It is useful as a method of dissemination of information or coordination of real life meeting points (or sharing of interesting tidbits, not that anyone is suffering from a shortage of these). This is the value of the tool for protest movements. It's also why, when shit gets real, its the best way to get eyewitness information from folks on the ground. If there's a riot that's not getting much if any mainstream coverage, I look to Twitter.

The structure of Facebook on the other hand, forces a certain banality. The complex security and visibility settings means that most people operate in a lowest common denominator mode of posting to everyone. The ease of re-posting existing content versus creating it makes it a excellent meme dissemination device. And the algorithms that Facebook uses to filter your feed means your efforts to follow others are often marred by lack of continuity.

And, as it turns out, social medial isn't very good for us. It can make us miserable and addicted. It turns us into plagiarists -- though this seems more like a feature (retweet anyone?) than a bug. It, ironically, can make us less social.

The best online mediums for conversation are email (for ostensibly private conversation) and forums / blogs (for public or semi-public discussion). The use of threading and quoting allows people to maintain continuity and context for the discussion. And the clear and uncomplicated privacy context means people know what they can say. Of course, the lack of accountability for public discussion often dooms these conversations to becoming pointless flame wars. But all current mediums (yes, that's a real plural) online are suffering from an ongoing degradation of discourse and debate.

I see lots of people trying to have conversations online. I wonder if they would be more successful if they used the right tools for the job.

Note: This is one of a series of darker posts that I've been working on. Don't worry, PMPM planning part two is coming up.


  1. I participated in a discussion on Twitter last Tuesday on MakerSpaces, that resulted in a genuine face-to-face meeting with one of the other participants. He actually came to my school, saw our space, and was genuinely awed by what we've done (what I've done with a lot of support, says the less-humble, more prideful side of my brain). And he said, "Everyone should be coming here to see this."

    And I shrugged, and said, "Maybe."

    He said, "But if they see... If they watch kids working here... surely they'll get it."

    I said, "You get it, because you want to get it. You'd already decided to do a makerspace program before you came to my school to see how we'd done it. And you wanted this. You made this connection happen. I've made the invitation dozens of times, and people come, they make dutiful notes about what I say... and nothing happens. You're going home now, and you're going to Make something, and you'll find that the making helps challenge what I've told you... because you'll be learning from your personal experience and not just what I told you. Not everyone who says they want a makerspace has that mindset. I hope you do."

    And I think he got it. But the online world is a powerful draw. I feel it myself. My lady says that I spend too much time on Tumblr, on Facebook, looking for approval or connection. And I think maybe it's time to cut the cord. Hmmm.

    1. I really appreciate your maker-focused response to this. You're right, online is certainly interesting, but it's not the world of making and doing.

      Oh, and quick status: bookshelf - desk conversion complete (though the spouse did most of it).

      I'm traveling so much this summer though that my summer of making is about to get officially converted into an autumn of making.


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