"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing." -Socrates

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Facebook Obsession

Last week I watched a documentary about how a few Harvard students started a website, Facemash. The name eventually changed to Facebook, initially starting as an online yearbook for Harvard students. One of the founders, Mark Zuckerberg, said early on that he was hoping for six or seven hundred people to sign up. Before he knew it, his website was nearing one million members. In 2008, there was one hundred million users, and today there are more than six hundred million. Half of those users access Facebook.com daily; a business now estimated to be worth fifty billion dollars.

Until last night, the appeal to Facebook eluded me. I didn't understand why so many people were interested in staying connected with people they never bothered contacting before. I was confused as to why people spent time updating their "wall" with meaningless blips of information. But last night, when I signed up, selected my profile picture, modified the settings to my liking, and searched through thousands of people, I couldn't help but feel energized. Why? Why would someone feel a sort of rush from Facebooking? Here's my thought.

When I was fourteen years old, a computer game was released. It was called The Sims, and for a while, I was hooked. For anyone not familiar to the game, you live out the life of a computer generated character, having a career, buying stuff, building relationships, etc. Today there is a more popular game called World of Warcraft. The idea is similar, but with WoW you play with real people over the internet in a fantasy world. How is this related to Facebook?

I believe Facebook enables us to create a super alter ego, far surpassing any Sim character or Warrior. With Facebook, users have the ability to present to the world the precise image they want others to have of them, with complete control. You can create a super you, revealing only what you want. I'm certainly not saying every user has this goal in mind, or that it's necessarily a negative thing. I find it enthralling. I am fascinated by the amount of interest and time spent communicating using this sort of Facebook avatar.

But, living in this world of Facebook and spending lots of time as the profile one's created, I have to ask, are we creating our profile or is our profile creating us?


  1. The situation is that Facebook first lets you set-up YOURself .. in other words, these are YOUR thoughts and YOUR pictures and YOUR friends .. basically, it's all about YOU, and YOU need to be heard! The more friends you get, the more YOU are seen and heard. YOU are important. To prove this, look at the 600 million on Facebook. Now, with 1 out-of-10 people on the planet visiting Facebook, if you're not using Facebook, you're most likely going to run into someone who is.
    Why do 90% of the people NOT need Facebook? First of all, let's say that fully 1/2 the planet (I don't know an exact number) can't get internet because of poverty (Africa) or control (North Korea) .. whatever .. that leaves 1-out-of-5 on Facebook, or STILL 80% who aren't. So, why don't those 80% not use Facebook? Do they have families which they share their time? Friends? .. or maybe it just hasn't caught-on with them yet? .. I don't think so.
    I believe that Facebook gives you a false sense of accomplishment and security. You can see others and chat. But does the chat really offer any depth to give you understanding? Do you learn anything to help you in life? Is someone from your Facebook friend crowd going to take you to the hospital if you need to go? or come over and help you at your home? .. or be there in time of need?
    For these reasons, I think that most people (the 80%) see that Facebook is a toy with very little return. Moreover, I would suggest that Facebook MAY (if not properly kept in check) even destroy family and community .. and here's what I mean. If Facebook becomes your communication vehicle of choice, then by definition, you're not going to have any depth, because there's no way you can type enough to talk about depth. Your parents, friends, brothers & sisters, co-workers, family - i.e., everyone - is the SAME. There are no priorities, no best friends - no depth .. and no product; nothing that anyone can use, including yourself. No plumbing, no yard work, no cars built, no public service .. nothing. That pretty much sums-up the problem with the tool if it's left to get out of control - and I think that's what's happened with most of the 600 million.
    I pray that I'm either wrong, or that these lost souls can find their way.

  2. Hello David,

    I have read some of your posts and this one about Facebook I can offer what I have gotten from using it. You said a couple of things I haven't really run into, as far as ppl trying to make themselves into a Super person they are not. I am sure there are plenty especially the teens...I am surprised at how many ppl like taking pix of themselves these days. But I and the ppl I talk to don't make up things as you state. BTW - I have under 50 "friends", I don't just add up ppl & some I just refuse. Many use it to ask for Prayers and can reach more ppl there than anyplace else I've ever seen. Alot of ppl reach out for possitive support when life is beating them up and it's things you may not say to your family because they are the problem right now, others can relate. The ppl I have found, I would have loved to have had them in my life, some from Elem. School who knew me before I became more than just me...i.e. Wife,Mother,Nurse. However since I moved away from them I had no good way of finding them. 2 ppl I found on f/b came to my 50th B.D. Party on 1 week notice, they have been married for 32 yrs, I knew the man in 1st grade & his wife in H.S.and we remained friends for a while after Holly was born and then I moved, they had been looking for ME. Another issue regarding keeping in touch with ppl from long ago is that with women we are harder to find because of changing our last names when we marry. I know for me alot of it is just killing time durng this Winter while trapped indoors. Also I have been able to keep in touch with my family & friends when THEY grow up and move away, such as you,& several on the Buck side. As well as having some sort of relationship with Ryan & Chrissy I would never had at this very important time of their lives. It is better than not ever even knowing that Ryan just now in his life became a Daddy.
    For me finding a few friends from the poor neighborhood we lived in was great to know that they too "got out". To me f/b is alot better use for this technology than "internet porn" and such.

    I did want to mention something to you. Since both you and Daniel enjoy writing there is much in your own family history that would make a much better book or movie than alot of other stories I've seen or heard. And the amount of ppl that know the tales are dying out, soon nothing can be verified or even told. I've wanted Holly (quite a good author herself) many times to write the story, but she went another way. I don't know what your Mom has ever told you (maybe wants to protect you) but going back on my Mom's side of family there is alot of "stories" some may be made up by the older Generations but I know what we all experienced as children & some things we witnessed that other families couldn't even imagine. We have it all...drugs,sex,rock-n-roll,witchcraft??,
    KKK,Indian Camps,some rich,others poor,wife beaters even some attempted murders,and a few triumphs. I don't think Kathy would like me telling you this but you are a grown man and I am totally serious. The last of Mom's brothers 2 are still alive and I talked to one about some of those old stories and his recount after all these years matched exactly with what Mom had told us, my Great Aunt Allie was quite a character, died before we were born. I have no idea what your Mom would tell you if you asked her of Aunt Allie, this woman was MAJOR important in Mom's young life. Plus on the Ritter side there is Aunt Sis & the Children's Zoo,I brought back a box of Aunt Sis' pix & memorable pages r.e. places such as "The Beverly Hills Country Club" an elite Dinner Club in Cincy that burned down, Uncle Charlies story about the Restaurant he owned where we worked & catered "Nick Clooneys" talk show... much,much more on both sides. I have just been wanting to put that out there to you guys, as I said resources are running thin.
    Love you, Elaine