Monday, January 14, 2013

Facebook and the Lack of Context

I realized today why I dislike Facebook. It simply cannot handle context. In normal life, adults recognize that there are many different circumstances in which you speak. What may be appropriate to say to an old friend is not appropriate to say to coworkers or strangers. Facebook, however, is very bad at context. It does it to a small degree by attaching comments to what inspired them, but overall, it simply lumps everyone you know into one big undifferentiated heap and sends them everything you ever wrote, regardless of the setting. And thus, what you wrote in response to a joke by an old high school friend is also sent out to your boss, you mother and your neighbor.

Of course, this makes Facebook the perfect metaphor for today's teens, and our immature society in general, which would consider my thoughts on a compartmentalized life somehow "dishonest", and would suggest that I am "lying" to these people or hiding something. But that is simply not true. The fact is, whether or not I say something does not depend on what persona I wish to represent, but simply on a measure of politeness, as well as the concept of "familiarity". What is appropriate to say to someone you know well is not likely proper to say to a total stranger. Similarly, what coworkers want to hear from you is very different than what your friends or family do.

While many people today seem set on saying whatever they want, whenever they want, it actually makes for a rather uncomfortable existence, as many former teens are finding out when their old Facebook posts are coming back to haunt them during job interviews and other situations where they wish now they might not have been quite so open about their misadventures.

Unfortunately, it seems Facebook, thanks to the tremendous hype surrounding it, became a "social networking tool" with Marketrons forcing it upon businesses and making individuals use it for any number of inappropriate purposes. And so, hate it as I do, from time to time I find myself forced to use it, and, inevitably, I also find myself inundating all those I know with information about which they could not care less. Or else revealing things about myself which are largely unimportant or irrelevant to those to whom they are sent. Does a girl I dated in the late 1980's care if I use Nvidia video cards? Or that I played some on line video game? Yet to gain benefits, join lists, even simply to access some web pages, I find myself adding them to Facebook and telling others that at some time, once, I passed through this page which forced me to say I "liked" it, often even before I actually saw the page.

Well, enough of this off topic rant. I know I said I would not be posting for a while, and it may seem strange to waste what little posting time I have with such trivialities, but when  this struck me it just left me so annoyed I had to give it a little voice. And so, though I probably won't be posting again for a while, I am afraid I simply had to write this. But I do promise that my next few posts will be a little more on topic.

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