Thursday, January 5, 2012

When social media aren't very sociable.

          We were discussing social media in class, calmly and with respect, when one student couldn't hold  back: "Facebook is evil! Pure evil!"

         I asked him why he would say that. "They suck up your time! You come home and the first thing you have to do is check your Facebook. They fill your head with meaningless mush. Nothing important is ever on Facebook. And the rejection is horrendous. Can you imagine being defriended? Besides, a friend on Facebook is not a friend!"

        Was he right? Why was he so outraged? Why has he given Facebook such power over himself and his life?

         And if a friend on Facebook isn't really a friend, what is he? Or, even worse, is Facebook changing the definition of friendship? What do you know about your Facebook friends, and what do they know about you?

         Is friendship sharing your most trivial thoughts and most showy experiences with people who want to be your friend? Is it sending pictures of yourself holding a tall red drink, or with a tall boyfriend with a tall red drink? Is it telling people that (a) your trip, (b) the sights, (c) the food, (d) the shops, or (e) the tour guide who's just doing this while he writes his novel is awesome?

        Where's all the good stuff, the real stuff? And why are we so obsessive about Facebook and Twitter, checking them every ten minutes and responding immediately? They obviously are filling an important need in our lives.

         Maybe things will be changing this year. The Wall Street Journal has warned of "Facebook Fatigue". Users now spend six and a half hours per month, on the average. Daniel Knable, c.e.o. of Digitaria integrated marketing agency, predicts a slide. "IPO + privacy issues + your grandma joining + one redesign too many + general social network fatigue = Fonzi on waterskis," he says, referring to a desperate Happy Days episode.

        According to the WSJ, Blake Cahill, president of Banyan Branch, a social media agency in Seattle, believes consumers will be "driven away by an infiltration of ads as Facebook comes under growing pressure to make more money".

        I think college students may be the last, though, to give up their Facebook time. Until they do, I guess my student will have to summon the willpower to keep Facebook from sucking up his time.

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