Some Pretty Good Reasons to Stay Away from Facebook

Via a reader at Andrew Sullivan’s blog, I think this is an astute observation of the Facebook experience:

[Facebook] plays into some very unpleasant human social characteristics, foremost the temptation to evaluate one’s own worth based on a comparison with others: what they have, what they do, where they holiday, etc. It is a profoundly unspiritual experience.

As for myself, I’m an ambivalent user of Facebook. Perhaps everyone is. I opened an account five years ago, found within a week of use that it was worthless to me, and failed to log on again for a couple of years. When I did log on again, I remembered how worthless it was, and didn’t come back for yet a few more years.

But now I’m trying to have a look at Facebook again, and this time I’ve stayed around longer. I check it perhaps once a day, and I’ve done this for about a month now. Largely, I’m just forwarding some of my blogs to my Facebook home page and giving some attention to the scrolling thread from “friends” (mostly just very distant acquaintances).

But primarily I’m appalled at just how small and narrow so many people’s lives are, and how little their interests coincide with mine.

And there is so very little effort at thought–just the pushing forward of others’ (cutesy or cliche) memes via links. So many ditto heads.

And the narcissism. The pictures of the dishes of food one ate last night and the attendant idiocy of the comments (“yummy!” “mmmm!”).

Who are these people? Oh. They’re my friends.

But I don’t care how many miles one of them bicycled yesterday, or that another one got in a fender bender in which nobody was hurt. I don’t give a shit. Tell me something interesting, show me your thought, or point me to something more than the trivial. Say something controversial or surprising.

And where is the sense of shame? Isn’t it embarrassing to tell people where you had breakfast this morning, and that the pancakes were fluffy today, but not yesterday? As if that needs to enter anyone else’s consciousness beyond your own, God’s, and your spouse’s.

I mean, really, who cares?

I’m not saying I don’t see the humanity of the people that I’ve “friended,” or that I don’t like most of them. And occasionally, there are delightful surprises on Facebook. One of my “friends”–read a very distant acquaintance from high school–has an amazing aesthetic sense when it comes to finding thrift store furniture, and posts images of his discoveries. I find I like this person better than just about all the others I’ve “friended” on Facebook for this sole reason alone.

But in the main I’m just thankful that I’m not sitting over a table from the vast majority of my Facebook friends for lunch today (because we would have so very, very little to say to one another).

Which means we’re not really friends at all.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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5 Responses to Some Pretty Good Reasons to Stay Away from Facebook

  1. keithnoback says:

    Sounds like somebody’s pancakes weren’t fwuffy this morning! 😦 [seriously, this post is right on target]

  2. Peter Smith says:

    I think you might get more mileage from Google+
    The difference between the two services seems to be that on Facebook you can find people you know while on G+ you find interesting people. On G+ the emphasis is on finding people that post interesting stuff and then following them(and posting interesting stuff that other people find worth following). The word ‘friend’ is absent from the G+ vocabulary which is a relief because such friendships are artificial.

    Even so, both systems are overpopulated by the preeners and poseurs more concerned with signalling than with substance. What is strange is that they fail to see how badly this reflects on their professional reputation. A small number of smart people understand this and post accordingly to shape their professional appearance.

    What happens in practice on G+ is that people post links to articles that interest them. This makes it in effect a content curation service that leads me to fascinating articles I might otherwise have never found, provided, of course, one is following the right person.

  3. Andrew says:

    Here, here. In my experience Facebook has become a meeting place full of those looking to self-promote and seek out approval.

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