The Facebook Effect

Disclaimer:  This article was written the Monday after the FST retreat and was going to piggyback on Keith’s teaching that touched on Facebook and Google.  However, it took about two weeks to actually get a blog set up.  So please, if you can remember that teaching, try to keep it in mind while reading this blog.  Thanks.

Keith’s teachings at FST brought up what I thought were two very good points; the Facebook effect and the Google effect.  Both of these websites have greatly affected our world.  Google and Facebook are, respectively, the most visited websites in the world.  The Internet has given us the ability to communicate across the world.  It has given us the ability to find anything we need in a matter of seconds.  So much good has been done with the Internet.  But when does too much of a good thing become bad?

I would like to talk about Facebook and the effect that it has on society.  Facebook, chartrooms, and even texting too have no doubt ruined our ability to communicate.  Actually talking to people requires effort and guts.  Even if you’re just having a casual conversation, you run the risk of saying something that offends that person, or having them reject your attempts at friendship.  But with Facebook, you can sit in the comfort of your home and chat with as many of your “friends” as you want.  If someone doesn’t want to talk to you, they just don’t respond to you.  None of that messy face-to-face stuff.  You don’t have to suffer from their rejection.  It’s almost like it’s not real.  Move on to the next person.  Facebook also feeds our inattention.  We have become a generation of diffuse beings, running from one thing to the next in hope of receiving some pleasure.  Facebook allows us to chat with as many people as we want, post something on someone’s wall, comment on a picture, and like someone’s status, all at the same time!  How can we possibly have an intimate conversation with someone where we actually care for them when we’re talking with three other people about who likes who and what whomever did.  We can also listen to music, do homework, and surf the Internet while we’re on Facebook.  No wonder people rarely have intimate conversations with each other anymore; a conversation where you can only talk to one person must seem rather boring by contrast.

I’m sitting in the basement of the Kent Student Center as I write this.  Everywhere I look people are on their laptops, or at one of Kent’s computers.  Several people are on Facebook.  I don’t see any conversations, any groups of people relating.  The only people who are really talking to each other are a few couples scattered about the basement.  I wonder how those couples met.  Did they meet on the Internet?  1 in 5 marriages began online, either through chat rooms or dating sites.  The Internet has so destroyed people’s ability to communicate that they cannot even find anyone to date.  I find it somewhat ironic that people must rely on social networks, the very thing that ruined their communication skills, to find them someone to love, or perhaps someone to love them.

Facebook is an artificial world, a “happy place,” as Keith put it, where there is no dislike button and everyone can get along.  Keith’s view of Facebook was that it was a giant love demand.  I’m afraid mine is a bit more negative.  Facebook is the last resort for people who have been rejected by the world.  I feel it has become an escape for people who have become disillusioned after seeing the horrors of the real world.  They can forget their struggles, their pains.  In a world where people have relatively few friends and are becoming lonely at an astonishing rate, they are able to escape into a land where they have 300 friends, where they can feel fulfilled when they get a notification.  Facebook has become an enabler, helping people to ignore the problem of their inability to communicate.  One can now run from the realities of their lonely world into a land where they can receive fulfillment from notifications and friend requests.  The average adult male has 0.6 close friends today.  What will happen in thirty years or so?  Yes, the adult male may have ten thousand friends on whatever virtual world is in the vogue, but how many friends will they actually have?

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