Essay talk:Facebook's advantages and disadvantages

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A recent convo


Facebook and other social media are good at fostering broad and shallow connections, the kind that lead to casual information grazing. I need to find some way to make narrower and deeper connections, the kind that lead to smaller groups and smaller numbers, but deeper long-term engagement, both personally and professionally.


It's probably impossible here. Facebook is good for other things. I find its vapidness vaguely entertaining.


Agreed. I think it can be good for some things, but building the kinds of connections I want and need for myself doesn't happen to be one of them. If you can promote yourself with something fairly shallow and then convert that to real-life relationships, it can be useful, but I'm no longer sure what I'm even trying to accomplish with it at this point. I used to be interested in pursuing opportunities related to politics, but I've pretty much lost all interest in that — so the things I want to talk about aren't of interest to many of the people in the audience I built when I was building a political audience.


Google+! The wikisphere! You have to be patient, though, and not require the immediate gratification that Facebook provides. In the long-term, your posts will have better results in venues that put your content on permanent publicly-available archive; and you'll encourage a beneficial migration. (Prove me wrong; "long-term" encompasses eternity, and we haven't reached the end of that yet). Notice the unnecessary hyphenation of "long-term" and "publicly-available", by the way; those were accidental but I'm going to leave them there as a reminder that if this were the wikisphere, you could fix those.

People talk a lot about Diaspora*, but I can't recommend it for most people, when Google+ is available as a simpler and better alternative. Facebook is good if you *want* to keep the search engines from accessing your content and don't mind Facebook's occasional wrongheaded censorship and the poorer-quality experience the software provides.

I was just writing in my bliki yesterday, "I've decided I need to stay away from Facebook. All it is is an addiction, and it's going to continue to have the same negative effects as any other addiction — viz., a cheap rush of good feelings, but then guilt, emptiness, despair and a sense of worthlessness and inferiority. To ask whether Facebook does anything good for the world is like asking if heroin does anything good for the world. Heroin is a wonderful painkiller and I'm sure it's brought a lot of fiends together (no, I didn't misspell "friends"). But a person can legitimately say, "I need to quit this, even though it will hurt, because in the end, I will benefit." There will be inconvenienced involved and friends lost. During tough times, one will want to resort back to it. But it is important to turn one's back on it and move on if it has become a destructive force.

"One is reminded of Mrs. Dubose from To Kill a Mockingbird, who said she was going to leave this world beholden to nothing and nobody. I have never let myself be consumed by an addiction to anything except wikis, and I never will. To escape the addiction requires the same level of commitment as escaping any other addiction. Times will come when it seems like a good idea to give in, because there is some excuse, but one must not. E.g., if you fall down and hurt your leg, it would seem like a good idea to take that heroin to ease the pain, but is it worth it? Is there an alternative?"

These days, I mostly hang around Facebook to badmouth it and encourage migration. Or at least, that's how I rationalize my continued presence and reduce cognitive dissonance.


Posting in groups tends to be better for that.


Nathan, I see exactly where you are coming from.

However, to see Facebook as just a useless addiction is flat out wrong. I am, too, familiar with the feeling of "guilt, emptiness, despair and a sense of worthlessness and inferiority" after bashing my head against the keyboard, but when we feel that we are simply missing the forest for the trees.

Facebook *has* spread a lot of good ideas amongst us, it is a great place for planting seeds in people's minds. I have learned so much from reading David McElroy's posts and the comments, just unfortunately there's no clear way to see and account for that.

I hope David does not have an empty feeling of worthlessness after having made such a difference in our lives.


Ildar: What made you bash your head against the keyboard, and how are we missing the forest for the trees? I think the opposite can happen too -- you can feel good about something that just happened on Facebook (because it's designed to trigger happy responses in our brains) and temporarily overlook the fact that you didn't really accomplish a lot.

Suppose you have a great discussion with 100 people weighing in. It *looks* impressive. Maybe people will come away remembering some tidbit that they'll use later; maybe not. The odds would be more favorable if we had the record available to jog our memories, and to give us something to cite in future convos, but we don't; it's buried. Were it not for Facebook's existence, the discussion probably would have taken place somewhere else, where it would have been publicly archived. (Yahoo Groups were basically the predecessor of Facebook; their archive features sucked too. Now we finally have some decent tools available.)

Facebook is great for when you want an immediate response. You can reach out for moral support and get it. You can crowdsource stuff. You can raise awareness for a website, get people to read your books, etc. For people with certain goals, it's the right venue, for now.

But when alternative technology is an order of magnitude greater, I think the community should switch. It's not social networking in general I'm against; just this manifestation. It needs to reform or die. Google+ already pushed it in the direction of some reform, but people were willing to accept too little, in my opinion.

Useless: "not fulfilling or not expected to achieve the intended purpose or desired outcome." If it falls short of your standards, it fails. Maybe it meets your standards, for now. The first people to switch should be those who are already discontented; their absence will help make more people discontented, which will make them switch, which will make still more people discontented, etc. And eventually everyone will switch over, hopefully. Usefulness produces a sense of worth, but it's hard to be as useful as one would like with bad tools. Nathan Larson (talk) 12:37, 15 December 2013 (MSK)