Some reflections from time spent on Facebook and the most profound patterns I observe:
• Conversations reflect bias predisposition, not openness to debate. Obama is a moron. Obama is undermined by Republican morons. (No one seems to call this a great presidency, so there is an empirical limitation even to bias.) A great many minds are exposed but very few converted.
• Boldness is magnified artificially by lack of presence. People become more aggressive, less tolerant, more ad hominem when “safe” in the ether. The type of name-calling that often occurs would result in physical violence if done in person.
• The opportunity to achieve “instant peer status” by taking on someone of much more visibility and respect is a sport. Making a name at others’ expense is free and always available. I believe these people are called “trolls.”
• Public expressions of grief provide a palliative, to the point of ignoring personal contacts and simply issuing public pronouncements about death of loved ones, pets, personal illness, and so on. It appears that general contact has often replaced personal contact.
• Propriety is lost. A woman complaining—and receiving comfort from others—because her maid broke a tsotchkes, on the same day that hundreds died on the Malaysian plane that was shot down and Israel and Hamas were engaged in new warfare, is just one example of appalling self-absorption.
• Revelations of natural behavior are somewhat frightening. The amount of profanity (which is surpassed by a factor of one thousand on YouTube, which is often disgusting) falls into two categories: 1) The natural way many people talk who don’t have the intellect to use more effective adjectives and descriptors; 2) Those trying to impress others with the shock value.
• A startling neediness. Please like me. Just print one word to prove you’ve read this. Look, here I am standing next to someone who once spoke to an assistant to Ralph Jones, the finest speaker at Toastmasters in Lostintheclouds, North Dakota. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such completely unembarrassed, desperate need to be liked.
• Invitations to create affiliations. Birthday notices. Groups to join. It’s astounding how technology has seemed to replace actual interpersonal affiliation needs.
• Public grievances. The electric company overbilled me. The restaurant service was awful. I was treated unfairly by my boss. Politics forced me out. There is an entrenched victimization philosophy in many posts.
• Agenda people. It’s all a conspiracy. Everything is a result of profit mongers, government bureaucracy, international cartels, the CIA, the war on women, the Supreme Court, and so on, and on, and on.
• Promotionalists: I can cure your ills, help you speak, believe in yourself, change your life. I love the people I’ve never heard of who arrange “live your dreams” or “a cosmic awakening” session.
I’d calculate that a lot of people spend at least an hour a day on Facebook, which is 365 hours per year, or 30 12-hour days, which is a month of their available time! Perhaps people should come to my promotion: “How to regain an entire month of your time.”
© Alan Weiss 2014