Would You Even Be Able to Say that to my Face?

communication facebook social media


Just found this interestging article in Times online, entitled, "Does Facebook Replace Face Time or Enhance It?" Considering I write a blog, which i share on Facebook and Twitter and which has engendered intersting duscussion at times, I thought I'd comment.

The gist of the article is a dilemma between whether Facebook causes people to avoid interacting in real time or if it improves their real life relationships. The author describes his relationship with an old friend, which has degenerated to the point where she hasn't returned a phone call in over a year, but has poked him, sent him facebook gifts, and interacted in the various mini-games and applications on Facebook. He then goes on to describe that Facebook isn't as bad as some other sites, since it enables people to keep in touch with those they already know, rather than forming new, purely online friendships. When he does arrange a get together with his old friend, they are able to carry on as if they had been sharing those little details of their lives that make up familiarity; through Facebook shares and posts, they had remained involved in each others' lives.

Generally, I agree that Facebook is pretty innocuous. I know there are people out there with Facebook friends they have never met, whol ive their whole social lives sharing fake flower and finding digital calves, but I think for the majority of people, Facebook is merely a way to keep in touch with friends and to share the little day-to-day happenings in their lives. I find it difficult to conceive of building an entire relationship through Facebook. It jsut doesn't have the media for that. It restricts how you can interact.

But then, there's an interesting point. So much of our socializing is taking place through these web programs that set their own rules and assumptions for social interaction. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, even Google and Apple to a large extent, get to set the criterion for what constitutes a social interaction. Granted, in the real world, society sets the criteria; no matter what you do, a smile of a particular variety will always mean one thing, unless you leave your home culture. To what extent then, are teh standards of social interaction online dictated by the online society as a whole? Are the systems designed to enable our social interactions to flow through them with as little modification as possible, or do they set the terms for those interactions? How much are our socializations being determined by a team of programmers in California?

This sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it is not. I don't think there is anything sinister going on here. I simply want to draw attention to the fact that some of the ways we have become accustomed to interacting were not chosen by the interactors, but rather by those who created the medium to interact in. Presumably, that medium was intended as a pure tranferrance of ideas, but it inevitably came to influence, and sometimes create, the ideas that passed through it.