Anti-Social. Anti-Societal. Oh, Facebook—Where Do We Go From Here?
Susan Stuart
83

Susan, you definitely are using a different Facebook than I am. Or maybe we just have different friends. ;-)

On my Facebook feed recently, I’ve seen friends celebrate engagements, getting into grad school, and victories over chronic medical conditions. They’ve also noted the progress of illnesses, the aftermath of car accidents, and days which just didn’t go well. There are many other posts, of course, some Promoted and some commercial. But the news on my feed largely is news I care about.

If interaction with these people were limited to just clicking on an icon, I could agree more with your assessment of Facebook as a destroyer of societal behavior.

But with my (cultivated) list of Facebook friends, I don’t sense a popularity contest. I see enough wins and losses in my friends’ lives to make me believe that they’re not “whitewashing” Facebook any more than real life.

In fact, I find your party metaphor lacking as I don’t believe real-life small talk establishes interpersonal connection any more than seeing a selfie that same friend posted two days ago of themselves reading to their kids at bedtime. Seeing that picture is an awareness of their lives, in my book.

Facebook indeed has many design challenges. Their default visibility settings could be smaller — though at the risk of their business model (eyeballs). There should be more icons than Like/Love/Haha/etc., though perhaps more ways to click on a response inhibits commenting (the real interaction, as I see it). The threaded comment format is clunky.

But I don’t see those issues as large enough that Facebook, as a result, enables anti-societal behavior. My experience is that Facebook, like all technology tools (or perhaps all tools) can be used deftly to create things of value or can be misused to amplify everything the user is doing wrong. Design may be implicated in that to some extent, but not any more than for any other social-media tool.

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