American Conservatives’ campaign to ensure Barack Obama fails is well under way, and now they want us to boycott Facebook. The Weekly Standard’s Matt Labash winges about the social networking site in the classic conservative style, which is combination of priggish anachronisms (“I bought cassette tapes until 1999”), name calling (“Facetards”), and a high school sophomore’s command of irony (“it seemed only a matter of time before she started posting the nudes, some shots I took when I was trying to break into Washington journalism (I was young and needed the money).”).
I’ve been on Facebook for a few months now and, sure, I can see how it could eat your brain after a while, but no more so than reading too much Fred Barnes—or any Fred Barnes, come to think of it. I resisted joining Facebook for a long time, mostly because I already had one online presence to maintain—this blog—and that took enough time. But as the economy tanked and the anxieties intensified, it was nice to be able to check in with other people.
Currently I have 55 Facebook friends, and one of them is a dog. I’m practically a social outcast compared to a lot of people I know who have hundreds of Facebook friends. But all of these people I actually know in real life and consider friends, including Wolfie the dog. Like everyone else, I post photos. I look at other people’s photos. I update my status whenever I’m so inclined. Sometimes that means twice a week, sometimes once every two weeks. One of my Facebook friends once posted a status update in which she claimed updating your status more than once a week meant you were a loser. A few days later, she resumed her regular thrice-weekly updates.
Facebook is a bit like high school in that it induces self-consciousness. Like all conversations, once you get going you get stuck on the rails of language, the metonymic thrust from one topic to another that can leave you feeling a little stupid when you’re done. Everyone reveals too much on Facebook, except when they’re not revealing as much as they’d like to.
As for the evils of social networking, if you’re an information worker, chances are your social network is abstract to one degree or another anyway. Studies show that most Americans are much more likely to socialize with people who share their positions in the political economy than share a physical space like a town or a neighborhood. In other words, we’re more likely to socialize with someone in the next cubical pod than with someone who lives on our block.
Matt Labash would rather sit alone at home, hugging his tax breaks and listening to The Best of Rush Limbaugh on cassette tape. If that’s how he wants to spend the Obama presidency, that’s his choice. The rest of us will be on Facebook, exchanging banalities while we watch the world change.
Thank you, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for in a profile of Facebook and couldn’t find in the dozens I’ve read or skimmed. I’ll have to try it out some day — but you’ve given me an excuse for a few more months of procrastination. . . And this part of your charter states my own preference perfectly:
‘to break out of the narrow confines of the academy and apply the techniques of literary studies to life as it is currently lived.’
You should try Facebook out now. If you have a start page like Netvibes, which I use, or iGoogle, you can use the widget to keep up with your friends’ updates. That way you don’t get sucked up into the site so much. And when you sign up, ask me to be your friend.
Facecrack might be attacked by the right wing, but it is also funded by the far right – from Republican Party activists to CIA associated vulture capitalists.
There is a collection of critical articles about corporate social networking sites and alternatives to them here: https://www.knowledgelab.org.uk/OpenSourceSocialNetworking – see in particular this article for some background: http://www.theage.com.au/news/general/beware-facebook/2008/01/18/1200620184398.html
I followed your link and read Labash’s piece. There is no right-leaning that I can see there. His piece is the stuff of non-believers wondering at the gullibility of the faithful. Putting aside the adolescent name calling, what he writes makes perfect sense to me. But then, I am not a believer. I was asked to view a relative’s Facebook page but never did. Facebook first required that I provide information about myself which I was reasonably willing to enter. But I left in disbelief when I was asked for an OK to invade my Yahoo account so Facebook could have access to my Contact List. Yow! Are they kidding? Do people actually allow FB to worm into their Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL…..accounts? Appalling.
You don’t have to give FB access to your contacts. I didn’t. LinkedIn makes the same request when you sign up–and more insistently. Other than the tacky ads on the profiles, FB is pretty harmless. I’ve gotten in touch with people I haven’t seen in years through FB. I know somebody who found out a childhood friend from New Jersey lives a block away from him in Chicago. They had dinner together recently. FB can also be moving, such as all the despondent status updates posted by the single women I knew after Valentine’s Day. Mostly my friends post photos of their kids and give updates on their families. It’s not perfect, but it’s hard to see FB as some sinister plot. Maybe it is and I just don’t know it yet. If it turns out to be one, then me and my friends will just move over to Twitter.
Hello RP, and thanks for that encouraging offer, which I’ve only just seen — after a turbulent few weeks that allowed almost no time for surfing. . . This is a very good thread, btw, with some unusual perspectives I haven’t seen elsewhere.