Thanks for the cat videos. Thank you for all the pictures of your protein smoothies, and for letting me know that you worked out this morning. Thank you especially for inviting me to play Candy Crush Saga.
Facebook, like the internet itself, had a lot of promise. It had the potential to allow people to reconnect and share aspects of their lives with loved ones across great distances. It allowed for a cultural exchange of ideas, art, and information. It provided a network through which millions of strangers could unite as one to accomplish what they could not do alone.
Just like the internet, however, Facebook is a cultural mirror. It shows us exactly who we are; what we like, what we desire, and what we believe. For those willing to look beyond the trees to see the whole forest, Facebook is an unflatteringly accurate reflection of modern society: narcissistic, self-centric, superficial. There can be no other explanation for the volume and nature of the content we share. To look at a Facebook feed is to see the world as the backdrop to somebody else’s selfie. Intelligent expression has been reduced to little more than an endless string of witty and sarcastic captions typed across photos of famous faces.
I recently came across a news story about a collection of letters that had been written by Albert Einstein to his friends and colleagues over the course of his career. I read many of them. These letters are a portrait of a man’s mind; sometimes brilliant, sometimes romantic, sometimes humorous. In the age of Facebook we no longer write letters. Even email usage is on the decline as we send shorter, more frequent messages through the ether.
In this Facebook-ized society we are having fewer and fewer meaningful conversations. As a result, we are not only depriving ourselves of the opportunity to interact on a deeper level with others, but we are also depriving future generations of the opportunity to experience and learn from the intimate exchange of our brilliance, our romance, our compassion, and our humour.
I have long believed that the greatest strength of the human species is our ability to communicate; to share complex and meaningful ideas so our individual accomplishments can be shared and reproduced by others for the betterment of all. By design, Facebook would seem perfectly suited to this function. In practice, however, we have proven otherwise.