Politeía Digest

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Poke to the Future

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Does Facebook spell the end of human interaction as we know it? Or is it just bad news for psychics, dating services, and women’s magazines? Henry Alford hopes some of Mark Zuckerberg’s romance-spotting superpower will rub off on the rest of us.

By Henry Alford & Illustration by Ryan Heshka

Deep, deep within the shadowed recesses of a Menlo Park conference room, Facebook executives are probably gazing into a crystal ball right this second and asking two questions of staggering importance to their livelihood: (1) How do we monetize without incurring any breaches of confidentiality or any of the lowered performance levels customarily connected to aging? (2) Why does it sound as if we’re talking about an older male prostitute?

But when it comes to determining Facebook’s future, the rest of us don’t need a crystal ball. We don’t need one because we know the site’s future is, for the most part, already here. Whether it be the Tunisnami or The Social Network or Betty White’s hosting Saturday Night Live or the raging popularity of Facebook-derived evidence at divorce trials, we’ve seen how the strangely bland yet strangely fascinating Web site can re-draw maps both global and local. It’s been reported that the world spends roughly eight billion minutes on Facebook daily; you never know where your own contribution to all this re-acquainting and social climbing and self-promoting will take you. I, for one, have become a curator of a tiny museum of ambiguous friendship. I collect funny women (Stupid Pet Tricks inventor Merrill Markoe; actresses Martha Plimpton and Sarah Thyre; The New Yorker’s Rebecca Mead and Nancy Franklin) and Greek priests (I have 124—it’s like a Vegas floor show devoted to the letter k).

It should be noted that the most prevalent prediction for Facebook’s impact on society is off base: many media critics, in bemoaning the site’s tendency to connect us with people who are geographically distant from us while disconnecting us from people who are right in front of us, have warned that Facebook will lead to a form of social alienation whose logical end is the breakup of the family. This is incorrect. The institution that Facebook is much more likely to render obsolete is community theater. Consider: us Facebookers love to meet after work or school; we’re desperate for an audience and need everyone to know exactly what we’re doing every second of the day; we trot out the same tired old “classics” season after season; we bring to the business of being “Liked” approximately 7,000 pounds of need; we spend an amount of time working on our bios that is wildly disproportionate to the amount of time anyone will spend reading them; we have a nerdier reputation than our actual insidery, dyspeptic worldview would seem to warrant; we participate in the phenomenon largely in an effort to stay in touch with our exes.

It might be best to approach the other sociological changes that Facebook is likely to bring about by first considering the changes it has already wrought. Take, for instance, conversational acuity. When you post something on Facebook, the number of written comments it provokes is a fairly reliable gauge of the comment’s keenness. Thus, if the site can be said to have produced any societal gain, it has helped people realize that the conversational gambit What I Have Recently Eaten is one that, on the whole, tends not to wow. Your recent tuna-fish sandwich is, alas, a nonstarter. Such a realization is huge—bigger perhaps than our country’s gradual divining in the 1940s that ventriloquism on the radio, conceptually speaking, sawed off the limb it was standing on. Read more in Vanity Fair

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Written by Theophyle

July 17, 2011 at 10:00 am

One Response

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  1. […] dezavantajele retelei de socializare as pune si statistica publicata de Vanity Fair, 8 miliarde de minute “consumate” zilnic pe facebook de membrii retelei de socializare. Despre […]


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