Are You Feeling Trapped By Facebook?Facebook is the currently-popular social networking website that boasts over 550 million users. It is the epitome of what “Web 2.0″ is supposedly about — personalized, user-created social content that connects people to one another. And it does that pretty darned well, too. I’ve re-connected with old friends from high school — friends I hadn’t seen or talked to in over 20 years — and even my first girlfriend from middle school.

Are these connections “deep”? No, of course not. But they are very real and they exist. Before Facebook came along, these connections were non-existent. These people in my life had faded not only from my life, but from my memory as well.

Facebook changed all of that and brought them back into my life, no matter how fleeting or shallow our relationship now is.

After viewing The Social Network, the recent popular movie about the rise and rise of Mark Zuckerberg and his Facebook social networking website, and reading You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier, The New York Review of Books reviewer Zadie Smith comes away with this insight — perhaps social networking sites as popularized today are not the end-all, be-all of our existence. Perhaps we should step away from technology, as it tries to force us into its paradigms of design.

5 Comments to
Are You Feeling Trapped By Facebook?

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  1. I think when the designers are actively working not to build the best product but suppress competition then there is a serious problem and things are not evolving. People don’t just use things because they are the best, they use them because they are convenient. Great technologies have died because of this. I dare say government is in the condition it is in because of that reason. It’s a fact that the people you’ve mentioned (Jobs, Gates, and Zuckerberg)have all actively suppressed freer and sometimes better technologies with their superior financing. And your article speaks of reconnecting and keeping in touch with people you already know but really doesn’t address the validity of friendships formed in the virtual world.

  2. I’m a self-proclaimed Facebook addict. Hey, I even found out about this article via Facebook! I don’t feel trapped by it. I know that I’m connecting with people I don’t really talk to, but so many more people I talk to on Facebook are also people I know and talk with offline. So it helps with a deeper relationship with some individuals, maybe just not many. Now if only I could find a way to limit my time spent online, I’d be much better for it!

  3. Hey John,
    I really liked your Bill Gates/Miscosoft Word Steve Jobs/Safari/ipod comparison. It was right on the money and made your point perfectly. Facebook doesn’t define friendship any more than Microsoft Office defines business, and anyone who lets a piece of software define a segment of their life rather than using it as a tool to meet a need/desire has bigger problems than Facebook. Just my opinion. As always, I enjoyed reading yours.

  4. I signed on to Facebook because my only friend wanted me to. You should do Facebook, he said. I accepted people I worked with but didn’t even like as “friends” and off I went into a world where people sent me inane offers–adopt this rainforest animal–and told me about themselves. My daughter was jealous because my former friend had more friends than she does. He said, “I don’t even know a lot of those people.” I left Facebook and felt good about the decision. I used my daughter’s account to get in touch with relatives and a guy who visited us in 1968 (his photos are on my flickr page). Recently, I rejoined because I wanted to tell my cousin that I’d uploaded more photographs. I *did* feel trapped before; now I have 6 “friends” which consist of my kid, three cousins, and two people I’m unlikely to ever see again, but whom I genuinely care about. Someday, I might let that expand to 10 or even 15 people. But the artificiality of it, the pressure to “friend” people whom you dislike so you’ll seem friendly–it’s less than useful to someone like me who is mentally ill, more than a little unstable, and essentially alone. I’d rather stick to reading my 500 blogs and pretending I have connections that way. See Roger Ebert’s recent posts about loneliness. He nails it when he says “…what all lonely people share is a desire not to be — or at least not to feel — alone. You are there in the interstices of the web. I sense you. I know some of you.” I matter to no one, really, probably not even those 6 Facebook “friends.” But at least with blogs, I find people who matter to me.

  5. I liked this article so much I’m sharing it on my FB wall !

  6. I absolutley agree. I think it is possible for alot of people to get an enjoyment out of the site by flexing the settings but they don’t flex to the max anymore. They are simply not sophisticated enough to present friendships at all.

  7. All technology has the potential to trap us. We always have to be mindful of our desires and obsessions. Good article!

  8. Hmmm, you write this piece, and then a few days later another piece about rampant cheating in a college course. Unrelated, or perhaps, endemic of the mindset of this culture chained to screens, not interacting as people but instead as typists, and entitled and demanding of instant gratification.

    And your comment says it all what is the basic quality of these so called relationships via facebook:

    “no matter how fleeting or shallow our relationship now is.”

    After all, is it really quality we are interested in as of 2010? No, it is a quantity game.

    See I really haven’t been missing much since I stopped reading here.

  9. I’m with Joel on this one. I would also add complete waste of time. I know people with no jobs that spend their entire days on this thing. In some way it validates ones existence. If you have no purpose other then relating to others in the most mundane superficial way by all means. I’ve had people tell me that they’ve stopped using e-mail because they handle everything on Facebook. Uhm like whatever! <~~~ stop the silliness! And no it's not the same thing as Steve's cult of Apple products. At least they exist as a physical matter. I can make love to my iPhone! You wish you can do the same with your Facebook page. So clever, charming, so beautiful! Human touch is what all of this is missing. Go frend a human at a cafe or in a park. World is honestly so beautiful. Go abandon the safetynet…

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