Facebook purports to be a place for human connectivity, but it’s made us more wary of real human confrontation. When I was in college, people always warned against the dangers of “Facebook stalking” at a library computer — the person whose profile you’re perusing might be right behind you. Dwelling online is a cowardly and utterly enjoyable alternative to real interaction.
So even though Facebook offers an elaborate menu of privacy settings, many of my friends admit that the only setting they use is the one that prevents people from seeing that they are Currently Logged In. Perhaps we fear that the Currently Logged In feature advertises to everyone else that we (too!) are Currently Bored, Lustful, Socially Unfulfilled or Generally Avoiding Real Life.
For young people, Facebook is yet another form of escapism; we can turn our lives into stage dramas and relationships into comedy routines. Make believe is not part of the postgraduate Facebook user’s agenda. As more and more older users try to turn Facebook into a legitimate social reference guide, younger people may follow suit and stop treating it as a circus ring. But let’s hope not.
I’m an avid user of Facebook myself (though not as much as my wife, who is an unrepentant addict and also the person who introduced me to the platform), but am yet to be convinced of any wholly serious use for it. The Fakebook Generation, an op-ed on the New York Times by Alice Mathias seems to concur.
For sure, there are already stories on how it was used in facilitating information flows for worldwide protests against the recent actions of the military junta Myanmar and I’ve also set up a group on the platform for exchanging views and information ICT4Peace. However, even though some organisations such as the Nobel Peace Laureates Foundation have taken Facebook networking extremely seriously with the creation of groups and accounts to promote their ideas (such as Peace Tools), I’m not fully convinced that even with more adults joining up with the platform, it remains a serious competitor to services such as LinkedIn, which are specifically geared to facilitate professional networking.
There’s already a ton of articles that look into the merits of each system and how each one is a threat to the other, but most agree that some sort of a hybrid that mashes the best of both systems may be far more useful for professional networking and a platform for collaboration and information exchange.
Until then of course, should you choose to ignore Alice Mathias, you can always try to use Facebook professionally.
Let me know how it goes.