I’ve been using the internet long enough to have online friends pass away. I’m in one online book club that has had three members die. I’ve had other internet friends just disappear, and I’ve wondered what has happened to them. Sometimes on Facebook family members will post a goodbye. I greatly appreciate that when it happens.
Quite often I don’t know where my internet friends live. And even when I do, the standard of publishing an obituary in the local paper seems to be fading along with print journalism.
There is much anger directed at Facebook in recent weeks. However, Facebook is how many people stay in contact with friends and family. Few reports count all the positive benefits of Facebook. As many as two billion people use the service. In recent years, Facebook is often how I find out internet friends are sick, dying, or have passed away. It’s become the new obituary page.
We all need to leave login credentials to our social media groups in our wills with instructions to contact these sites after our death. And even provide a parting farewell to publish.
Social media is often dismissed as shallow. Maybe it is, maybe it’s not. Maybe we should make it better.
I’ve seen at least a dozen stories about people deleting their Facebook account because of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Just now I read two news stories about Elon Musk deleting Space-X and Tesla pages from Facebook even though they had millions of followers. There’s lots of anti-Facebook sentiment percolating on the web right now with many users jumping ship.
But how many? Facebook has two billion users. Even if a hundred million people quit in protest will it matter? There have always been folks who grumped about Facebook. They are much like snobs who sneer at watching television. I look at TV and Facebook every day. Not much, in either case, but they both provide their little pleasures. And, little pleasures count for a lot in our social security years.
People fear Facebook because of identity theft or invasion of their privacy. But is any place safe on the internet? And if you read about Cambridge Analytica you’ll see that people happily filled out forms and shared them with friends. You’d have to be an idiot to not know that everything you do on the internet is monitored. No one pays to use Facebook. Have you ever wondered how Facebook makes its money? Our habits and opinions are valuable. Keeping America supplied with cat videos is expensive, so Facebook has to make its money someway.
When I’m on the internet I assume Big Brother and all his brothers and sisters are watching. I don’t care that they know I love cat videos and scans of old science fiction magazine covers. I have no idea what that information reveals about me politically or fiscally.
Before people rush to delete their Facebook account out of some kind of misguided protest, I think they should analyze what they get out of the service. Facebook keeps me in contact with relatives and friends I seldom or never see anymore. Facebook keeps in contact with people around the world that have the same esoteric interests as I do. And I enjoy seeing a half-dozen funny videos every day. They’re as good as a dose of Geritol.
For example, I’ve been reading old science fiction stories from the pulp magazines. I’ve made three online friends in South Africa, England, and here in the U.S. that also like to read such stories. I don’t know how many people left on this planet still love to read science fiction short stories in old pulp magazines, but Facebook has helped me find them. Facebook also keeps me in contact me with relatives I haven’t seen in fifty years.
Besides, Facebook helps me keep tabs on my wife. She always checks in wherever she goes.
I also find it very pleasant to share cartoons, videos, songs, beautiful photos, sayings, etc. with other people. For example, here’s one called Millennial Job Interview that has a passing dig at Facebook. I thought pretty damn funny and very revealing about modern times. Evidently, the young consider Facebook a hangout for older people. That might be true because most of my Facebook friends are older. And most of the people who write about deleting their Facebook accounts are younger. Should we consider this anti-Facebook movement an ageist attack on Baby Boomers?
I wonder if Big Brother finds what we share more revealing about our personalities than the facts typed into queries like Cambridge Analytica’s? For many people I know, what they share on Facebook reveals more about themselves than they reveal in person.
I share a lot on Facebook. My friends and family must think I’m odd from some of the content I post. However, I use both Facebook and Twitter as external memory banks. My biological memory is beginning to fail. I wish Facebook existed when I was young so I could scroll back into the past. When I scan through my timeline it’s like a stream-of-consciousness of what tickled my fancy. I’m sure if Big Brother applied a powerful artificial intelligence program to my timeline it could psychoanalyze my posts and provide me with the ads customized for my personality.
But you want to know something funny? If you asked me if there were ads on Facebook I’d tell you no. My mind is so good a tuning out ads that I don’t see them on web pages anymore. I do use an ad blocker, but they aren’t completely effective. I do know there are ads because I see them when I consciously go looking for them. But psychologically I don’t remember ads on Facebook. That might hurt them more than deleting my account. Sorry, Mark.
I suppose I could quit Facebook. Many who have quit Facebook claim their lives are so much better for it. Maybe mine would be better too, but I sure would miss those cat videos.
A few years ago an older version of our web site devoted to the Classics of Science Fiction would get hundreds of hits a day, some days going over a thousand. Now it’s lucky to get two dozen. Searching Google for “classics of science fiction” usually places the site on the first page of returns, which would suggest it’s still valid.
Why the decline in hits? It’s doubtful that science fiction has fallen out of favor. I’ve been wondering if how people use the internet has changed. I know our site is boring and statistical but it did have some fans. Now it doesn’t. I’m wondering if folks have stopped using the web in the same way they used it before. Are most people going to big sites and ignoring the small sites?
Or is everyone hanging out on Facebook instead?
Pages and groups devoted to science fiction on Facebook often have thousands of followers. Are people spending more time socializing on Facebook than surfing the web? Facebook has over 2 billion members. Many of my friends and family use Facebook daily. Has Facebook reached a critical mass of users meaning it can’t be ignored?
I know many people who loathe Facebook. As online forums and Yahoo! Groups die from inactivity will those holdouts be forced to become a Facebook pod person?
The internet existed for years before the World Wide Web. It wasn’t until the invention of the web browser that people began surfing the internet purely for entertainment. Users jumped from link to link, going wherever inspiration led them to click.
Then came search engines. Instead of surfing, you keyword searched. Of course, search results could take you to unknown and surprising places.
The way we use the internet has changed again with smartphone apps. Whereas before I’d start with Google, I now tap Wikipedia, IMDB or other icons instead. There are times when I have to fall back to Google, but it’s usually when I’m doing writing research.
For years my online socializing happened on blogs, Yahoo! Groups, or forums at web sites. All those virtual meeting places are becoming depopulated. After the internet became universal I assumed it would always be the same. Now I’m thinking the underlying technology will always be there, but how we use it will constantly mutate.
Has Facebook become an alternative to web surfing, blogging, home pages, personal web sites, etc? Even more, is Facebook replacing family get-togethers, scrapbooks, printed photos, letters, postcards, greeting cards, telephone calls, and email? Many people now prefer texting to a phone call because it is less time-consuming. Has Facebook become the quick replacement for visiting online friends, or even some real life friends?
PBS Frontline for 2/18/14 aired the documentary Generation Like about how teens are using the Internet to be liked, and how corporations are using this mass movement to their advantage. To be honest, the report claims teens are quite savvy about how they are being manipulated by marketing gurus and feel they are playing the system right back at them. At best it’s a symbiotic relationship. The funny thing is the documentary makers asked many teens to define “selling out” and they couldn’t, yet corporations have a new mantra, “your consumer is your new marketer.” This show is about the need to be liked, the need to sell, and how society is changing when everyone is selling themselves.
I found Generation Like quite amazing, especially as a 62 year old guy who knows damn little about modern teens. The change in teens thriving on the internet is as profound as the baby boomers experienced in the psychedelic sixties. I’m curious how representative this report on teen life is to the average teen, and luckily at the PBS Frontline page provides some statistics at “What Are Teens Doing Online?”
Even though Frontline does a fantastic job of covering the topic, I was left with many questions. Is this melding of marketing to teens wanting to be liked while they struggle to find their identities an American phenomenon, or is it worldwide? What impact does it have for kids who don’t get hundreds of likes, and what does it mean for popular kids with hundreds of likes to know that some kids gets millions of likes? Has popularity ever been so quantified? Is this the start of a hive culture? And can a hive culture work when all the individuals are promoting themselves? Are we at the start of a cultural transformation or a fad that will go away?
Many of the teens talked about their talent, but weren’t specific as to what that was. Others, like the 13 year old Baby Scumbag was quite aware of what got hits, and was expecting to make money. If Hollywood was a driving force for fame in the 20th century, the Internet in the 21st century will be many magnitudes more forceful. And these kids want more than 15 minutes.
I remember the pressure to be liked as a teen, or even to be popular, but it was nothing like this. I was happy to have one or two good friends, and pleased when others knew my name and said hi. From the outside looking in, it appears these teens feel like struggling actors trying to get noticed. How is that changing the nature of friendship? On the other hand, many of the teens profiled, helped each other in real life to create their internet lives, so they are still socializing in the old way.
This documentary is the tiniest tip of the iceberg at exploring the new online world. I barely know how to use Facebook. I have a Twitter account, but I only use it to remember what I’ve read online. And most of the other social media sites this film explored I’m clueless as how to use and what they do. Will adults slowly absorb this Like Culture? I do blog, and I do get Likes, but not many. But then I don’t crave them like the teens in this show. The show ended with this wonderful visual. A young girl is all animated while producing her video for YouTube, but when she turns off the camera, she sighs, deflates, looks very bored, and the film ends with the sound of her fingernails clicking distractedly on the camera. Will being on for the Internet become a kind of social crack, and normal life a kind of lonely withdrawal?
You can watch the entire film here. See I’m doing the same thing as the teens. I’m marketing for PBS, and liking their show.