Facebook: Going public sucks out sincerity

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is said to be in “no rush” to accept Wall Street’s “friend request” to launch an initial public offering (IPO) according to the March 4 edition of The Wall Street Journal.

Going “public” in the other sense of the word is what Facebook is all about. Although Zuckerberg takes it slowly when it comes to Wall Street, we have rushed full-force into going “public” on Facebook, with no looking back or forward on how it will affect the long term social atmosphere.

Long term “anything” often strikes fear into our hearts in this world of instantaneous satisfaction and restless short-lived pursuits of “whatever.” In the deepest cockles of our hearts, don’t we desire long term, deep friendships with people who know our “ins” and “outs” and still stand by us?

Sadly though, today we are primed for the in-and-out friendships that Facebook perpetuates. Friendship is a now a full-fledged competition to gather more “friends” faster. No longer do we have to gain trust to be a friend — we type in their name, send a friend request, and wait for confirmation with no time invested except the seconds or minutes of stalking to verify if this is the John Brown that Mary Smith knows.

And then to keep up with the Facebook “Joneses,” we succumb to the virtual peer pressure to show more, say more, and know more. Like Christine Rosen said in The New Atlantis, a social technology journal, the Delphic Oracle mantra of today would be “show thyself” instead of the Greek truism “know thyself.”

According to Rosen, the social exhibitionism of Facebook is “an overwhelmingly dull place of monotonous uniqueness, of conventional individuality, of distinctive sameness.”

The result is an atmosphere of isolation and social wreckage.

In a world of vertical achievement and success, social networking is needed and Facebook helps with this. But what Facebook can’t do is fill the need for face-to-face interaction, long conversations or genuine community.

Living with real humans in the same physical space is messy. Virtual life might be easier — opportunities to rewrite, delete or paste memories abound. What attracts us to Facebook is its virtual reality — we can simultaneously use it as a blanket that covers our inside loneliness, hurt, jealousy and sorrow — and a megaphone that amplifies our happiness, success, and popularity.

But while we are too busy being Facebook friends online, we miss opportunities to shoot hoops, do coffee, take a walk or give a hug to our real friends.

As Oedipus learned, and what we might muse over while profile surfing, is that appearances are deceiving. And keeping up our own Facebook appearance is, itself, a liability. Constant 24/7 monitoring is imperative so as to delete an ignominious note, picture or wall post from a drunk friend or ex-significant-other.

Facebook has its niche. But like its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, let’s put the brakes on going “public” and not let the allure of more “friends” suck out the sincerity of face-to-face friendships.

Reach Catherine at catherine.e.smith@asu.edu


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