Some thoughts on Facebook

So, in the run-up to the election, I decided to become more active on Facebook. My engagement with Facebook differs from nearly all of my “friends” (I hope that is the correct term. I sometimes get one social media site mixed up with another.). I did not come to Facebook to post pictures of my kids or the places I have been lucky enough to visit. I did not come to Facebook to relay news stories or pithy expressions. I did not come to Facebook to thumbs up thumbs down, happy face, angry face or whatever. I can to Facebook to interact.

Some may have been surprised by how I interact. My kids probably know that while I am immensely proud of them, I am not that good with praise. For some reason, I assume praise and acceptance are assumed. S0, just for the record – all of my kids are very cool. If I commented on Facebook, it was often to argue and to say I disagree. I was an academic and this is what we do. I suppose this style may come across as personal and perhaps sometimes it gets that way. This is not the goal. The idea of challenging each other is to work toward a better and hopefully more accurate understanding of the important issues and truths in life. I admit I do not object to having a good time and a beer or two along the way. This is what I hope is the “academic’s way”.

I also came to Facebook to express my views. The emphasis here is on MY. This goal is best approached by making the effort to use my words and not to rely on sharing the words of others. This takes some work and invites criticism. I would rather think of the effort as inviting engagement. I try to be clear and to offer what evidence I can. If others are willing to do the same, I see the process as potentially constructive.

I do have concerns with Facebook. I am a technologist by trade and I worry about algorithms that select what any one of us will see. I am a psychologist by trade and I know a little about the problems of group think and the many proven biases of personal thinking. The filter bubble only feeds these human frailties. If anything, our technologies should be working against the foolish things we are known to do on our own.

I am also concerned that we commit to any given experience rather than open ourselves up to a greater number of experiences. I think Zuckerberg has some very good ideas about human communication and the needs of humans to interact. Zuckerberg is also a businessperson. The downside of the commitment to a common source, not matter how well-intended that source might be, is quite great. I think the problems are obvious – filtered and simplified information content mixed with feel-good content about kids and friends. If 40% of adults get their news from Facebook, this is terrifying. Read a book or a dozen. Read a major newspaper – you can usually scan them for free and pick out a few stories before they expect to be paid. Why not even pay for some depth once in a while?

The type of material I have posted here may surprise some. Perhaps the kind of material I post is not what is intended for this outlet. I have no real insight into what Facebook is supposed to be about. I tend to think it became what it is without much guidance.

I began blogging in 2003 and I have written thousands of little essays like this since then. I have just decided to put some of it on Facebook recently.  I suppose some cannot imagine taking the time to write even one such comment let alone one a week or one a day. I wonder how many individuals even bother reading to the end when something like this post is encountered. I can truthfully say I care if you read what I write, but I would write what I write whether you care or not. I write what I write because it helps me put ideas together for myself. If you don’t believe this I am guessing you don’t write. This is not an ego thing (or at least not totally). I think life challenges us with serious questions – you can ignore them or you can confront them. These questions follow me around – I cannot ignore them. The reality of a blank screen has a way of smacking you in the face – what exactly do you think about a given issue, can you put it down so you and everyone else can see?

Mark Grabe really writes at This Facebook thing is just an experiment. I hope you will join me. Facebook does not have a character limit (like Twitter). What do you have to say about important matters?

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