Hubris Thy Name is Facebook

Now that Facebook is down, it seemed a good time to share my thoughts on a pretty serious and popular topic. Thank the Lord for Twitter because where else would we have gotten the breaking dialogue on this exciting, or as some people might see it, tragic outage.

First there was alqaeda (okay fake alqaeda) taking credit) which kind of made me laugh and feel sad at the same time.

alqaeda facebook
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Then there was the guy who discovered a whole world out there.

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And finally, as expected, declarations of the end of the US recession due to increased productivity.

facebook and productivity
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Of course my real concern was that Facebook would come back and I’d have a whole new identity which is kind of a shame since I’ve just gotten used to the one I’ve been creating for the last two years. My friend Ben Greenberg Tweeted that perhaps Facebook wasn’t down at all. Reality may have crashed. Now that’s something to think about!

But really, to some people this is a serious, serious issue. A friend of a friend who is just a tad addicted to this medium texted (isn’t texted a recognized verb yet?) said friend to ask “Are you okay? Facebook is down.” It’s like there was an earthquake or a deadly explosion, or perhaps a tsunami? When confronted with his addiction, the texter replied, “I’m down to four hours a day.” That’s like saying, “I’m just taking a little meth.” Of course, like a true addict, he’s now focusing on the unfairness of the intervention.

So now, a social network that I consider to be one of the most wide-spread virtual tests of human intention, self restraint, and will power is taking a little break. Phew, just knowing it’s not available right now is a huge relief in the way that it feels when someone eats the last Oreo and it wasn’t me. (Upon finishing this sentence, I just heard via a human voice, that Facebook is back. What a temptation but I’m finishing this post.)

So here’s the human dilemma. The other day a friend told me about another friend’s 11 year old son who’s on Facebook. Apparently he posted his favorite body part and big surprise, it was boobies. Of course we had a lengthy debate on so many things like whether or not it might affect his reputation, his ability to get into the right high school, and ultimately his future because of the public nature of Facebook. That debate brought us to the discussion around the notion that there are many things that now happen on Facebook that used to happen in private and whether or not this type of transparency is a good thing. Then we talked about what age someone is really mature enough to actually filter themselves. I’ll have to admit, after a few glasses of wine, I question my own maturity on Facebook let alone that of an 11 year old.

Incidentally, for full disclosure, I am a firm believer that children should not be permitted to have a Facebook account for many reasons. Most importantly, you’re only a kid once. You should actually be interacting with people, playing ball, learning the violin, practicing your drawing skills or acting as slave labor for your parents (oops, that just slipped out). There’s really no need for you to be sitting in front of a computer expanding your social network.

So as I was contemplating this issue over the last couple of weeks, I ran into this article by David Rowan, editor of Wired, UK outlining the six reasons why he’s not on Facebook.

Now here’s what I would consider to be a forward-thinking, technologically savvy individual. In fact, probably in the top 10% in the world and he’s NOT on Facebook. He gives some very, very good reasons why not and actually makes me think all the reunion stuff might be a Red Herring.

David focuses on the lack of transparency and provides six reasons why over-sharing even just a little bit might actually come back to bite. He even goes so far as to suggest that defining a persona online may actually limit one’s offline potential.

As the writer Jaron Lanier said in a recent lecture, if Robert Zimmerman, of small-town Hibbing, Minnesota, had had a Facebook profile, could he really have re-created himself as the New York beatnik Bob Dylan

Wow, think about folks. Our kids, in the prime of their youth, need live interaction, parental oversight, and the safety to mess up and not have it permanently stored in some database somewhere. This is a really big deal. Managing this requires a serious commitment on a parent’s part to actually know what their kids are doing, and being their guide (without controlling) the choices that kids are making in their developmental experiences. Because that is truly what they are. Developmental experiences. Will they be helpful or harmful. It’s up to us.

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