Tag Archives: facebook

24 Social Media Dos and Don’ts

As part of the Biola Digital Ministry Conference this week, I gave a seminar entitled “Becoming Social Media Savvy Without Losing Your Soul,” in which I discussed the etiquette of social media and some of the potentials and pitfalls in how we can use it as Christians. What does it mean to represent Christ in the social media space? To get at this question, my presentation included 12 “dos” of social media and 12 “don’t.” Here they are below, starting with the “don’ts.”

DONTS:

  1. Don’t tweet mostly about yourself. What you are doing, speaking engagements, travel, how cool you are.
  2. Don’t think about an experience mostly in terms of how you might share it on social media. (i.e. when you’re at a beautiful beach on vacation, don’t think about how you can share a picture of it on Instagram)
  3. Don’t retweet only things that say good things about you or your book, your product or your brand. Promote others’ content more than your own.
  4. Don’t include “Please RT!” in your tweets, use bad English, too many WORDS IN ALL CAPS, or too many !!!!
  5. Don’t crowd your social feeds with “check-ins” from all the glamorous places you’ve been. #Humblebrag
  6. Don’t tweet or post something in a highly emotional state or without taking time to consider whether it should be shared or not.
  7. Don’t post important life news on social media before communicating to your closest friends/family in person.
  8. Don’t spend more time on social media than you spend communicating to people face to face.
  9. Don’t flaunt your relationships by having public interactions on social media. Talk to people privately. Email, chat, direct message will do just fine.
  10. Don’t have awkward fights or edgy back-and-forths in public.
  11. Don’t revert to a junior high name-calling voice or pick fights.
  12. Don’t tweet something with big implications without running it by a few people. (e.g. “Farewell Rob Bell.”)

DOS:

  1. Promote the good, interesting, useful work of others; direct people to helpful resources that aren’t produced by you.
  2. Share things that you know your audience will find valuable. Think of their interests before your own. (e.g. If you are a food critic, tweet about the best new restaurant you’ve found. You’re audience is following you for your expertise in stuff like this).
  3. Respond to people’s questions when they ask them; ask your audience questions. Interact.
  4. Say thanks to people who say something nice to you or about you on social media.
  5. Be positive, affirming, uplifting, earnest (rather than negative, cynical, critical, ironic).
  6. When you do post about yourself, don’t be overly mechanic or self-aware. Be natural, real, authentic.
  7. If you lead a church/ministry, be especially careful how you communicate on social media. You are representing your church/ministry, whether you want to or not. And for any Christian: you are representing Christ.
  8. Let others talk up your books, articles, or products on social media. On occasion, feel free to retweet the praise-giving tweets of others (but only rarely).
  9. Use social media to bless others: share Bible verses, affirmative quotes… things that can brighten another’s day and/or spread the gospel. Those types of messages resonate.
  10. Use social media to enhance communities but not replace them.
  11. Quickly communicate important and timely information (e.g. if you are a church: service times, last minute venue changes, etc).
  12. If you are a leader or respected figure, respond to local or world events with a comforting, wise voice of authority.
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Why Partisanship is the New Normal

The ferociously partisan atmosphere in America these days isn’t limited to Washington D.C., though it certainly is epitomized there. No, the divisive, bitter ambience in this country exists everywhere, from sea to shining sea. A few minutes on cable news or a cursory scroll through one’s social media feed at any given moment (but especially on days like this) confirms it. And it’s getting worse.

“Moderate” is increasingly a relic in American culture. The ouster of Indiana senator (and moderate, bipartisan-minded Republican) Dick Luger is just the latest evidence of this. Republicans are getting more conservative and Democrats are getting more liberal. The country’s middle ground is quickly becoming no man’s land.

Issues like gay marriage are further entrenching both sides. The day after North Carolina became the 30th state to adopt a ban on gay marriage, President Obama  ended his “evolving views” stalling and admitted to supporting the opposite view, thrilling liberals and stealing some of the spotlight from what happened in North Carolina. For Obama and his ever bluer base, opposition to gay marriage is seen as gradually eroding. The expectation is that soon enough gay marriage will be completely acceptable in society. But there are signs that, for red state America, the opposite trend is occurring. Voters in North Carolina–a swing state that went blue for Obama in 2008–actually voted for the ban on gay marriage by a larger margin (61-39%) than expected, and seven percentage points larger than the 2006 margin (57-42%) of another gay marriage ban in fellow Southern swing state Virginia (also went blue for Obama in 2008). This appears to be another sign that the red base is getting redder on wedge issues like gay marriage, even while the blue base is becoming bolder and louder on such divisive issue.

Why are we experiencing such unprecedented ideological divergence in our culture? Why is it looking–tragically–as if the recovery of a middle ground and a bipartisan, cordial public discourse is increasingly unlikely?

It may sound obvious, and it may be old hat by now, but I believe a huge factor contributing to all of this is the Internet. Namely: the way that it has fragmented and niche-ified our media consumption. For former generations, “news” was the thing everyone watched at the same time at night on TV. It was the local newspaper. There were far fewer options, so everyone tended to learn about the news from the same sources. Some big cities had multiple newspapers with slightly divergent political bents, but for the most part normal folks didn’t have easy access to “news” with a decidedly partisan bent.

Not so today. Now, we have 24/7 access to it. Whatever one’s political leaning may be, an entire personalized media landscape can be constructed to reinforce it. There are TV channels, YouTube channels, websites, tumblrs, blogs, e-newsletters,  newspapers and radio stations for whatever political opinion you may have. Everyone processes media narratives that are as infinitely different from one another as snowflakes. Each of us has a totally unique combination of blogs we follow, news sites we read, and social media connections who shape our media intake. No wonder “consensus” is a thing of the past. We don’t live in a Walter Cronkite world anymore. We live in our own iNews bubbles of self-perpetuating, fragmentary and volatile media flows.

And it creates a snowball effect. Given the choice, liberal-leaning folks naturally will spend more time watching MSNBC and filling their Twitter feeds with people of a similar bent. Conservatives will naturally choose to watch Fox News and populate their feeds with advocates of GOP-friendly ideals. In a world where it’s as easy as clicking “unfollow” whenever someone says something that challenges our beliefs, our “feeds” of self-selected narratives of reality will make us neither educated nor enriched; they’ll simply make us more ardent in the beliefs we already hold.

In this “million little narratives” world of individually curated and (often) hyper-politicized media experiences, it’s easy to see how fringe groups and all manner of Anders Breivek-style zealotry may develop. It’s easy to see how ideology-oriented communities can become dangerously insulated and prone to “no compromise!” hostility to the Other. It’s easy to see why we’ve become so bad at talking cordially with those who are different than us. There are just so few forums for us to learn how to productively converse with a plurality of differing voices. And even if there were, would we willingly enter those forums when there are unlimited options of lesser resistance at our disposal?

I think we must. The landscape of new media, I believe, is such that society is only going to become more divided. There will be more turnover in Congress. Less ability to “reach across the aisle” without dire political consequences. It will not be easy to recover cordiality, and the values of respect and moderation in the public square will be lost, to disastrous effect. That is, unless we each make a point of combatting this in our own lives. Some suggestions for how to do this:

  • If you watch news on TV, watch a different channel every night, even if it pains you.
  • Don’t just pack your social media feeds with people who agree with you. Curate a diverse plurality of voices.
  • Avoid commenting on articles, Facebook posts or other online forums when you are angered or upset. Take time to think it over, and if you still want to say something, say it with care and nuance.
  • Just say no to the social media “instant commentary!” impulse.
  • Do you have at least some friends who have different political views than you? You should. Engage them in friendly, loving debate.
  • Avoid watching the “crazies” too much (whether on Fox News, MSNBC, or any other channel… you know of whom I speak).
  • Read books on complicated subjects, not just news articles or tweets.
  • Learn to value humility and (gasp!) be willing to change your views on something, if reason (not peer pressure) leads you there.
  • Read Marilynne Robinson.

And on that note, a wise quote by Marilynne Robinson’s stellar, prescient essay for our times, “Austerity as Ideology“:

Western society at its best expresses the serene sort of courage that allows us to grant one another real safety, real autonomy, the means to think and act as judgment and conscience dictate. It assumes that this great mutual courtesy will bear its best fruit if we respect, educate, inform and trust one another. This is the ethos that is at risk as the civil institutions in which it is realized increasingly come under attack by the real and imagined urgencies of the moment. We were centuries in building these courtesies. Without them “Western civilization” would be an empty phrase…

In the strange alembic of this moment, the populace at large is thought of by a significant part of this same population as a burden, a threat to their well-being, to their “values.” There is at present a dearth of humane imagination for the integrity and mystery of other lives. In consequence, the nimbus of art and learning and reflection that has dignified our troubled presence on this planet seems like a thinning atmosphere. Who would have thought that a thing so central to human life could prove so vulnerable to human choices?

Social Media Slips

Say what you will about the positives of social media (and certainly there are quite a few positives), but near the top of the negative column has got to be social media’s propensity for gaffes, slips, and careless no-filter missteps.

Social media (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc) operates under the real-time logic of “share what’s on your mind NOW” bite-sized communication. It favors non-reflective pronouncements and emotional rants, and abhors the slow-down-let’s-think-about-this mindset which might cause someone to (heaven forbid) think twice about posting an update. As a result, people are frequently tweeting before they think about the ramifications. High-profile politicians are not immune (think Anthony Weiner), nor are celebrities (Chris Brown, Glenn Beck, etc).

Even prominent evangelicals like pastor John Piper have unleashed questionable tweets, such as the infamous “Farewell, Rob Bell” missive, or his more recent “five-year-olds who find sex boring” tweet.

Then there was Mark Driscoll’s recent Facebook post about effeminate worship leaders, which set off a firestorm after Rachel Held Evan’s took him to task in a well-circulated blog post.

What’s going on here?

It seems clear that social media is particularly gaffe-prone. And it also seems clear that anyone on social media needs to try harder to slow down and think through what they will communicate on these platforms.

Though social media certainly lends itself to a sort of on-the-fly pontificating, it’s a much more effective tool when exercised with restraint and bolstered by some semblance of strategy and big-picture thinking. In the same way that you would read and re-read an important email to one person, is it too much to ask to read and re-read a tweet or Facebook status update that goes out to hundreds or thousands?

Poorly thought-out messages on social media can do severe damage, both to the sender and to the many receivers who happen to be scrolling through their feeds at any given moment. The impersonal, easy-as-1-2-3 nature of this sort of communication makes it easy to say wildly emotional, exaggerated, inflammatory things without feeling the sort of reticence one might feel in a more personal or face-to-face setting. And the required brevity of posts (140 characters or less on Twitter) makes it hard to communicate context or nuance.

This is not to say that one should refuse to use Twitter and other social media platforms to sound off on hot topics or to speak strongly about something. It can be done well. I just think we’d all be a bit better off if we had a more careful, deliberate approach… opting to not necessarily tweet every thought we have about any given thing, but to consider that sometimes saying nothing is better than squeezing an essay-length diatribe into a woefully truncated package and letting it loose on the world.

I Joined Twitter… Sigh.

September 19 was a dark day for me… but one that I feared would come soon enough.

I joined Twitter.

This is after years and years of publicly campaigning against it in articles such as “The Problem of Pride in the Age of Twitter” and “Short Attention Span Faith.” 

And now I am a part of the monster, feeding it like everyone else…

Here’s why I did it:

1)  September 19th is my annual “sell out to technology” day. Last year I joined Facebook on Sept. 19.
2)  I might as well try it before I knock it even more.
3)  I have a book to promote.

I still think it’s silly and quite possibly a sign of the apocalypse, but hey, so are a lot of things.

If you want to “follow me” (is that the phrase?) on Twitter, here’s my url: http://twitter.com/brettmccracken

Things I will tweet include book updates, article links, random thoughts, and other worthwhile things that are under 140 characters. I promise I won’t inundate you with what I’m having for dinner or when I’m feeling sleepy or bored.

If I do, feel free to un-follow me (or whatever you call that). I’ll completely understand.

Talking About Facebook and Twitter

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I reluctantly joined Facebook back in September. I’ve been on it for like 9 months now, and I suppose you could say I’m a little less antagonistic about it than I once was… like when I wrote this article back in 2007, or even this one back in February. I mean, I still have a love/hate relationship with Facebook, but I’m definitely less extreme about it these days.

Facebook is a reality we have to deal with (as well as Twitter… but we’ll get to that in a minute). It’s quickly becoming our preferred mode of communication and a source of many hours of time spent on a weekly and even daily basis. And in keeping with my newly diplomatic approach to Facebook, I have thoughts about both the good and bad aspects of this type of communication.

The Good: Facebook allows you to consolidate a vast majority of friends, family, acquaintances and colleagues in one massive, easy-to-use online Rolodex.

The Bad: Isn’t it a bit strange to reduce all types of “friends” (including best friends, bosses, professors, etc) to just another part of the “friend collection”? Isn’t it strange that everything is so public and shared and mixed… so that my friend from one area of my life can observe and make assumptions about my acquaintances from other areas of my life? Or maybe this is a good thing?

The Good: On Facebook, you can easily share photos, videos, and pretty much anything about yourself that you’d like to share.

The Bad: You don’t have to share anything you don’t want to share. You have complete control over your image, to the point that you can even untag yourself in a photo or remove any comment or unsightly representation of yourself that doesn’t fit with your ideal projection of yourself.

The Good: Facebook is a quick and easy way to schedule events, parties, and social gatherings. It makes it easy to do spontaneous things and allows groups to communicate together more easily.

The Bad: Facebook is too quick and too easy. Whatever happened to the glorious challenge of scheduling, playing phone tag, and figuring out the nuances of group dynamics in a gloriously clunky manner?

The Good: Facebook is an efficient means of promoting yourself or something you like. It allows you to inform vast numbers of people about things that you want them to read, or see, or listen to, and it gives you the opportunity to keep people in the loop as to your life’s important goings on.

The Bad: Do we really need to be tempted to think that our life’s goings on are important and worthy enough to be trumpeted to the entire Facebook world?

The Ugly: Might Facebook be turning us into more prideful narcissists, overly obsessed with our publicized Facebook identity and prone to narrate our lives via mass-transmitted status updates?

Which brings me to Twitter. OH, TWITTER. This is something I have a hard time finding much good in at all. Okay, that’s not true. As a marketing or PR device, or an impersonal means of alerting large groups of people about something important, Twitter is a good tool. But in my experience the majority of people use Twitter as a nauseatingly indulgent means of self branding and pat-on-the-back public self actualization. People love using Twitter to subtly announce their importance (“over 100 emails on my blackberry this morning!”) or suggest something about class distinction (“Oh dang, I just remembered I have to take a Redeye tonight to New York!”). Occasionally someone will tweet an interesting link or thoughtful observation about something, but 90% of them are just shameless self-promotion.

My over-arching concern about all of this stuff is that it is pushing us farther into our own worlds and making us even more individualistic and self-obsessed. There’s a reason why it is FACE-book or MY-Space… these things are all about ME.

In my article, “The Problem of Pride in the Age of Twitter” (Relevant, Jan/Feb 2009), I wrote:

I think that contemporary technologies are nurturing the part of our humanity that strives to be the master of our domain, the sole creator of identity. In former eras and communication environments, our human longing for community and connectivity and the shared creation of meaning was foregrounded. But these days, it seems that everything technology-related is pushing us inward, to the “i” world of iPod, iPhones, iMacs, etc. Under the guise of increasing our levels of connectivity, these technologies are ultimately just tools to help us isolate, insulate, and unshackle from the outmoded constraints of having to answer to anyone other than ourselves.

That remains my concern with these online “extensions of ourselves.” Though they can and are used to cultivate community and interpersonal relationships, they are also tools to aid us in our never-ending quest to be in complete control of our identities. And I’m not sure we need any more help in this quest.

Coming next in the Communication series: Talking About Blogging.

Notes on a Postmodern Weekend

(Told in “Twitter” style)

I had a very disparate, fragmented, over-mediated, maybe-a-bit-too-breakneck weekend. In L.A., these seem to be the norm rather than the exception, but this weekend struck me as a particularly postmodern pastiche of way too much that any one mind should encounter in a 60-hour period. To my horror, one of the ways I coped with the weekend was to think in status updates. But since I don’t Twitter and only occasionally update my Facebook status via my phone, I could not publicize my disjointed weekend narrative to the world.

The only reason I am doing it now (and believe me: this is something I generally oppose) is because, here in the remaining hours of Sunday night, my mind needs to process the weekend in some way—even if it is a bastardized, truncated Twitter-esque form.

Friday

Lunch at the North Woods Inn in La Mirada. There are peanut shells and sawdust on the floor, and for some reason I ordered a Shirley Temple for my drink. – 1:07pm

Just found out N.T. Wright is speaking tomorrow (Saturday) morning at St. Andrews Presbyterian in Newport. I decide I’m going, and tell my coworker Jason about it. He’s coming too. – 4:59pm

Driving in horrible rush hour to Hollywood for the opening reception of the City of Angels Film Festival. Listening to Kanye West remixes. – 5:45pm

Gas light is on. Emergency stop at Valero gas on Melrose. Bon Iver: “The business of sadness…” – 6:22pm

Just saw an amazing documentary – The Garden – about the South Central garden controversy in L.A. Thought: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is quite the opportunist. – 9pm

Delighted by the chance to meet “Gilliebean,” an avid reader/commenter on my blog, during a break between films. – 9:14pm

Thrilled at the chance to see a recently restored print of the 1962 film The Exiles on the big screen. Love films about L.A. – 11:02pm

Driving back to Whittier to sleep. – 11:46pm

Facebook update: Brett is haunted by the past of the city he lives in (Los Angeles). – 12:21am

Saturday

Six hours of sleep. Picking up Jason in Brea. No time for breakfast. – 8:04am

St. Andrews Presbyterian, listening to the brilliant N.T. Wright wow a packed sanctuary. I make note: there are lots of seminary-style hipsters here. – 9:27am

Vintage N.T. – “The point of the resurrection is that God’s new creation has begun! And we have a job to do…” – 10:17am

Driving back from Newport, trying to process more than 2 hours of N.T. Wright’s stunning discussion of “Paul for tomorrow’s world.” Thinking about how it all relates to art. – 12:40pm

Picked up Chick Fil A for quick lunch at home. Just enough time to update my blog “quote of the week” with something N.T. Wright said. – 1:34pm

Thought about taking a nap instead of heading back to L.A. for more film festival. Little sleep is catching up with me. Decide against it. – 2:00pm

Driving to L.A. again. Animal Collective: “No more running…” Air conditioner in February. Traffic makes me want to die. – 2:50pm

Just screened Fatih Akin’s The Edge of Heaven but dozed through parts. Probably should have stayed home to sleep. – 5:30pm

Between films. Coffee Bean on Sunset across from the DGA. Free wifi. Enough time to write most of a blog post before my thoughts on The Garden and The Exiles fade into mushy memory. Blog ends up being about how film helps us avoid mushy memory. Drinking ice tea and eating fruit salad. – 6:24pm

Just screened the impressive Munyurangabo, which played at Cannes last year and won the AFI Fest Grand Jury prize. Debut feature of Christian filmmaker, Lee Isaac Chung. Definitely the highlight of the festival. Chatted with Chung after the screening about our mutual affection for Hou Hsiao-Hsien. – 9:48pm

Met some friends at a bar in Whittier. Reassured a hipster friend that “I will be kind to hipsters in my book.” Two more stops before the night is through and I collapse in bed. – 11:55pm

Sunday

Up early again. Driving to Long Beach on a lovely Sunday morning. Andrew Bird. – 8:50am

Enjoyed the hipster-friendly 9:30am service at Grace Brethren Church in Long Beach. Perhaps I’ll mention this church in my book.

Listening to Lost expert and EW.com columnist Jeff Jensen give engaging talk on the spiritual aspects of Lost to a crowd at Grace Brethren. He’s a member here. He thinks “Jack’s Grandpa” is actually Jack himself! OMG! – 11:45pm

Eating carne asada tacos and fried ice cream on the grass in Long Beach, post-church, with some hipster friends. – 1:18pm

Driving from Long Beach to Los Angeles. Horrific traffic for a Sunday. All because there is a disaster film being shot downtown and everyone slows down to see whether the piled up cars on the overpass are real or a movie. L.A. is such a Baudrillardian fantasyland. – 2:50pm

Took a wrong turn and ended up in Chinatown. 20 minutes later I’m back on the right track. – 3:12pm

Super late to the next screening at the festival—Silent Light—but manage to get there in time to see the epic opening shot. Love this movie. – 3:40pm

Panel discussion after Silent Light includes Bresson and Dreyer references, and a lot of numbing analysis which kind of ruins a film that is meant to just “be.” – 6:36pm

Back at Coffee Bean, hour-long chat about theological film criticism with the director of the Los Angeles Film Studies Center. I’m invited to lecture to students on Tuesday. – 7:15pm

Driving home. Animal Collective: “Am I really all the things that are outside of me?” – 8:20pm

Still driving. Thinking of my weekend, lamenting not having had any time to work on my book, in awe that I put 400 miles on my car since Friday, and never even left greater L.A. Thinking of blogging the weekend Twitter-style, sort of ironically but also as therapy. – 8:42pm

Finally home. Dinner. Writing blog post while watching the DVR replay of this afternoon’s Kansas-Missouri b-ball game. Rock Chalk Jayhawk! – 9:25pm

Facebook update: Brett is exhausted after a strenuously postmodern weekend. – 9:34pm

Took a break from writing to eat a brownie and watch a screener of the upcoming NBC show, Kings. I enjoy both the brownie and the show. – 10:40pm

Finished proof-reading blog post, typing the final few sentences. – 11:11pm.

Picking out image for blog post. Dead but soon-to-be resurrected John Locke from Lost seems somehow appropriate. Resurrection seemed a thematic constant over this, the first Lenten weekend, from N.T. Wright to Silent Light and so forth… – 11:22pm

One final note before I publish this thing: Check out my article in Relevant magazine, “The Problem of Pride in the Age of Twitter,” by clicking here. It’s on page 26. – 11:34pm.

The Death of Facebook

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Many of you know that I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I joined it reluctantly six months ago, and have loved and loathed it for various reasons. Recently, though, Facebook has been mired in a bit of an existential crisis. Just this week it reversed its new terms of service which users passionately rejected for its creepy proprietary implications. And then there is the whole “25 Random Things” sensation that has inexplicably captured the imagination of 7+ million Facebook users. To me, this oddly retro, gloriously insipid throwback to 1998 e-mail forwards is the strongest sign yet that Facebook will soon collapse under the weight of its own purposelessness.

Here is an excerpt from my analysis of this whole thing, published last week on Relevantmagazine.com (read the full article here):

This latest “bout of viral narcissism,” as Time magazine described it, gleefully nebulous though it may be, seems to me to be a sort of resounding trumpet announcement of the coming death of Facebook and all that it represents. “25 Things”—like 90 percent of all status messages, tweets, and Facebook apps—is utterly pointless and nothing more than a distracting way for us to be vaguely familiar to a whole lot of people. If this is the best Facebook can do, it will not last.

Of course, this is wishful thinking. It will in all likelihood last, at least until the “next facebook” comes along. But I’ve never been a fan of facebook, and I’d be just as happy if it collapsed in a spectacular implosion of uncool irrelevance over the next month or so. In my dreams.

In the meantime, there came more frightening news of narcissistic technocalypse this week, from Google of course! Their new “Google Latitude” application provides us with the “maps” version of the Twitter mindset. Now, it is no longer just about updating the world as to your minute-by-minute activities, but also your minute-by-minute locations! Attention, world, I am now at the gas station on Westwood & Santa Monica. Just so ya know! What’s next? A technology to broadcast to the world what we are thinking in real time?

Here’s my problem with all this stuff: in addition to stoking the coals of our inflamed narcissism, all of these technologies make it easier for us to control every aspect of our identity as it exists in relationship to other people. It makes “communion” with people little more than highly self-conscious, intricately schemed, situational performances wherein we control what, when, where, and how much of ourselves people can know. Whatever happened to that wonderfully unsteady sense of mystery, that awkward flubbing around in relationships that used to characterize “getting to know” someone? That is all dispensed with in the Facebook world, where we can “know” someone just by spending some time poking about their various profiles, blogs, and pictures, or just by googling them. We never have to meet them in person, really!

A friend of mine, who miraculously isn’t on Facebook and avoids the Internet in general (but is nonetheless one of the smartest and kindest people I know), recently posed this question to me:

“Do you think that people who do a lot of online networking become that much less able to relate to people in a way that leaves room for inklings about people rather than making decisions based on profiles which are essentially ingredients listings?”

The question immediately resonated with me. Yes, it’s true. I think Facebook has done much damage in the way that we conceive of “knowing” a person. Does it really only amount to how much we know of their favorite music or movies? Or what their status updates report about their day-to-day activities?

I feel like I have false notions of so many people, just because I know them only or primarily through the Internet. It’s so much more interesting and enlightening to get to know someone in reality, without all that. I like being able to discover things about people by asking them, hearing from them, having mysteries and encountering little discoveries along the way. I like seeing the dissonance between someone’s facial expression and or body language and what they are saying. When we all have control over what we look like and how we define ourselves on the Internet, it removes that mystery. And it turns “friendship” into something that has less to do with knowing people deeply than just knowing whatever bits and pieces of them they want to reveal (which happens in real-world relationships too, but moreso on the Internet).

Human beings are far, far more complex and wonderful than their status updates and “ingredient listing” profile pages. And it is far more rewarding and profound to get to know someone in an unsafe, slightly uncertain and awkward way than to rigorously research them and pretend to know them via all the accumulated Internet data on them.

So let’s take a step back from “25 Things” and think about this. Do we really think that sending out mass notes with carefully selected tidbits about ourselves is making anyone more known? Who are we kidding? As a mindless diversion and exercise in classic Facebook self-love, it’s fine. But as a commentary on the uses and practices of online social networking (which I think it pretty much is), “25 Things” is nothing if not a warning sign that the end is near.