Skip

Generation Why?
January 18, 2011 9:41 AM   Subscribe

"You can’t help feel a little swell of pride in this 2.0 generation. They’ve spent a decade being berated for not making the right sorts of paintings or novels or music or politics. Turns out the brightest 2.0 kids have been doing something else extraordinary. They’ve been making a world." Zadie Smith on Mark Zuckerberg, The Social Network, and Facebook.
posted by Rory Marinich (155 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Some folks fight Nazis, some folks go to the moon. Some folks let you "like" the Gillette Shaving Experience to people you sort of knew in high school.
posted by Legomancer at 9:47 AM on January 18, 2011 [200 favorites]


Well, this looks interesting.
posted by koeselitz at 9:47 AM on January 18, 2011


Well, that was certainly all over the place.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:49 AM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow. Talk about lazy. You let one guy redeem the apathy and disaffection of your whole generation.
posted by crunchland at 9:49 AM on January 18, 2011


It's very long, but each section manages to make a lot of interesting points. It starts off as a critique of the movie, but ends up a deliberation on how Zuckerberg's design of Facebook has affected the part of society that uses it.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:50 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


You let one guy redeem the apathy and disaffection of your whole generation.

I resent the suggestion that I have been in any way redeemed
posted by Greg Nog at 9:50 AM on January 18, 2011 [28 favorites]


At my screening, when a character in the film mentioned the early blog platform LiveJournal (still popular in Russia), the audience laughed. I can’t imagine life without files but I can just about imagine a time when Facebook will seem as comically obsolete as LiveJournal.

I've said it once and I'll say it again- as long as there is ONTD, LJ will never die. Facebook is my friends & family, but those fools on ONTD are my soul mates.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:50 AM on January 18, 2011 [26 favorites]


He created the world we were all crying out for: one controlled by a corporation for the benefit of corporations.
posted by DU at 9:50 AM on January 18, 2011 [15 favorites]


I saw "redeemed" and I got excited because I thought there was a groupon.
posted by hermitosis at 9:51 AM on January 18, 2011 [19 favorites]


The exports of Facebook are numerous in amount. One thing they export is corn, or as the Indians call it, "maize". Another famous Indian was "Crazy Horse". In conclusion, Facebook is a land of contrast. Thank you.
posted by boo_radley at 9:51 AM on January 18, 2011 [95 favorites]


That was an awful lot of words to say "I'm not sure how I feel about Facebook."
posted by pts at 9:52 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does 2.0 mean book reviews are about movies?
posted by dobie at 9:53 AM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Maybe it’s not mysterious and he’s just playing the long game, holding out: not a billion dollars but a hundred billion dollars. Or is it possible he just loves programming?

Smith is thinking not only too idealistically, but far too small as well.

Business Insider claims that when Facebook "hires you, you're told the goal is to turn Facebook into the world's first TRILLION dollar company."

A billion dollars isn't cool. You know what's cool? A trillion dollars.
posted by Doktor Zed at 9:58 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some folks fight Nazis, some folks go to the moon. Some folks let you "like" the Gillette Shaving Experience to people you sort of knew in high school.

My favorite part is how the Baby Boom didn't even merit a mention.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:58 AM on January 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


There’s a clue in the two Zuckerbergs’ relative physiognomies: real Zuckerberg (especially in profile) is Greek sculpture, noble, featureless, a little like the Doryphorus (only facially, mind—his torso is definitely not seven times his head)

You've got to travel many vast and arid deserts before you come to a Classical Proportions joke let me tell you.
posted by The Whelk at 9:59 AM on January 18, 2011 [27 favorites]


This whole article seemed rather clunky. I know Zadie Smith is a Famous Author, but is there any excuse for lines like:

We know what we are doing “in” the software. But do we know, are we alert to, what the software is doing to us? Is it possible that what is communicated between people online “eventually becomes their truth”?

and

When a human being becomes a set of data on a website like Facebook, he or she is reduced...It reminds me that those of us who turn in disgust from what we consider an overinflated liberal-bourgeois sense of self should be careful what we wish for: our denuded networked selves don’t look more free, they just look more owned.


Maybe it's because she's British? Are things much different over there?
posted by 200burritos at 10:00 AM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Redeemed.
posted by Eideteker at 10:01 AM on January 18, 2011


Hey old people, watch out, the world is totally different now. We don't "watch TV" or talk to our "friends" on the "phone" anymore. We watch television on our computers two days later and then type about it to our network.

Oh, and getting news from an anchor? Pfft. Now we read the news from some guy, who in many cases is partially accurate!
posted by spaltavian at 10:03 AM on January 18, 2011 [14 favorites]


Talk about lazy. You let one guy redeem the apathy and disaffection of your whole generation.

That's nothing; I know another guy who redeemed the sins of all mankind.

Or haven't you heard the good news? Let's chat—got a minute?
posted by kenko at 10:03 AM on January 18, 2011 [21 favorites]


I know Zadie Smith is a Famous Author, but is there any excuse for lines like [...]

I think the only excuse is, obviously, that she has very little idea what on earth she's talking about. This is what's wrong with having been feted as a Novelist of Ideas without really having many. If the New York Review of Books published all my sophomoric, insubstantial, meandering reflections on whatever pop culture crossed my path, I think I'd start thinking of myself as a Thinker too.
posted by RogerB at 10:04 AM on January 18, 2011 [18 favorites]


Doubtless years from now I will misremember my closeness to Zuckerberg, in the same spirit that everyone in ’60s Liverpool met John Lennon.

Oh, vomit.
posted by blucevalo at 10:05 AM on January 18, 2011 [30 favorites]


Let's not talk about the boomers here. It brings out the rage in this community like nothing else.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 10:05 AM on January 18, 2011


I was able to sit through "The Battle hymn of Sarah Palin" yesterday, and yet I'm struggling to read this without having some kind of allergic reaction.
posted by hellojed at 10:05 AM on January 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


He created the world we were all crying out for: one controlled by a corporation for the benefit of corporations.

He invented television networks?
posted by shakespeherian at 10:06 AM on January 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


"How long is a generation these days? I must be in Mark Zuckerberg’s generation—there are only nine years between us—but somehow it doesn’t feel that way."

You MUST be in his generation? Lady, he's totes a Millennial and are SO Gen X.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:06 AM on January 18, 2011


Oh, wow, yet another review of The Social Network with the whole autistic explanation. I'm starting to wonder if I read a different book and saw a different movie from other reviewers.
posted by adipocere at 10:07 AM on January 18, 2011


So why did Livejournal die? Tumblr is hugely popular these days, and seems to have much the same functionality - less, even. Was it the clunky design of LJ that doomed it?
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 10:09 AM on January 18, 2011


Oh yeah I forgot that MetaFilter is a bunch of writers (established or would-be) who hate writers (established or would-be).
posted by hermitosis at 10:09 AM on January 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


My personal research is that everybody stopped using LJ in 2008.
posted by The Whelk at 10:11 AM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I still use LJ. It's a bit quiet, socially, but that's actually kind of better. The drivel goes on facebook/twitter and the meaningful content stays on LJ. I wrote about it a bit here.
posted by Eideteker at 10:14 AM on January 18, 2011 [12 favorites]


You can’t help feel a little swell of pride in this 2.0 generation.

You're kidding, right? That swell you feel is not pride, but your lunch coming back up.

See also: fratboy, smug, repeat.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 10:15 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know which is more obnoxious: this writer's lazy and condescending generalizations about "Generation Facebook", or his lazy and condescending generalizations about "nerds".
posted by ixohoxi at 10:17 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder if Steve Case screams at the tv screen every time he sees a story on zuckerberg:
"That should have fucking been me!". What I don't get is why there isn't as much disdain for FB as their was for AOL back in the day. An entire generation has been bred to be docile and welcoming to corporate influence - scares the living shit out of me.

I find it interesting that Facebook and Gmail were both founded within months of each other. They both used the cachet of exclusion to rapidly build market-share; that's a watershed moment for internet commerce and one I've seen replicated dozens of times since offline.
posted by any major dude at 10:17 AM on January 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


They’ve been making a world.

i was under the impression we already had one
posted by pyramid termite at 10:17 AM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Why not, Steven Levy lionized guys that really really liked model trains.

Also, I know we like to call Zuckerberg a smug fratboy, but is he really? In my experience fratboys didn't code, they spent most of their time puking.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:21 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I read Zadie or see a film about Facebook, I have to ask: what would Henry David Threau say? If he can not be my friend on FaceLift, then I am heading for the territories.
posted by Postroad at 10:21 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Beware of all enterprises that require new code (and not rather a new writer of code).
posted by RogerB at 10:24 AM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


*sigh* Trees have dies, electrons manipulated. I come away disappointed. I hope no one applying for the Google fellowships echoes her material because it seems so shallow.
posted by jadepearl at 10:24 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


For me, text messaging is simply a new medium for an old form of communication: I write to my friends in heavily punctuated, fully expressive, standard English sentences—and they write back to me in the same way. Text-speak is unknown between us. Our relationship with the English language predates our relationships with our phones.

I think this is the most revealing line in the piece. The whole time I read this, I kept wondering why they got Zadie Smith to write it, because she seems so completely uninterested in both technology and any possible use of technology.

For example, what is the "old form of communication" for which text messaging is the new medium? Smith seems to view it as letter-writing, where one would use "heavily punctuated, fully expressive, standard English sentences." However, if you look at text messaging as an updated form of telegraphy, it makes no sense at all to use "heavily punctuated, fully expressive, standard English sentences." Smith seems unwilling to frame any technology as anything other than a degradation of "Literature" with a capital L.

Look at the part about Toussaint's The Bathroom. She sees her students reactions as reflections of their "denuded selfhood." Rather, it seems to me that her students might just not have the same view of Realist literature that she does. And so they're approaching the novel without a classic conception of Realist literature from which to judge this "experimental" novel against. Again, Smith seems unwilling to engage with this viewpoint. To her, its just one more piece of evidence of "The internet making kids these days stupid!"
posted by fryman at 10:26 AM on January 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


any major dude: “An entire generation has been bred to be docile and welcoming to corporate influence - scares the living shit out of me.”

This. Absolutely. That's what bothers me most. Us young people – at 31, am I still us, or am I them? – always roll our eyes when old people complain about advertising. This is weird and annoying to me. We're capitalists not by ideology but by fiat now. This isn't beyond memory, some hazy memory from the past. A decade ago I remember sitting in a bus station talking excitedly with drifters and 'activists' about a massive protest that was happening at the WTO on the other side of the country. Everyone was abuzz then with discontent, with the ennui of modern institutional injustices, with the hope of doing something new. Such things are sort of passe now. Maybe this has to do with my changes in perspective, but... well, the independent atmosphere seems to have sort of melted into this corporatized, capitalized, sanitized version of the internet that frankly betrays the original principles of the old World Wide Web.
posted by koeselitz at 10:27 AM on January 18, 2011 [18 favorites]


Fuck it, I'm with you guys. the net jumped the shark when they invented DNS.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:28 AM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


> If we really wanted to write to these faraway people, or see them, we would. What we actually want to do is the bare minimum...

While the essay as a whole is pretty uneven, this rings quite true for me. Checking up on my friends' profiles was, for a while, a somewhat effective palliative against the guilt I felt about not doing a better job of keeping in touch. Then it started to feel like a semipermeable barrier instead of a bridge (YMMV), a way of keeping people exactly at arms' length, so I left.

Is Facebook better than no contact at all? Well, since I left I'm finding out. FB dominates online communication to such a degree now that leaving it sometimes feels like dropping off the edge of the earth. Why don't I email more? Typing a long email seems almost as antiquated as sitting down with a fountain pen and some parchment. Why don't I call? I'm not sure, but I feel like the answer would frighten me.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:28 AM on January 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Ad hominem: “Also, I know we like to call Zuckerberg a smug fratboy, but is he really? In my experience fratboys didn't code, they spent most of their time puking.”

How long has it been since you went to college? My guess is more than ten years.
posted by koeselitz at 10:28 AM on January 18, 2011


My favorite part is how the Baby Boom didn't even merit a mention. --- Especially considering they invented the entire basis for this guy's whole empire.
posted by crunchland at 10:29 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hate it when real world people talk about the internet.

It is like parent's dancing.
posted by srboisvert at 10:29 AM on January 18, 2011 [9 favorites]


This is like the 3rd article about Facebook and that damn movie. Are sales of The Social Network (Two-Disc Collector's Edition) lagging behind expectations?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:31 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


What a horrible, pretentious, snobby article.

When a human being becomes a set of data on a website like Facebook, he or she is reduced. Everything shrinks. Individual character. Friendships. Language. Sensibility.

No human being "becomes" a set of data. Does Ms. Smith believe that once you create a Facebook profile, the machines entomb your body, Matrix-like? Does she think that, having created a Facebook profile, you must stop interacting with other human beings in real life?
posted by callmejay at 10:33 AM on January 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


> the independent atmosphere seems to have sort of melted into this corporatized, capitalized, sanitized version of the internet that frankly betrays the original principles of the old World Wide Web.

I sympathize with this sentiment, but let's not forget that the Web was developed by the DoD, and the longer trend in US history has always been for the taxpayers to fund new innovation, with the corporations coming up from behind and taking over and making a killing. There was a lot of excitement and buzz in the air about the new medium of communicating, but it never was a free spirit.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:34 AM on January 18, 2011


How long has it been since you went to college? My guess is more than ten years.

You are right, don't remind me.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:35 AM on January 18, 2011


Are sales of The Social Network (Two-Disc Collector's Edition) lagging behind expectations?

This article came out in print in November 2010, and I don't think marketing departments can place essays in the NYRB to bolster sales. (It wouldn't be a very cost-effective tactic, I suspect, in any case.)
posted by kenko at 10:35 AM on January 18, 2011




Perhaps Generation Facebook have built their virtual mansions in good faith, [...] Then again, the more time I spend with the tail end of Generation Facebook (in the shape of my students) the more convinced I become that some of the software [...] In The Social Network Generation Facebook gets a movie almost worthy of them, and this fact[...]
If you have a book coming out called Generation Facebook I am burning down your house.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:41 AM on January 18, 2011 [12 favorites]


I'd like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers
live together in mutually
programming harmony
like pure water
touching clear sky.
posted by Sailormom at 10:42 AM on January 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


I still yell at the telephone.
posted by clavdivs at 10:49 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I found my old geocities site on reocities last night and posted about it - and my friend and I have been chatting today about how it's all changed.

Facebook is NOT the world I longed for when I first turned on that modem in 1995. John Perry Barlow's Declaration of Cyberspace Independence, as naive as it was, was what turned me on. The non-personal attributes of it, the closed cultural community it was. Through it's closedness, it allowed you to be open. But now that it's everywhere, you can't be too open lest you bump into someone you know, or are stalked by some potential employer when applying for a job.

Facebook is the filth of cyberspace.

Who wants to start a gopherspace social network with me? Come on guys!!! It'll be just like the old days. Archie, Veronica, WAIS, FTP, Gopher, SSH/Telnet, oh we can have it back.

(I found out today that reddit supports gopher! (or rather Marnanel coded up a gopher version of reddit's directories or something))
posted by symbioid at 10:50 AM on January 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


Let me guess, Rory is the only one in this thread actually of the generation being examined. What a surprise, a bunch of generation Xers doing what they (we) love best= sarcastically shit all over a sincere appreciation of something new. I use to hate baby boomers, and be glad I was part of the slackers. These days I realize we're nothing but a bunch of conservative nit-picking pussies, safe in our skepticism and negativity, coddling our unique fears and progressive prejudices like so many curmudgeons before us.

A pox on my own head--and a hearty kudos to the 20-thangs who've actually innocuously created these insidious products that craft our futures (even if they inevitably will be used to enslave and commodify our souls eventually) (cuz WTF else were we doing with them?).
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:50 AM on January 18, 2011 [9 favorites]


It astonishes me that facebook didn't die a death when everyone's parents and grandparents joined. Half the reason I don't join is because when I do my parents, aunts and uncles will be waiting for me there.

(Okay, that's far less than half the reason. Most of the reason is best summed up in blue_beetle's now-famous dictum.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:53 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's the thing about being an old fart (Baby Boomer). When you're young, you feel compelled to keep up with every new trend. But when you're old, your time frame becomes geological. And so, I glacially looked over Friendster, 1 Corinthians 3:13 "“each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work” - Friendster did not excite and in the fullness of time, my indifference prevented me from engaging in unnecessary efforts on a doomed and unexciting enterprise. MySpace came and went so fast I didn't manage to finish the yawn with which I greeted it. Heck, the recent paroxysms over plastic.com was but a blip in time to me and other ancient ones. On the other hand, I was a very early adopter of Gmail, for I saw it, and it was good. I look over Facebook and I am not tempted - as yet. We the ancient ones as still gazing upon it, through slit eyelids, with torpor in our reptilian retinas. Generation X, Y, Z - there've been so many, and more shall pass yet. I hear there's still the Great Depression Generation rattling about, I wonder what they think about Facebook.
posted by VikingSword at 10:56 AM on January 18, 2011 [23 favorites]


Hey I thought the Metafilter Everything I Do Is Woven Of The Fabric Of Capitalism But In A Good Way Because It's Slightly Older Brigade was doing a pretty good job here.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:56 AM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


What a surprise, a bunch of generation Xers doing what they (we) love best= sarcastically shit all over a sincere appreciation of something new.

You say this like it's a bad thing.

Also, is '=' the new m-dash?
posted by GuyZero at 10:56 AM on January 18, 2011


There are no generations. It's a vain way of packaging aggregates of data. Some people in their twenties are doing interesting, innovative things, and others are worthless piles of shit. Just like any other age range.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:56 AM on January 18, 2011 [17 favorites]


I read this article when it was first published and thought it was a good review of the movie that also made a lot of thoughtful and interesting points... granted, I haven't seen the movie, lol. But Smith's review, and an another article about Justin Timberlake's character, Sean Parker, the Napster genius, seemed to cover everything interesting about The Social Network, which as far as I can tell is a movie about how the geeky guy does everything to get the hot girl.

Highlights:

If it’s not for money and it’s not for girls—what is it for? With Zuckerberg we have a real American mystery. Maybe it’s not mysterious and he’s just playing the long game, holding out: not a billion dollars but a hundred billion dollars. Or is it possible he just loves programming? No doubt the filmmakers considered this option, but you can see their dilemma: how to convey the pleasure of programming—if such a pleasure exists—in a way that is both cinematic and comprehensible? Movies are notoriously bad at showing the pleasures and rigors of art-making, even when the medium is familiar.

...

In Zuckerberg’s New Yorker profile it is revealed that his own Facebook page lists, among his interests, Minimalism, revolutions, and “eliminating desire.”2 We also learn of his affection for the culture and writings of ancient Greece. Perhaps this is the disjunct between real Zuckerberg and fake Zuckerberg: the movie places him in the Roman world of betrayal and excess, but the real Zuckerberg may belong in the Greek, perhaps with the Stoics (“eliminating desire”?)...Fake Mark looks Roman, with all the precise facial detail filled in. Zuckerberg, with his steady relationship and his rented house and his refusal to get angry on television even when people are being very rude to him (he sweats instead), has something of the teenage Stoic about him. And of course if you’ve eliminated desire you’ve got nothing to hide, right?.

(Yeah okay this paragraph has the silly bit about the Greek kyros in it. But it continues:)

It’s that kind of kid we’re dealing with, the kind who would never screw a groupie in a bar toilet—as happens in the movie—or leave his doctor girlfriend for a Victoria’s Secret model. It’s this type of kid who would think that giving people less privacy was a good idea. What’s striking about Zuckerberg’s vision of an open Internet is the very blandness it requires to function...

. Lanier is interested in the ways in which people “reduce themselves” in order to make a computer’s description of them appear more accurate. “Information systems,” he writes, “need to have information in order to run, but information underrepresents reality” (my italics).

Which, okay, is a pretty basic idea, but still one with some pretty profound consequences. Finally:

It feels important to remind ourselves, at this point, that Facebook, our new beloved interface with reality, was designed by a Harvard sophomore with a Harvard sophomore’s preoccupations. What is your relationship status? (Choose one. There can be only one answer. People need to know.) Do you have a “life”? (Prove it. Post pictures.) Do you like the right sort of things? (Make a list. Things to like will include: movies, music, books and television, but not architecture, ideas, or plants.)

That last paragraph really drove home to me how much of our identities are mediated by mainstream cultural products. Which, okay, Guy Debord already wrote about in 1967, but the fact that we now have buttons to share what we like in one click and can describe ourselves "off the shelf" with a list of things we like - and that list is given primacy over our typed out thoughts - is new. Isn't it?
posted by subdee at 10:56 AM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


This article has come the closest to articulating an actual criticism of Facebook, rather than just echoing the sort of vague disdain - very prevalent here - that seems strangely at odds with its soaring popularity. I'd really be curious to see if anyone can do a better job of explaining just what exactly is so bad about Facebook. I'm in my 20's and can say without reservation that it's been a good thing in my life over the past several years.
posted by decoherence at 11:09 AM on January 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Every blanket criticism of every generation ever has been bullshit. And there is nothing wrong with facebook really.

That said, "richest" and "brightest" are different things.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:15 AM on January 18, 2011


This casual use of "2.0" as a "cute" name for internet stuff makes me want to set important things on fire. Now I know how irritated "Generation X"ers must feel.
posted by hellslinger at 11:16 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is so easy to craft a clean little metaphor about how a lonely person created a social network. But that means the analysis is going to be just as deep. It is like saying, 'Larry and Sergey have an existential dread that forces them to always keep searching for the answer. That's why Google sucks.'

I'm always amazed at how criticisms of a large company are entirely based on the character of its founder. Facebook the software is not what makes Facebook popular. It is animated by people, and has taken on a life of its own, one that can't be described in a cute little comparison with Zuckerberg's college missteps.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 11:17 AM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Every blanket criticism of every generation ever has been bullshit.

That's just the sort of lazy, insufficiently-examined soundbite so typical of your generation.
posted by Decani at 11:20 AM on January 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


I've said it once and I'll say it again- as long as there is ONTD, LJ will never die. Facebook is my friends & family, but those fools on ONTD are my soul mates.

Uh, hate to break it to you but..."Unknown Journal. The journal ccommunity is not currently registered."
posted by scalefree at 11:21 AM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


What a surprise, a bunch of generation Xers doing what they (we) love best= sarcastically shit all over a sincere appreciation of something new.

Well, to be fair, we shit pretty successfully over a sincere appreciation of anything old, too.
posted by blucevalo at 11:21 AM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


And as a mid twenties person, I'm going to add my two cents and say that facebook is bullshit because it is turning perfectly reasonable people into unashamed narcissists and setting the precedent that this kind of behavior is acceptable to everyone. (I recently disabled my account after 5 years of faithful and frequent usage.)

By doing this, we've shut out older generations and have taken a shit on their sensibilities. It has completely ruined people's social expectations of each other.

Call me traditional, but I hate the fact that people have reallocated so much social interaction to such a shallow, adolescent, and self-absorbed medium.

Again, just my opinion, but I've been much happier since I ditched facebook.
posted by hellslinger at 11:24 AM on January 18, 2011 [15 favorites]


This casual use of '2.0' as a 'cute' name for internet stuff makes me want to set important things on fire.

I know! It's supposed to be "HTML5."
posted by kirkaracha at 11:29 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


it is turning perfectly reasonable people into unashamed narcissists

That ship sailed in the 80s.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:35 AM on January 18, 2011


I have an earnest question for all of you.

Facebook was and is the first site that I really use to communicate with friends. The first nonforum social site I registered for was MySpace, which was completely abominable; next to MySpace, FB is an incredible way to keep in touch with a lot of people.

I use Facebook to talk to friends rather than email, because on Facebook my friends' friends have the option of joining in the conversation, and it often leads to really involved discussions. Beyond the idle chitchat, I think the three things I use Facebook for are: Sharing photos; writing thoughts down in essay form; and sending friends assorted links (which can be broken down further as: interesting things; funny things; and music).

Beyond just offering me a wide variety of posting options (like tagging disparate friends so they all join in a conversation versus posting it on a wall and attracting anybody who's bored), Facebook also lets me organize all this information really well. I've started using Facebook for a lot of side projects I'm working on, because it gives my friends an easy way to see when there's new content being posted; sorting things into photo albums means it's easy to refer to old photos when I need to; between Groups and Messages there're a lot of ways to get in touch with people.

I also occasionally use it to get invited to events and the like, and to invite others. It's especially useful because with the iPhone app I can get directions to an event as I'm walking out the door, which makes my life just a teeny bit more interesting.

I talk to my artist friends about art, and to my politically-active friends about politics, and I flirt with girls, and I try and be there for those friends of mine who are in dark places. And because I keep a low friend count I tend to be genuinely interested in what people do there.

My question is this: Do any of you know how to somehow keep up this extraordinary access to communication without using Facebook? Any tools that would let me keep in touch with all those people in all those different ways without becoming bulky? I love Facebook because I genuinely think that it does a superb job of handling a lot of different things without making me think. Are there sites that make this easier?

I use a lot of other sites, of course; I have a Twitter and a Tumblr, and I used to have a Flickr. But Twitter sucks at longform discussion, and Tumblr sucks at holding personal discussions, and Flickr just never felt that personal. I email people, but emailing is a private system that doesn't offer the same feeling of people wandering in and out of conversations.

I love nothing more than coming up with clever ways of avoiding web sites. If I could drop Facebook while still keeping in touch with all of the people I talk to now, I would. Anybody have ideas for a solution? Particularly a solution that I don't have to convince all 57 of my friends to use, and all of their friends, and so on and so forth, to be effective?

A lot of times I've thought about making an alternative social network, one that somehow frees the people using it into having somehow more meaningful interactions. But I couldn't think of any systems that would necessarily improve upon what Facebook lets you do now (albeit with a certain effort to keep things trim). I could simply give up all the things that Facebook offers me but I genuinely think that it gives me and my friends a wonderful way to talk.

I appreciate both Smith's criticisms of Facebook, though I can see why some people here don't like them, and also the criticisms all of you have of it. But despite them I still think Facebook is in general a net positive, and that the negatives I've heard pointed out aren't as severe as they're made to seem. But I'm open to suggestions of how online interaction ought to be better, and what alternatives exist, and, perhaps, what alternatives could be created.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:35 AM on January 18, 2011 [24 favorites]


The whole time I read this, I kept wondering why they got Zadie Smith to write it, because she seems so completely uninterested in both technology and any possible use of technology.

This is actually the most interesting thing to me about Zadie Smith's whole career thus far: that (for some cloistered audience of oldsters: let's call them the NYRB/TLS crowd) she somehow continues to appear hip, new, in touch with the kids, representing the world of "the young" in a novelistic register that the lit'ry crowd can understand — when in fact she's quite obviously painfully out of touch, reliant on cliche-drenched generation-profiling journalism for nearly everything she portrays in her young characters. She has a lot of talent as a novelist, but she's painfully miscast in this role — it's like some chunk of her readership (and possibly also she herself) wants her to be a new Hanif Kureishi, or even Nick Hornby, writing a new generation's pop-literary representation, rather than just tending to her own garden and writing characters who come from someplace she can understand.
posted by RogerB at 11:38 AM on January 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think I sense the green eyed monster in this article!! Zadie, are you jealouss? Little bit? C'mon, just a teesy weensy bit? Your classmate's just a little bit more influential than you, is it BUGGING you? Professor Zadie, be honest. Oh you're not jealous? Then how come this article about the Facebook movie is all about you? Hmm Zadie? Are YOU the one who is afraid of not being liked???? C'mon Zadie, you can tell us (in complete sentences with proper spelling and grammar if you want....).
posted by pick_the_flowers at 11:39 AM on January 18, 2011


(Also, ReoCities is poignant and sad and I wish that the Internet looked and felt more like that. Just browsing through random pages it pains me to see how beautiful and colorful every single page is.)
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:39 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey I still hate these lawn-trespassing kids.
posted by Mister_A at 11:39 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd really be curious to see if anyone can do a better job of explaining just what exactly is so bad about Facebook.

i joined wondering as to what my old high school people (class of '75) were up to and was taken aback to discover that none of the people i was interested in were there and all of the people i didn't want to talk to were

i realize that's a woefully anecdotal and incomplete explanation - but still, i can't help but feel there's something to the fact that the least interesting people in my high school are the most active on it
posted by pyramid termite at 11:42 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I kept wondering why they got Zadie Smith to write it

Seriously. I can only imagine that the choice was a form of trolling. This article was half of the reason I canceled my subscription to the NYRB.
posted by enn at 11:42 AM on January 18, 2011


"which as far as I can tell is a movie about how the geeky guy does everything to get the hot girl"

No, no. You should watch the movie.
posted by pick_the_flowers at 11:43 AM on January 18, 2011


Scalefree: try spelling the name correctly.
posted by frecklefaerie at 11:51 AM on January 18, 2011


These days I realize we're nothing but a bunch of conservative nit-picking pussies, safe in our skepticism and negativity, coddling our unique fears and progressive prejudices like so many curmudgeons before us.

Because some of us don't like Facebook?

This article has come the closest to articulating an actual criticism of Facebook, rather than just echoing the sort of vague disdain - very prevalent here

Other than a few throwaway comments, I think people's objections to Facebook have been quite clearly articulated.

Rory, I think ultimately it's gong to depend on how your own friends interact. Facebook might be the ideal way for you and your friends to keep in touch. Mine are all on Facebook too, but they're not having the sorts of conversations you're talking about. A lot of people don't want to broadcast everything they might like to talk about with their close friends to everyone they know -- this is particularly true when you get older and have business contacts and/or children and family connected. We don't necessarily want everyone to be able to see our photos or hear our in-jokes. Even fairly innocuous-sounding stuff like "Woah I have the worst hangover" can have negative repercussions for some people depending on who is on their friends list. I realize it can be customized to avoid some of these situations, but that can become a lot of work in itself and for some of us it's just not worth the effort.
posted by Hoopo at 11:52 AM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've seen things you Boomers and Gen-Xers wouldn't believe. Spammer Poke War News Feeds off the walls of Old Crimson. I watched lensflares glitter in the dark near the Konami Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like Scrabulous or LJ. Time to set lawn Status to "Off."
posted by Generation Facebook at 11:56 AM on January 18, 2011 [18 favorites]


Scalefree: try spelling the name correctly.

Yeah OK. I just clicked on the link & that's what came up.
posted by scalefree at 12:02 PM on January 18, 2011


i joined wondering as to what my old high school people (class of '75) were up to and was taken aback to discover that none of the people i was interested in were there and all of the people i didn't want to talk to were

They might still be there; it could be that they just haven't made their profiles searchable.
posted by emeiji at 12:06 PM on January 18, 2011


Call me traditional, but I hate the fact that people have reallocated so much social interaction to such a shallow, adolescent, and self-absorbed medium.

It seems somewhat unfair to me to blame the medium for being shallow (this strikes me as a "comic books are for kids!" sort of argument). The medium can be basically anything we want it to be (and I've used Facebook for some sincerely non-shallow interactions). It's people who are, on the whole, shallow.

I also don't think that Facebook usage is RE-allocating anything at all. It's not replacing letter writing, or emailing, or in-person-in-depth-world-changing discussion; it's replacing nothing. People didn't broadcast their (banal, uninteresting) thoughts to a wide audience, and now they do. But it's not as if the people posting "God! I hate the weather today! WTF!" as a status update were going to instead craft an epic poem expressing a deeper sentiment. Facebook gives them a platform.

So: my guess is the hate for Facebook comes primarily from the fact that it shows us the thoughts of many "shallow, adolescent, and self-absorbed" people and secondarily ALSO shows us that those thoughts have a very wide audience that LOVES them.

But it's not Facebook you don't like, right? It's just people.
posted by davidjmcgee at 12:06 PM on January 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


I don't know which is more obnoxious: this writer's lazy and condescending generalizations about "Generation Facebook", or his lazy and condescending generalizations about "nerds".

Ouchy-wouchy, ixohoxi.

The writer, Zadie Smith, is female.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:09 PM on January 18, 2011


What I don't like about FaceBook:
  • predatory revenue model (Zinga)
  • predatory privacy model
  • centralized repository, centralized control
  • walled garden, not open standards

    I think that's more than vague disdain.

  • posted by scalefree at 12:10 PM on January 18, 2011 [12 favorites]


    My question is this: Do any of you know how to somehow keep up this extraordinary access to communication without using Facebook? Any tools that would let me keep in touch with all those people in all those different ways without becoming bulky? I love Facebook because I genuinely think that it does a superb job of handling a lot of different things without making me think. Are there sites that make this easier?

    No, but then again I didn't get those things out of FB when I was heavily using it. It is different things to different people. I found it to be a timesink, a way of deferring and sidetracking real communication rather than encouraging it, and I felt genuinely awkward with interactions with most of the people who I friended or who friended me, after I got over the initial giddiness of OMG! There's that friend from high school who I thought I'd never run into again! I ended up posting something on my wall that rubbed him the wrong way and all of a sudden I remembered exactly why he'd drifted away from me in the first place all those years ago.

    I'm on FB now, after a longish hiatus, but I almost never use it for anything that most people would use it for, and it's probably a much lesser experience for me because of it. But when I read stories like this it makes me cringe and it makes me happy I'm no longer invested all that much in or enmeshed with FB, although I don't discount that it means a whole lot to a lot of people and that it's a genuinely disrupting phenomenon (in the way that Deleuze may have meant when he spoke of "freedom, which is always hidden among the remains of the old order and the first fruits of a new").
    posted by blucevalo at 12:12 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


    What a surprise, a bunch of generation Xers doing what they (we) love best= sarcastically shit all over a sincere appreciation of something new.

    Hey hey hey. I belong to the *blank* generation. And I can take it or... ah, hell with it.
    posted by Decani at 12:14 PM on January 18, 2011


    I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by meh-ness.
    posted by Generation Facebook at 12:18 PM on January 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


    Exactly how does Facebook make it's money? Not from those stupid little ads, does it?
    posted by crunchland at 12:21 PM on January 18, 2011


    I don't know if Facebook is making a profit at this point (kind of doubt it); my understanding was that they are trying to figure out the best ways to generate revenue without wrecking the user experience.
    posted by Mister_A at 12:27 PM on January 18, 2011


    davidjmcgee: "Call me traditional, but I hate the fact that people have reallocated so much social interaction to such a shallow, adolescent, and self-absorbed medium.

    It seems somewhat unfair to me to blame the medium for being shallow (this strikes me as a "comic books are for kids!" sort of argument). The medium can be basically anything we want it to be (and I've used Facebook for some sincerely non-shallow interactions). It's people who are, on the whole, shallow.
    "

    I disagree. Aside from the issues of privacy in general (and corporate/advertiser access to your profile data), I hate to sound like McLuhan here, but...

    The medium IS the message.

    The architecture of a given site dictates the roles the users play and how they interact with one another.

    The initial structure of FB was never setup for privacy, and they tacked on privacy controls and filters/lists, but it's not inherent in the setup, nor is it made easy to utilize.

    The vast userbase of FB makes one more exposed, and especially since the primary role of FB is to get in touch with other people you know IRL (or tends to be), people will tend to adopt a more "shallow" approach so they don't violate certain protocols. People who friend their bosses on FB, for example, and then say stupid shit about their bosses and get fired. (note: I don't friend in my work place for precisely that reason). The act of online personas and exploration in a place like LJ, which allows for untying your "real" self from your virtual self, and allows for easy to make filters that are easy to find when you make a post, allows one to, ironically, BE your real self (and just as easily be an even more fake self than FB makes -- that is to say, FB tends to, if used in the generic way, make people more 1 dimensionsal - Hey, here's a meme, here's a game, sign up, blah blah).

    I guess my point is, that blaming the medium is a fair point. Architecture is everything, especially when you're discussing interaction in a mediated space.
    posted by symbioid at 12:29 PM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


    Do any of you know how to somehow keep up this extraordinary access to communication without using Facebook

    Email. And Facebook is no more "communication" than grinding bodies at a mixer is. Extraordinary access != better/good communication .
    posted by Old'n'Busted at 12:30 PM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


    Exactly how does Facebook make it's money? Not from those stupid little ads, does it?

    My guess is partially by selling points to buy virtual good in farmville and other online games but also eventually purchase physical goods from online retailers. If they can offer a virtual currency and get a cut of transactions they can do pretty well.

    They already sell Gift Cards
    posted by Ad hominem at 12:32 PM on January 18, 2011


    Email. And Facebook is no more "communication" than grinding bodies at a mixer is. Extraordinary access != better/good communication .

    I mentioned my problem with email: It's closed to the original recipients, and doesn't let new people join and leave the conversation as they please. I find that some of my favorite people on Facebook are friends-of-friends who talk to me over our mutual contact.

    Access doesn't necessarily mean better communication, I know — but in my case, it does. I don't want to sound vain or proud but my Facebook friends and I hold some damn fine conversations.
    posted by Rory Marinich at 12:37 PM on January 18, 2011


    My guess is partially by selling points to buy virtual good in farmville and other online games but also eventually purchase physical goods from online retailers

    I mean eventually, clearly ads won't support a "trillion dollar company", but if they can control millions of transactions instead of just dishing hits to other sites who then control the transaction they can offer pay for play discoverability within the facebook ecosystem. You will notice that alot of huge chains now print stuff like "facebook.com/tgifriday" like they use to print "aol keyword: tgi friday", one day you will probably be able to pay for dinner at TGI Friday,and books from amazon, with facebook points, or something like it.


    posted by Ad hominem at 12:39 PM on January 18, 2011


    Zadie Smith: "[Zuckerberg] uses the word “connect” as believers use the word “Jesus,” as if it were sacred in and of itself: “So the idea is really that, um, the site helps everyone connect with people and share information with the people they want to stay connected with….” Connection is the goal. The quality of that connection, the quality of the information that passes through it, the quality of the relationship that connection permits—none of this is important..."

    I think I'm impressed - given the above -that nowhere in her essay does Zadie Smith chuck in a cute reference to novelist E. M. Forster's famous exhortation: "Only connect..." .

    Since her lovely 2005 novel, "On Beauty", is famously loosely based on Forster's 1910 novel, "Howards End" (about problems arising when different social classes ricochet off each other)-which had "Only connect" as its motto.

    (In the 1980s play/movie "Educating Rita", there's a lovely line when the mature literature student - the Rita of the title - encounters Forster's "Howards End" for the first time - and jokes that she thought "Only connect" meant it was a book about an electrician!).

    Which is probably quite enough about connections...
    posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:40 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Ad hominem: "You will notice that alot of huge chains now print stuff like "facebook.com/tgifriday" like they use to print "aol keyword: tgi friday", one day you will probably be able to pay for dinner at TGI Friday,and books from amazon, with facebook points, or something like it."


    Oh fuck me. Does that explain Goldman Sachs investment?

    Oh, haha... dig this
    posted by symbioid at 12:42 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


    davidjmcgee:

    I partially agree with your reply in saying that it is people to blame for the negative effects that I and many others have observed. However, I believe that facebook has implemented features and a user interface that constrain it's users to ONLY posting meaningless or mundane information and (at least) make it very easy to do so. This decreases signal ratio and makes it difficult for those who use it in a more meaningful way to get their information to the people who care simply because more people use it in a bad way.

    This is not to ingratiate or to gain favor in agreement with my point, but consider the way metafilter is designed and how it has been successful in enforcing a minimum standard. I'm not sure exactly what part of it achieved this, but because one must actually read through comments and is not allowed to post any kind of inflammatory nonsense, there is a fairly high standard. This could be due to simple limitations or designs in the interfaces, like not being able to post images in replies, or not allowing a huge avatar and signature to appear each time. This focuses all other users on the content of the replies rather than having to navigate some ugly forum. There is also the moderation that goes on here that is more strict about posting thoughtful comments than any other site. I'm sure there is a great deal more than they do...

    I used facebook long before there was any status updates, or upvotes. At this time, the smaller, more tech savvy user base posted personal pictures and interesting links and there was very little minutia that wasn't completely irritating.

    Here's the point where I believe it all went south IMO. After "status updates" came out to compete with twitter, it became the dumping ground for everything that people wouldn't bother boring each other with in phone or face to face conversation. Because there is no instantaneous feedback that alerts the user that posting his bowel movements may not be tasteful or appropriate, people never get the kind of feedback that they've relied on in social situations hitherto. And because we're human and not born with tact, there is less social interaction like body language and facial expressions and youth are less exposed to this preciously needed social-feedback-loop. So of course older generations are going to see people posting very personal information and pictures in a public space as something that one should have a bit more discretion or shame about. I'm not even older generation and I'm starting to see this as a problem.
    posted by hellslinger at 12:44 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


    I would add to what I said upthread that not long ago (can't be more than 5 years I guess) I used Facebook lmore or less in the same way Rory described--back then some of my friends were still in school, and most of us were not in what you could call "careers" or had children or were married etc. A lot happens and you kind of grow out of Facebook and that type of social interaction. It's not accurate to characterize it as simply a generational thing. Generation Xers were early internet adopters too, and were all over blogs, myspace,online communities etc before Facebook existed and interacted in similar ways.
    posted by Hoopo at 12:44 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Only Kinect.
    posted by Generation Facebook at 12:45 PM on January 18, 2011


    Oh, haha... dig this

    Yeah, I'm sure all the people they intended to sell to can purchase shares through their swiss bankers or whatever.
    posted by Ad hominem at 12:51 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


    If it’s not for money and it’s not for girls—what is it for? With Zuckerberg we have a real American mystery. Maybe it’s not mysterious and he’s just playing the long game, holding out: not a billion dollars but a hundred billion dollars. Or is it possible he just loves programming? . . . Personally I don’t think Final Clubs were ever the point; I don’t think exclusivity was ever the point; nor even money. E Pluribus Unum—that’s the point. Here’s my guess: he wants to be like everybody else. He wants to be liked.

    Yeah. So I thought White Teeth was a heckuva read, but the cult of the Great Novelist really does produce some horrifically awful sub-undergrad-grade pop pontification in places where the editorial board doesn't understand pop, don't it.

    So good gracious, Zadie, let me hand you a clue - in heavily punctuated, fully expressive, standard English sentences. Zuckerberg (in the movie, anyway, but probably in real life as well) is primarily interested in the thing that money's a proxy for, the thing that has driven human behaviour in both Greek and Roman molds and even those lesser molds that don't let you wag your classical English education in our face. He's interested in power.

    Did you miss the scenes in The Social Network where Zuckerberg goes gaga at Sean Parker's contempt for "monetizing" Facebook too soon? The whole thing where the billion dollars and global conquest come from skipping the easy smalltime cash until you can march into some financier's office in your bathrobe and tell him Sean Parker said he can go fuck himself - and then still walk out with his money?

    Power, Zadie. Zuckerberg wants power. Power is revenge and retribution and glory, power is getting the girl and beating the blue bloods and flipping the bird to everyone who ever mocked your awkward social skills. It's the illusion and sometimes even the reality of total control. Power. You purportedly write books about people and their motivations, but if you missed this one I'm making a mental note to never re-read White Teeth because I'm worried now I'll find its characters utterly lacking in plausible human motivation.
    posted by gompa at 12:52 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


    Power, Zadie. Zuckerberg wants power.

    Geez this really is turning into a pile-on. It's not like this it never occurred to her that power might be the motivating factor. She addresses it directly in the article.

    "But that doesn’t explain why the teenage Zuckerberg gave away his free app for an MP3 player (similar to the very popular Pandora, as it recognized your taste in music), rather than selling it to Microsoft. What power was he hoping to accrue to himself in high school, at seventeen?"
    posted by stinker at 1:03 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


    Symbioid: FB tends to, if used in the generic way, make people more 1 dimensionsal

    But why is that the generic way? Facebook does not provide a list of rules or best practices when somebody signs up for a new account. Them's just folks.

    The architecture of a given site dictates the roles the users play and how they interact with one another.

    I see where you're coming from. And there are certainly aspects of the site's architecture that are imperfect, but... gah, it's just giving Facebook either too much or not enough credit. I'm honestly not sure which.

    They built a thing that enables people to post personal information, photographs, "notes", event invitations, &c. &c. What most people choose to use it for is (accurately or not) judged to be stupid bullshit. How in the world is this in any way Facebook's fault? Zuckerberg himself isn't spamming your Facebook wall with boring minutia; your friends are.

    I totally agree that there are bonuses (boni?) to LiveJournal and other sites that allow for a greater degree of anonymity and therefore somehow end up being more personally revealing. But as Gabe will be quick to point out, that's not always a sure thing.

    I've seen no proof at all that Facebook is making people be vapid or uninteresting or one-dimensional. I've seen quite a lot of proof that people are already vapid or uninteresting, and have found a broadcast platform in Facebook.

    There are plenty of reasons to dislike Facebook (not the least of which are the privacy concerns you rightly bring up), but I really do think it's a reflection of society, not a driving force.

    Hellslinger: And because we're human and not born with tact, there is less social interaction like body language and facial expressions and youth are less exposed to this preciously needed social-feedback-loop.

    That is an excellent point. It's likely a very poor playground in which to learn how to play nicely with others. As it augments rather than replaces social interaction, I think it's a pretty great tool; considering it as a place to actually learn social interaction pretty quickly brings on the howling fantods.
    posted by davidjmcgee at 1:15 PM on January 18, 2011


    Power, Zadie. Zuckerberg wants power.

    I think Zuckerberg wants to be known for his cleverness.

    (Only going by the film, and some background reading. But it just seemed to be the thing that ate at him more than the twins' social position. That he needed people to know he was the cleverest guy around.)
    posted by Jody Tresidder at 1:18 PM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


    I, for one, am very happy to live in a profoundly trivial age.
    posted by johnny novak at 1:43 PM on January 18, 2011


    Well, that was certainly all over the place.

    That's the style of her novels as well.
    posted by zardoz at 1:53 PM on January 18, 2011


    my Facebook friends and I hold some damn fine conversations.

    Yes, I'm quite sure you do. Also sure they are damn fine, perhaps even finer than what, oh I don't know, Metafilter has?
    posted by Old'n'Busted at 1:58 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


    > Yes, I'm quite sure you do. Also sure they are damn fine, perhaps even finer than what, oh I don't know, Metafilter has?

    That's kind of a weird thing to say to someone.
    posted by Burhanistan at 1:59 PM on January 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


    Any FB platform devs know what it would take to port something like metaphilter to the FB platform?
    posted by Ad hominem at 2:07 PM on January 18, 2011


    Exactly how does Facebook make it's money? Not from those stupid little ads, does it?

    ...


    I don't know if Facebook is making a profit at this point (kind of doubt it)


    Holy fuck. People here are calling Zadie Smith ignorant?

    Facebook's profit in 2010 was probably about $400 million.

    How Facebook Earned $1.86 Billion Ad Revenue in 2010

    Facebook 2011 ad revenue said to hit $4 billion
    posted by mrgrimm at 2:22 PM on January 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


    Yes, I'm quite sure you do. Also sure they are damn fine, perhaps even finer than what, oh I don't know, Metafilter has?

    For me, even though I have no FB friends from MetaFilter, Facebook is a lot like MetaFilter with embedded pictures and video.

    It's a place to find cool links, talk to people, and make jokes.
    posted by mrgrimm at 2:24 PM on January 18, 2011


    There is a certain kin of power that is easily mistaken for selflessness, and vice versa. Some people even think they are identical.
    posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:32 PM on January 18, 2011


    Why don't more people use Adblock?
    posted by crunchland at 2:35 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Okay I don't want to be the one arguing that you guys just don't underSTAND our generation, but I'm going to anyway.

    The magic of Facebook is not that you can stalk your old girlfriends from high school or you add your family and friends and then say "now what." Facebook is basically a handshake between younger people. You meet someone? You add them, with the appropriate level of privacy filtering. If the relationship doesn't go anywhere, you remove them as a friend, no harm no foul. But maybe you have a new friend, a new professional contact, or a new romantic interest.

    I added people from high school too. BFD. Most of the ones I want to keep in touch with I do; for the rest it's an enjoyable bit of schadenfreude or gossip in my day. However, I did add a high level program executive for a major government entity after I went to a Buffett concert with him and a mutual friend. We now have insight into each others' lives -- such as they are -- and we feel comfortable joking around on each other's statuses and posts. I would now consider us friends such that if I needed a contact or something from him, I could email him and ask. If he wanted me to do something for him he will feel comfortable asking. We're not BFFs, but this is a rapport that certainly wasn't built during the first meeting, and would have been impossible without Facebook.

    Another example. I went to a foreign country late last year for business travel. Met a really cute, interesting guy, who unfortunately was part of my client group, so I couldn't really say anything about it while I was on duty. When the trip was over, I sent him a Facebook note (not even friend request!) to thank him for a movie recommendation he'd given me. That turned into a friend request from him, we've been messaging back and forth almost every day since -- instant messaging not possible given our time zone differences, so asynchronous messaging is essential -- and some insight into each others' lives from wall posts, photos, and the sorts of comments our friends make on our walls. I'm headed back to that country in a month, and now I've got someone I consider a legitimate friend, with whom I've established some level of mutual trust that we're not axe murderers, who's giving me a place to stay and is acting as a tour guide. Also impossible without Facebook.

    But what about email, you say? Email, for me, is a pretty high bar. Email is what I use for professional communication, of course, but it's more an invasion of privacy, as I see it. It's not just a matter of passively watching a feed of someone's photos and statuses and choosing when to interact with them; it's me sending someone else something that pops up for attention in their inbox and requires a response. It's targeted. It doesn't allow for a passive get-to-know-you phase. You can't really email someone like the aforementioned High Level Program Exec at their work address and say "Hey, all I know about you is that you work here. So how was your weekend? Tell me about yourself." And email addresses are increasingly hard to find. Facebook, though, is googleable. As far as I'm concerned, in the meeting-new-people exchange of information, Facebook is first base, email is second. (Phone numbers are way out there and only to be used for texting; I hate talking to people on the phone and if we're talking on the phone we'd better be related, sleeping together, or you're kidnapped and need me to come get you.)

    So I don't think it's fair to judge Facebook -- or any similar sort of social network -- communication on its value as an exemplar of the English language or even of conversation in general. That's not the point. And are we having damn fine deep philosophical conversations? Sometimes yes, but usually we're laughing at funny faces we're making in photos and cracking lame jokes in statuses. But this is a level of interaction that I WOULD NOT HAVE with a lot of people if the Facebook platform weren't available. To me, *some* ability to form these relationships is absolutely without question better than *none*.
    posted by olinerd at 2:48 PM on January 18, 2011 [15 favorites]


    If I see a nit, I will pick it. Horrible little things.
    posted by everichon at 2:56 PM on January 18, 2011


    I don't want to be the one arguing that you guys just don't underSTAND our generation...

    ... after I went to a Buffett concert


    YOU KIDS TODAY
    posted by Hoopo at 3:11 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


    I joined shortly after it was opened to people other than college students. I was mocked mercilessly by the first few people I friended. They were 20-21 and still in college, they told me not to be sarcastic in my profile since nobody would get it. They told me posting on my own wall made me look like a loser. They informed me that nobody would hook up with me if I used a cat as a profile picture, besides, it just wasn't done.

    After a while I started ignoring friend requests, I told everyone I wanted to "keep my shit VIP". I soon became overwhelmed by pokes, messages, people throwing sheep. I began to sign in less and less.

    After a while I noticed people tagging me in photos. I began to grow concerned, I enacted a zero-tolerance de-friending policy. Anyone who tagged me got de-friended. Anyone who commented on a picture of me got defriended. I would sometimes de-friend people just for being late to meet me at a bar. Soon my friends list was nothing but ex-girlfriends moms who obviously never used facebook so I knew I had to get out. I deactivated my account and joined Diaspora where I know nobody will ever find me.
    posted by Ad hominem at 3:42 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


    Agreed with everything olinerd said. FB provides a level of friendship/acquaintanceship that didn't really exist before it came along. I can interact with people I'm not close enough to email, call, or want to see on a regular basis, but whose minimal existence in my life is still a net positive thing. This describes the proverbial "person you sorta knew back in high school," as well as the random person you met at a party and chatted with for 20 minutes. I may never actually talk with them again, but I enjoy seeing the stuff they post and keeping distantly abreast of their lives; moreover, I may actually form a closer relationship with them over time through these interactions, whereas before these sorts of relationships would have never gotten off the ground. These certainly don't supplant my "real" friendships, and I'm not staying in from social outings so I can sit around obsessively monitoring my newsfeed - I interact with my real friends in novel, enjoyable ways via FB as well. But I just fail to see how having a larger network of acquaintances, even loose ones, can be a bad thing. It's just another form of connecting to the people in the world around us. It's really hard for me to understand the sort of criticism I hear frequently that Facebook is somehow making us more isolated and disconnected from each another (and that The Social Network implicitly seemed to truck in).
    posted by decoherence at 3:50 PM on January 18, 2011 [4 favorites]




    I appreciate what people are saying about it providing the infrastructure for a type of casual communication that didn't previously exist. That's true.

    But I think we have all these social instincts that are really compelling to us, as animals, and that facebook taps into that in a way that is worth questioning. Maybe there is nothing bad about it, and I certainly feel that reading many of the pro-facebook posts here that some of your experiences seem predominantly positive. But my experiences have me wary. I have seen a lot of people who seem to be unable to turn away from it, and who seem to filter many of their experiences through some sort of "how will this look on facebook?" filter that I find creepy. It seems peoples' interest in having their own photos taken has skyrocketed, and maybe this just has to do with the prevalence of digital photography, but I don't think that's entirely true - they aren't more interested in photography in general, but photography of them, and not just self-portraits as a concept but themselves in social situations.

    And I have observed that facebook does seem to involve a re-allocation of time spent in other forms of social contact.

    I have also seen benefits from it, and I know my observations might be confirmation bias, or from such a small pool as to not indicate anything more general...but i don't think my reservations have anything to do with "not understanding" or being grumpy and old.
    posted by neuromodulator at 4:16 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Oh, wow, yet another review of The Social Network with the whole autistic explanation. I'm starting to wonder if I read a different book and saw a different movie from other reviewers.

    With all the reviews, I was expecting something pretty crazy. The movie was good but Zuck didn't turn out to be much of an asshole.

    Also, this review is pretty old. It came out pretty soon after the movie and made the rounds. It would have been more timely then.
    I wonder if Steve Case screams at the tv screen every time he sees a story on zuckerberg: "That should have fucking been me!". What I don't get is why there isn't as much disdain for FB as their was for AOL back in the day. An entire generation has been bred to be docile and welcoming to corporate influence - scares the living shit out of me.
    Yeah, but it wasn't. AOL was crappy software. One thing about facebook, they are all about writing good code. They try to hire the top software developers and write the best code.

    I think, actually it's something of the result of CPU speeds no longer increasing so quickly. Before, people would slather on crap and expect computers to get faster and faster. Now, everyone tries to make software more and more optimal.
    For example, what is the "old form of communication" for which text messaging is the new medium? Smith seems to view it as letter-writing, where one would use "heavily punctuated, fully expressive, standard English sentences." However, if you look at text messaging as an updated form of telegraphy, it makes no sense at all to use "heavily punctuated, fully expressive, standard English sentences."
    What? Why would text messages be an "updated form of telegraphy?" First of all, hardly anyone used telegraphs themselves, they would write them on paper and send them off. And secondly hardly anyone alive has will have had much experience with telegraphs, certainly not the set who embraced cellphones.

    The thing is, telegraphs were short because bandwidth was very, very scarce. But texting on smartphones isn't scarce, and people who do the most texting have unlimited plans.

    It's more like IM, and I've always used complete sentences and punctuation when sending IMs (with the exception of excluding a period if the message was only one sentence). I would no more use "text speak" in an IM then I would in a metafilter comment.
    This. Absolutely. That's what bothers me most. Us young people – at 31, am I still us, or am I them? – always roll our eyes when old people complain about advertising. This is weird and annoying to me.


    Yeah because adblock. Why would you even look at ads in the first place?

    (Seriously though I find most of the ads I see on television incredibly annoying. I often have to mute the tv or just turn it off for certain ads. And I only watch 4 hours of TV a week: The Daily Show and Colbert Report)
    My question is this: Do any of you know how to somehow keep up this extraordinary access to communication without using Facebook? -- Rory Marinich
    When I was your age all my friends had AIM and everyone was online all the time, so you could always message them. Seriously, facebook isn't really new. It's just a new packaging -- but it's a packaging that makes sense for people who aren't as tech savvy, which is new. But then again, a lot of those people just sent eachother email forwards.

    One thing that is different though is the broadcast nature: You can send an update without directing it to a specific person.

    I think Zuckerberg wants to be known for his cleverness.

    (Only going by the film, and some background reading. But it just seemed to be the thing that ate at him more than the twins' social position. That he needed people to know he was the cleverest guy around.)
    No, you're thinking of Aaron Sorkin. (but seriously, The Real Mark Zuckerberg was (and still is) dating one girl during the entire timeframe of the movie. There were some pretty significant difference between the real Zuck and his character)
    Any FB platform devs know what it would take to port something like metaphilter to the FB platform?
    It's an API. You don't port, you integrate. If you want to use facebook as a logon mechanism, it might take 30 minutes or so, not counting adjustments to the backend. You just have to copy and paste some javascript really.
    posted by delmoi at 4:33 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


    there are two stares you never want to be in a room with.

    The stare of a young man who is angry but doesn't know why, and this frustration is making him angrier.

    The stare of someone squirming in their seat, waiting for you to stop talking so they can finally prove to you how smart they are.
    posted by The Whelk at 4:45 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


    Facebook is as substantial as you make it. Yes, the status quo is somewhat shallow, as is the default setting in almost every offline setting I've ever been in, as well as almost every online setting, including, yes, metafilter (we all know the phenomenon of a thread starting out jokey and then the discourse being suddenly exhilaratingly elevated by one earnest and well-thought-out comment), but in my experience, any time I write something "serious and meaningful" (perhaps tempered with wit) as my status, or in a note, the response without exception is positive, thoughtful and ready to engage. Try it, if you're on facebook, and you think the discourse is lacking. Facebook is no different from anything else. It takes courage and chutzpah to push past everyone's default safe mode, to provoke people a little. "Be the change you want to see in the world," or however that quote goes. Yes, a communication format has systemic effects, yes, the medium is the message, but it's easy to use that as an excuse. If you want to connect with people, it's not that hard. Not to put myself up as a paragon of deep-thinking, but yesterday I wrote a line-by-line translation of the first act of Romeo & Juliet into contemporary slang in my statuses. I've had long, deep conversations about art and politics with people who, before the conversation were almost strangers, and after when I ran into them in a gallery we stopped and talked in a way we definitely would not have before the conversation. I have a "thread" (a status update people are commenting on) up right now about modernist writers. The discourse is what you make it. 

    There's so much else I could say but when I look at the comments here it seems like it's basically just a matter of at what point in your life you started using it, how old your friends are, and, especially, whether you're single. To young people for whom facebook is by far and away the best way to meet potential (relationship/sex) partners, so much so that "the best" doesn't even capture it, it's more like "just how things work," the privacy and corporatist concerns evinced here practically defy comprehension. It would be like someone in another era saying "I just hate those filthy bars--and libraries, too quiet! Also cafes, so loud, and phones, so artificial!" It's like, sure, but uh, this is how life works; opt out at your peril. 

    I'm 28 now, and I've been online since i was 13, and more "seriously" online (listservs, writing my own HTML--I know, peanuts to some of you) much earlier than a lot of people my age, and as a result I was skeptical of facebook when everyone I knew first got it. In fact I was outside of North America at the time (2007) and had been since 2004, so it was a strange, internet-lite alien landscape I returned to. But I timorously joined a few months into '07 when a girl in one of my classes asked me if I was on facebook and I felt my snobbish "no" disintegrate in my mouth. I felt extremely self-conscious about it at first, being sort of a shy person and having to add a bunch of people I only sort of knew, and then seeing my friend count at 27 when everyone else's was already in the hundreds, but I was new back in the city (being gone for 3 years, as I said) (the city being Toronto), and I wanted to meet people. I won't go into the whole history sonascope-style but suffice to say that all it took was hanging in there (on facebook) and gradually not feeling like the newest person in the room. I got invited to a billion events--parties, concerts, plays, performances, even brunches and things--that I never would have been invited to otherwise, and I gradually became integrated into a real-life community that co-existed both offline and on-. Through this I ended up living in a house with a bunch of artists I didn't know but some of whom became some of my best friends,  I ended up starting and living in the back of an art gallery, and met some of the most important (romantic/sexual) partners of my life.  It is not a stretch at all to say that none of that would have happened without facebook. Especially for someone of my somewhat bookish disposition, facebook is an indispensable tool in the social world and furthermore provides perpetual instant access to my all my best friends now that I'm thousands of miles away again, plus joy. 
    posted by skwt at 6:01 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


    I have enjoyed reading the defenses of Facebook offered here. They've given me a different perspective on an issue and forced me to reexamine my prejudices.

    That said, I think that Facebook eats dingleberries from the taint of Satan himself and would be very happy to see the whole two-dimensional edifice die in a fucking fire.

    Facebook wounded my pride. Facebook made me feel like a third-tier electronic acquaintance. Facebook reintroduced some serious social poison into my life, fucked with my head and did a number on my mental health.

    I flushed my account down the shitter in the middle of the afternoon on the first day of 2011 and made a choice to return to the real Internet. Like this one. You know, places where people still talk to each other.
    posted by jason's_planet at 6:59 PM on January 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


    I don't want to sound vain or proud but my Facebook friends and I hold some damn fine conversations.

    I've had long, deep conversations about art and politics

    What site are you two using? I've never seen any Facebook "conversation" go anything beyond a series of quips or fragmented comments on some one to four sentence status update/hotlink (whether the link is to an article or a youtube video). Yeah, this is anecdotal, but I think if actual discourse were more prevalent, people wouldn't be jumping down this post's throat so much.

    I can't even imagine how you an actual conversation, with multiple people involved, would even work. It's not just a limitation of how people treat Facebook (that is, not seriously, which is why they like it), it's the way site designs "conversations." Your status update is maybe a paragraph at most, responses are confined to two-inch wide boxes, and the entire conversation is swallowed between other friends' picture updates and game requests (unless I'm willing to check every friends' page). You can't try to make something substantial out of an interface that's actively designed against it. Are you two making Notes, a feature I've maybe used maybe twice (I don't even know if they come up on the news feed)?

    My question is this: Do any of you know how to somehow keep up this extraordinary access to communication without using Facebook?

    There far better options for the sort of long form communication you want than Facebook. You lose the town crier aspect if you're using email (Gmail's interface, where a conversation is strung together on one page, are a superior example to the Facebook status update interface) or a forum or even instant messaging, but I'd rather be using a site designed for a conversation rather than one designed for convenience. I'm glad you've had a lot of success with Facebook, but don't tell me I'm not making the most of it.
    posted by bittermensch at 7:09 PM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


    Old'n'Busted: "And Facebook is no more "communication" than grinding bodies at a mixer is."

    For a moment there I was thinking of calling the authorities.

    It's been waay too long since college.
    posted by Hardcore Poser at 7:18 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


    And Facebook is no more "communication" than grinding bodies at a mixer is.

    Yum, spaghetti & long pork Bolognese. Tasty!
    posted by scalefree at 7:31 PM on January 18, 2011


    I can't even imagine how you an actual conversation, with multiple people involved, would even work.

    You've never been in a room with more than one other person?

    For a long time my facebook experience was as you describe, with everyone just posting short blips and using apps. I think a lot of people use it that way, but there are people who do use it as a medium for communication — I saw a thread just last week that had 40+ long comments on the topic of gun control.

    Even the short, shallow status updates are still meaningful. They relay a kind of superficial information about a person so that you don't need to start a conversation with someone to keep up with what they're doing. This is terrible for close friendships but fantastic for acquaintances you've only talked to a couple times.
    posted by girih knot at 7:41 PM on January 18, 2011


    Rory Marinich writes: "I mentioned my problem with email: It's closed to the original recipients, and doesn't let new people join and leave the conversation as they please."

    This is what us old timers (born in '74) like to call "privacy" and/or "intimacy."
    posted by bardic at 7:48 PM on January 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


    Zadie Smith is the new Sven Birkets.

    This is not a good thing.
    posted by bardic at 7:49 PM on January 18, 2011


    You've never been in a room with more than one other person?

    For a long time my facebook experience was as you describe, with everyone just posting short blips and using apps. I think a lot of people use it that way, but there are people who do use it as a medium for communication — I saw a thread just last week that had 40+ long comments on the topic of gun control.


    What if I want to refer to something someone wrote 15 comments ago? You can't comment on a comment. What if I come back to a conversation I started in the morning and, after a day of work, the past 20 comments have side-tracked down a new discussion? Do I try and change the course of the conversation in my 2''x5'' blue box, in a interface that forces all comments to sort chronologically? Facebook's interface doesn't give you the sort of control a Gmail conversation, or a forum, or real life can.

    I'm not saying it's impossible, obviously it isn't, but it's an archaic system that isn't designed for long form communication, where multiple people are arguing with one another. The commenters I was referring to were making the argument that I'm just not using Facebook right, that you can have serious arguments on a website that doesn't seem to be built for it.
    posted by bittermensch at 8:07 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


    And just in case someone beats me to it:

    Metafilter: Do I try and change the course of the conversation in my 2''x5'' blue box, in a interface that forces all comments to sort chronologically?
    posted by bittermensch at 8:08 PM on January 18, 2011


    He created the world we were all crying out for: one controlled by a corporation for the benefit of corporations.

    In a way, you also described the invention of the printing press.
    posted by Astro Zombie at 8:47 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


    What if I want to refer to something someone wrote 15 comments ago? You can't comment on a comment. What if I come back to a conversation I started in the morning and, after a day of work, the past 20 comments have side-tracked down a new discussion? Do I try and change the course of the conversation in my 2''x5'' blue box, in a interface that forces all comments to sort chronologically? Facebook's interface doesn't give you the sort of control a Gmail conversation, or a forum, or real life can.

    Are you talking about Facebook or Metafilter?
    posted by Pope Guilty at 9:37 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


    I can't even imagine how you an actual conversation, with multiple people involved, would even work.

    Someone posts a status update or a link to an article/video/whatever with a line or two of commentary. People respond as comments. Others respond to them in the same comments section. The result is something that looks and functions pretty much the same as a Metafilter thread. No, this isn't how most people use this function - most "comments threads" indeed are just a couple quips long - but there's no structural reason they can't, and some of my more thoughtful friends actively do use FB as a substitute for something like MeFi or a blog.
    posted by decoherence at 10:17 PM on January 18, 2011


    fucking newbies get off my usenet
    posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:19 PM on January 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


    I can't even imagine how you an actual conversation, with multiple people involved, would even work.

    Well, one person writes one thing, and then a bunch of other people write other things. As long as you surround yourself with people who have the kinds of conversations you like to have, then Facebook makes holding all the kinds of conversations you want really easy.

    Most conversations, as in real life, start off with quips rather than monologues. Somebody saying "man I've been totally thinking XYZ recently" or "holy shit dudes you need to check XYZ out", and then the conversation either escalates or doesn't escalate. If I do have something more substantial, I write a note, and tag friends I think might be interested; this is how most of my political/religious conversations start, with a note written by somebody who thinks they have a novel thought about something and wants to know what their friends think.

    If I'm actually interested in preserving a conversation, I either write it as a note, a message, or I post it to a group. The only thing Facebook doesn't index and make searchable are its status updates. Notes and messages are directly searchable, and groups are designed to be smaller and only contain conversations about certain subjects. And for what it's worth, Facebook completely redesigned groups a few months ago and made them lighter-weight and way more effective in conversation.

    I'm not saying it's impossible, obviously it isn't, but it's an archaic system that isn't designed for long form communication, where multiple people are arguing with one another. The commenters I was referring to were making the argument that I'm just not using Facebook right, that you can have serious arguments on a website that doesn't seem to be built for it.

    Yes, and I still make that argument. Because I have serious discussions pretty constantly on Facebook, and I find that it's very effective at keeping up long conversations over a period of time. If you don't have those, I'm suggesting that you're either not doing a good job of maintaining your friends or you're somehow otherwise limiting your ability to talk on Facebook.

    This is what us old timers (born in '74) like to call "privacy" and/or "intimacy."

    Yeah, and if I want either one of those I either post to a closed Facebook group or I send a Facebook message, which is perfectly well-suited for those intimate conversations. Come on!

    I mean it's not like Facebook is somehow prying into my mind and pulling out my private thoughts for the world to see. And if I was really worried about private information somehow spilling out to people I didn't want to see it, I could disable my status feed and my wall entirely. Facebook gives me that option; I have some friends that take advantage of that.

    As for intimacy, my entire circle of Facebook friends is intimate. I stand by my belief that if you're not relentlessly blocking people and filtering your experience, you're not really using Facebook for "friends", and you're causing your own problems. I don't keep family members as friends. I don't friend my employers or coworkers unless I'm legitimately friends with them. I actually go out of my way to block employers, not because I feel like I have anything to hide, but because I simply don't think Facebook is my place to interact with them. They can reach me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

    Actually, one of my favorite things about Facebook is how delightfully unexpected the friends I've wound up with are. I've made some friends that I expected to lose immediately that instead have stayed strong for years; I have casual acquaintances that are still somehow meaningful friends. One of my closest friends was a guy I barely knew in high school and didn't talk to, but who I suddenly clicked with over a late-night Facebook chat. Another person I met on a bus to a rally, friended, and it stuck. One girl friended me at the start of my freshman year, simply because we were part of the same pre-college Facebook group, and we've stayed friends ever since, despite never having classes together or living in the same dorms. We literally would not have met if it wasn't for Facebook. And of course I have a handful of friends there who I initially met on MetaFilter.

    It's a really comfortable hodgepodge that I feel as connected to as I feel to the community here. But to get that you need to make the effort of pruning your friends, seeing which ones are saying things you actually want to pay attention to and — even more importantly — seeing which ones pay attention to the things you say. Two-way street and all.
    posted by Rory Marinich at 12:18 AM on January 19, 2011


    Maybe it's because she's British? Are things much different over there?

    No. No sir, they are not.
    posted by lucien_reeve at 6:05 AM on January 19, 2011


    I can't even imagine how you an actual conversation, with multiple people involved, would even work.

    Look up. You see those comments in chronological order? Now look at Facebook.
    posted by mrgrimm at 8:00 AM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


    bittermensch: “I'm not saying it's impossible, obviously it isn't, but it's an archaic system that isn't designed for long form communication, where multiple people are arguing with one another.”

    I have more reservations than Rory does about this, but he's right; these kinds of arguments happen constantly for me on Facebook. I do appreciate what you're saying. However, I would point out that it's certainly not that the interface is archaic. Facebook has everything you've ever written on their site, every photo or song or video you've ever posted, all of that stuff in a clean and functional database somewhere. There's nothing archaic about it. It's just that that stuff belongs to Facebook; that's why they're so very careful (admittedly in a relatively inobtrusive way) to guard their data and keep it from being gathered by someone else. This is their marketing data we're talking about. This is the source of some of my biggest qualms with Facebook.

    Pope Guilty: “Are you talking about Facebook or Metafilter?”

    I get the joke, but it's worth noting that the differences are significant. Right now, in the space of three or four clicks, I can look at the first comment you ever made here, the first post you ever made here, the last post you made here, etc. Without much trouble, I can search all the comments you've made to see conversations you've had about certain things. I can search my posts and comments, too. It's a transparent interface; all of those things are clear and immediate and can be used in conversation. That's actually really useful; it's fantastic for me to be able to look over my old comments and conversations I had five years ago and see what I was saying then.

    None of that is available on Facebook. Why? Because that's their data. It's available to developers through the API somewhat, but in such a way that Facebook can control that availability and make sure nobody is stealing and capitalizing on their data, the carefully-gathered marketing data that they can sell as they choose.

    Now, I don't mind this, I guess. Anyway, I put up with it because I enjoy the people I interact with on Facebook. But I can't pretend it doesn't bother me sometimes.
    posted by koeselitz at 9:37 AM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


    Not a facebook person here (yet). This thread has been more thought provoking than any of the others. The thought it provokes most loudly is Pontius Pilate talking to Judah Ben Hur and telling him, "the World is Rome". Except I suppose I look at Rory as more of a Yoda type than a Pontius type and maybe he might put: "facebook the world is".
    posted by bukvich at 9:48 AM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


    None of that is available on Facebook. Why? Because that's their data.

    That's silly. It's not because it's their data, and on MeFi it's my data, not by any stretch; it's not like I can close my comment history. It's just that the Facebook comments section has a poor interface.
    posted by Pope Guilty at 1:31 PM on January 19, 2011


    Facebook is shallow? That's like saying conversation is shallow because it's not a university lecture. Silly.

    I would also argue that FB advertising is far less insidious than most other mediums because 1. ads are turnoffable 2. Comparny pages are opt-in only (and updates can be hidden) 3. You can go to a company page and directly tell that company to fuck off if you so choose.
    posted by Summer at 2:08 PM on January 19, 2011


    Pope Guilty: “That's silly. It's not because it's their data, and on MeFi it's my data, not by any stretch; it's not like I can close my comment history. It's just that the Facebook comments section has a poor interface.”

    I only meant that Facebook sees it as their data, in a way that Metafilter pointedly does not. And I maintain that the interface isn't "poor," at least not in a certain sense. It was carefully designed that way. Facebook doesn't want anybody's comment history to be available to them. They don't even want your comment history available to you yourself. That's marketing data that they've laid claim to. That was my point. Maybe I'm being paranoid, but the Facebook people don't strike me as the types to simply design a shoddy interface without thinking about it.
    posted by koeselitz at 2:43 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


    They don't even want your comment history available to you yourself. That's marketing data that they've laid claim to.

    Even if the latter were true (I'm not saying it isn't), why would FB not want you to see your own data? I think it's more likely that it's not a feature people really want.
    posted by Summer at 2:52 PM on January 19, 2011


    Summer: "They don't even want your comment history available to you yourself. That's marketing data that they've laid claim to.

    Even if the latter were true (I'm not saying it isn't), why would FB not want you to see your own data? I think it's more likely that it's not a feature people really want.
    "

    Want to close your FB account? I mean, really truly good and delete the fucker? Have you kept every single post up without deleting them shortly after you've posted? Have you a very very very long string of content on your page that goes back for a looooooooong time?

    Good luck "deleting" your account.

    There IS a reason they don't want you to go back. It's precisely what koeselitz is saying. I don't think a lot of people get how insidious it is. There's a reason FB made half a billion or whatever insane money it was last year. You are the product.

    Why can't I just hit a "delete account" button and have it all flushed away? Why must I, as a user, manually go in and delete every single last bit of info if I don't want that data shared out after I close my account?

    Why is it so hard to delete that data? Because they don't want you to delete it, because it's their bread and butter. All that demographic data is what they want and sell.

    To use that old quote "It's not a bug. It's a feature."
    posted by symbioid at 3:01 PM on January 19, 2011


    Summer: “Even if the latter were true (I'm not saying it isn't), why would FB not want you to see your own data? I think it's more likely that it's not a feature people really want.”

    The distinction is that you're only thinking about one side of the relationship here; and I think it's worth it to think about the whole thing. Facebook doesn't exist to deliver "features" to users. That's not the point. They manage their service just as well as they have to to keep users from leaving. No – they exist to sell user data to marketing companies. They have the largest databases of customer data in the world; think about it – they keep at least four copies of every photo ever uploaded on Facebook (original, compact, thumbnail, edit) – and not just the ones that aren't deleted, all of them. They are well aware of the worth of what they're sitting on.

    So when they sit down at meetings, I seriously doubt that they say to themselves: "what features can we offer?" They think: "how can we protect the investment we've made in other peoples' information?"
    posted by koeselitz at 3:21 PM on January 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


    I can't even imagine how you an actual conversation, with multiple people involved, would even work.

    This happened when I posted a quote I thought was interesting. All parties involved gave permission for it to go on my website:

    http://canadiantheses.blogspot.com/2010/07/conversation-about-canadian-art-from.html
    posted by skwt at 9:14 PM on January 19, 2011


    koeselitz - I'm sure you're right. I'm not disputing that FB wants data or that it makes money from it. Lots of people do. I, personally, don't actually have that much of a problem with it - there are more awful things in the world to get upset about than a set of marketers making money from customer data. The horse had pretty much bolted on that one.

    But saying that FB has no interest in user experience and providing useful features is just ridiculous. They're constantly making changes that improve user experience that have no impact on their ability to sell data. FB is very different now from how it used to be; it's a far far more useful service - I think they're smart enough to know if they don't keep improving then some other 20-something with a gift for coding is going to come along and outdo them. No business can afford to neglect customer experience (apart from Ryanair and Easyjet), especially if customer experience is pretty much the entire business model.
    posted by Summer at 1:40 AM on January 20, 2011


    Why can't I just hit a "delete account" button and have it all flushed away? Why must I, as a user, manually go in and delete every single last bit of info if I don't want that data shared out after I close my account?

    There's no delete account button on Metafilter that will "flush away" every post, comment, question, and answer a user has ever posted here.* Every last bit of that will live in perpetuity on Metafilter and by extension on Google and the rest of the internet. Additionally, there's no option on Metafilter for a user to delete anything other than the information they have input into their user page, and any FPP's or deleted comments continue to exist in the Metafilter database in perpetuity as well.

    At least when a user hits the delete account button on Facebook their data becomes inaccessible to other Facebook users and the internet at large immediately (and FB says it's eventually deleted altogether, so maybe it is and maybe it isn't).

    *Nor have I ever seen any magic button on any other forum or community blog I have ever been a part of which would flush away all my contributions with a single click or even hide them in any way from other users.
    posted by Orb at 5:02 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Who wants to start a gopherspace social network with me? Come on guys!!! It'll be just like the old days. Archie, Veronica, WAIS, FTP, Gopher, SSH/Telnet, oh we can have it back.

    don't forget facebook's real progenitor, finger!
    posted by exogenous at 6:44 AM on January 20, 2011


    « Older Lyndon B. Johnson Buys Pants   |   Mapping Kibera Newer »


    This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



    Post