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Some thoughts on Facebook

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Wastelander
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Hey everyone, I've been lurking on these forums for the past week and I liked the quality of the stuff that's been posted, so I just joined. I have something to discuss... I'm sure that most of you know what Facebook and/or "social networking" is.

Working away from my native country, two months ago I decided to join Facebook to simplify keeping contact with friends who are also working/studying in other countries abroad. The original idea was to use this as a super-phonebook, but I was surprised to find the status update functionality so prevalent in the way the website works. So, seeing that most people have been posting copious amounts of personal data on their profile, I kinda fell into the trap and started "personalizing" my profile, which until that point had been just a simple photo, a list of books and bands I like, a couple of quotes as well as my education and workplace info. I posted a couple of pics, started commenting on stuff, started posting more and more self-expressive material on the website, found lots of people I knew etc.

Now, over this timespan I'd been reading The Fountainhead for the first time, which put me in a very analytical and rational state of mind... which nudged me into thinking about the meaning of all the things not only I, but also most people post on Facebook.

Am I the only one here thinking that Facebook is a "race for peer-acceptance"? I went on a "deconstruction" frenzy last week, when I took down all information beyond the bare essentials, yet I see so many people posting vague pictures of vague activities of their free time, trying to present their life as if it's the pinnacle of fun that anyone could ever have. So many pictures of people doing stuff with other people, so many pictures of parties again and again and again. Why does it strike me as extremely depressing that we have come to the point where "distilling" our existence in some photos is seen as a legitimate form of self-expression? Isn't life more than a constant race for "getting together" and "having fun", whichever way anyone defines "fun"?

When I scroll through the News Feed, it's as if everyone is crying out loud "I'm cool, accept me!!! See? I did xyz on the weekend with 823749812734 other people, so I'm interesting!" At the same time, barring the great satisfaction that I derive from my work and the small personal victories (setting and following goals for physical training, book reading, etc), I can't see myself defining my having fun through socializing, certainly I don't see why I should put a symbol of my "fun" on a poster and plaster it all over the place.

I feel that all those things posted as "proof of having fun" are just weak attempts at creating an image. Not that I don't have an "image", but my "image" is separate from other people. I pride myself in the fact that I could live my life practically everywhere in the western world, whereas for most people it's as if they can't even last some weeks alone, without doing stuff with other people, let alone without posting their supposedly latest and wildest exploits on Facebook.

At the same time that I'm thinking all those rational thoughts, I'm really anxious that (keeping in mind all my objectivist points of view), my non-participation in that voyeuristic parade, where everyone tries to outdo all his "friends" in the marketing of him/herself as a "fun, easy-going and social person", will eventually cut me off from many contacts. As much as I don't want to bow down to this peer pressure, I think that if I don't participate I will be forgotten. Which is not bad, except that you know... it'd be fun to have a relationship again sometime, even if she is not Dominique Francon or Dagny Taggart, even if I have to meet her somehow, somewhere. I guess what I'm saying is... I don't have any reason to be on facebook, more so to participate in this mindless sharing of my highest moments with a bunch of people, yet I am anxious that although my thoughts are morally right, I'm doomed to a lonely existence. When everyone is using a telephone, not using a telephone cuts you off from contact...

I'd be very interested in some feedback. I know it's not the best-written text you've ever read, but it's precisely because I can't put my finger exactly on what's been bothering me about the Facebook concept. The fact that I've met so few people worth my attention or admiration? The fact that I have to subdue my ego in favor of "belonging to a group" in order to justify basic human needs (=sexual)? The fact that people I know for a fact are doing nothing with their lives are posting the 3-4 "social" photos they have in order to attract attention and even worse, acceptance? All that?

Quite frankly, my rational mind has been torn in the last week trying to decide whether I am indeed rational or simply insecure...

Edited by Wastelander
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Am I the only one here thinking that Facebook is a "race for peer-acceptance"?
Well, surely you would want to include the trivial time-wasting function in the characterization of Facebook.

Facebook is superb for the purpose of social networking. The question one should ask is, is social networking a good thing? Just say no to social networking.

I'm really anxious that (keeping in mind all my objectivist points of view), my non-participation in that voyeuristic parade, where everyone tries to outdo all his "friends" in the marketing of him/herself as a "fun, easy-going and social person", will eventually cut me off from many contacts.
I dunno. It may be. Since I'm old and Facebook is for the young, there is no expectation that I'd be found on Facebook. Maybe for you it will really come down to being evaluated as "really weird for not playing" for you. I hope not.
As much as I don't want to bow down to this peer pressure, I think that if I don't participate I will be forgotten.
Well, one way to avoid that is to accomplish something. People tend to remember you for your accomplishments. I can sort of imagine Facebook as being a mildly amusing diversion for a few minutes, but that should not distract you from being productive. That's what will garner you desrved recognition.
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Well, surely you would want to include the trivial time-wasting function in the characterization of Facebook.

Yes, but wasting time on some website with flash web-games is IMO something completely different than wasting time on Facebook, reinforcing voyeuristic habits and the constant comparison of yourself with others (i.e. pulling a Peter Keating :))...

Facebook is superb for the purpose of social networking. The question one should ask is, is social networking a good thing? Just say no to social networking.

The fact that it's superb in what it's supposed to be good for is taken for granted, otherwise it wouldn't have 175E6 members. My problem is that the simplicity of adding "friends" (wow... if that word hasn't been raped over the years...) and getting used to gossiping, commenting and trying to infer your "status" by comparing your life with theirs is a trojan horse. In this trojan horse are the ideas that you *have* to post things, you *have* to share your Self with others, you *have* to project a certain social image to be accepted etc.

Maybe for you it will really come down to being evaluated as "really weird for not playing" for you. I hope not.

Oh, this has happened already and doesn't really bother me. What does, is my worry that by not playing along, I might be missing on some great opportunity. Even taking in account that most people simply "market" themselves in their profile... which is in my opinion misleading, selfless and thus immoral... but other than that, such a great way to meet lots of people beneath your standards.

Well, one way to avoid that is to accomplish something. People tend to remember you for your accomplishments.

I am younger than 25 and I have already accomplished more things educationally and professionally than most other people in my "social circle". I'm not saying this to impress anyone here, it's simply a fact that while other people were partying, I was more focused on my self-development. So, I don't really care to be remembered "in general". My achievements are mine only, and whether I get recognition for those achievements only concerns me when such recognition leads to fulfilling my selfish human needs (= work promotion, girlfriends, ...).

The thing is, it's obvious that Facebook promotes immoral behavior in the worst sense, i.e. by practicing not being true to yourself and by trying to define who you are and where you stand by comparing yourself to others instead of setting your own bar for yourself. Kinda like the saying "comparing your insides to others' outsides".

The question is whether using facebook in a watered-down way to express yourself, for example by posting objectivist quotes, what you're reading, etc, is not itself a betrayal of rational morality.

Edited by Wastelander
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The fact that it's superb in what it's supposed to be good for is taken for granted, otherwise it wouldn't have 175E6 members.
Lolz. I assume that was engineering-speak and not hex, otherwise they need to engage in some kind of marketing.
What does, is my worry that by not playing along, I might be missing on some great opportunity.
Like what? Do you mean "not know about something useful that someone else is doing", or do you mean "label yourself as a social retard and thus not get attention from others which might put you at a disadvantage professionally"? I'm sort of skeptical that there is useful information to be had in knowing who "likes" what, and I hope and pray that FB doesn't work its way into the business world.
The question is whether using facebook in a watered-down way to express yourself, for example by posting objectivist quotes, what you're reading, etc, is not itself a betrayal of rational morality.
I think it would be a self-betrayal to think that you must express youself, but as a simple brief 3-minute diversion I think it's harmless.
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Now, over this timespan I'd been reading The Fountainhead for the first time, which put me in a very analytical and rational state of mind... which nudged me into thinking about the meaning of all the things not only I, but also most people post on Facebook.

Am I the only one here thinking that Facebook is a "race for peer-acceptance"? I went on a "deconstruction" frenzy last week, when I took down all information beyond the bare essentials, yet I see so many people posting vague pictures of vague activities of their free time, trying to present their life as if it's the pinnacle of fun that anyone could ever have.

I think there are two problems here.

First of all, why do you think that there are only these two extremes - either Roark style or pathetic style (what you describe as social acceptance) in regard to facebook? What about your own style, which is neither?

I have seen exactly what you describe about people using facebook as well, and I thought it was pathetic too. Not just the marketing of one's "success", but also the stalking, obsession over who said what and who's friends with whom... Things that by themselves sound alright, but when you look at a person going about it, I swear, it's like looking at a dog happily running around in a pack, sniffing other dog's behinds, trying to see where it stands in the social hierarchy of the tribe, begging to get some pat on the back. It is a pathetic and ugly display of selflessness.

But I don't think this is inherit in facebook. It is who the person is that determines what they make facebook be for them. It can be social obsessing for a social obsesser or a place to enjoy the company of friends for a rational person.

The second problem, is how you seem to use Roark in your life. Roark as a character has his own style. you need to distinguish between principles of Objectivism (like individualism) and personal style when it comes to Roark's behavior. For example, Roark has integrity - this is a principle of Objectivism. But also, Roark doesn't talk much - this is not a principle of Objectivism, just a matter of style.

If you're using Roark as means to illustrate a principle it is good. If you use him as a club to bash your head with when you deviate from a "Roark style" then it is bad.

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I guess if your goal is to be popular on facebook...(which I don't think it is)...then you do what you need to do to get that status. Facebook is many things just depending on the individual that's using it. I think some people use it as a "race for Peer acceptance", but I don't think it's Made for that.

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Well, I'm back from work...

it's like looking at a dog happily running around in a pack, sniffing other dog's behinds, trying to see where it stands in the social hierarchy of the tribe, begging to get some pat on the back. It is a pathetic and ugly display of selflessness.

Nice! My impression more or less. I've caught myself trying to weigh myself against the others in the "tribe" and I always have to cringe when I actually realize that's what I've been doing.

The second problem, is how you seem to use Roark in your life. Roark as a character has his own style. you need to distinguish between principles of Objectivism (like individualism) and personal style when it comes to Roark's behavior. For example, Roark has integrity - this is a principle of Objectivism. But also, Roark doesn't talk much - this is not a principle of Objectivism, just a matter of style.

If you're using Roark as means to illustrate a principle it is good. If you use him as a club to bash your head with when you deviate from a "Roark style" then it is bad.

It is true that I can get carried away trying to emulate a character that has inspired so much admiration in me, even if that character is an archetype. The impression that I got from The Fountainhead, in fact, overall my impression from Objectivism is that if you're enough of a rational egoist, it doesn't even make sense to bother showing others who you are; that is only something that should concern you and ideally it shouldn't even concern yourself, since if you know who you are, you know who you are and that's it. You're not the quotes you post, you're not the captured moments in the photos you post of yourself allegedly having fun. You just are, and the others are also who they are, and you live your life according to your standards.

Maybe I've got the "egoist" notion wrong, or maybe my conception of defining your identity and your sense of life, especially whether you should even bother to "broadcast" those things to people you usually don't care about, has been influenced by my reading Albert Camus' "The Stranger" last week, and finding it strangely intriguing for a book that's pretty desolate compared to Atlas Shrugged or even We The Living. Anyone care to correct me?

I think it would be a self-betrayal to think that you must express youself

See... that's also interesting. If I take a piece of paper and list all the things through which I express myself, most of the things are going to be actions independent from others. But I live in a society in which the norm is expressing "yourself" mostly by the interactions you have with other people. Thus, parties are had, and great debauchery is being had, and lots and lots of moments pass, where most people are drunk in the sense of having decoupled their brain from reality by means of drugs, alcohol, or even the simple fact of posing as some image they want to project in order to substitute self-acceptance for peer acceptance of their projected image (which is usually not their self).

So, I'm really interested to know how you all manage this dichotomy, the fact that some fun can only (easily) be had by wading through the swamp that is most other people (dating, relationships, sex)? How do you express yourself socially and genuinely at the same time? Do you even have to? It sounds like an utterly silly and insecure question, but will I "die alone" if I continue enjoying myself in the selfish, high-drive, ambitious way I've gotten used to?

Or should I simply raise my standards in meeting people, even through Facebook? (They are already too high, since in the last 4 months I've actually *lost* a friend instead of making new ones).

PS: Is "social networking" even *moral*? Isn't that the same concept that you advance in some arbitrary non-meritocratic hierarchy because you trade "pull"?

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I second, I believe it was RB, who said that Facebook is a tool like any other. I've used it to get back in touch with people from the old neighborhood who I value, and that's nice. It's nice to know what some of my more far-flung friends are up to, where they're going to school, etc. Obviously something like Facebook stalking is excessive and not good for you.

I've never used Facebook as any more than an extension of real-life relating. I definitely downplay the exhibitionist aspect. My profile reflects who I am but doesn't give every detail of my life. Those who want to know me do...anyone else needs to take the time and do the work.

To the OP, it does sound like you need to be more discriminating in those you call friends. Remember that a good friendship is a commitment to another person that you like and respect, and that properly cared for it can last for years. You don't want to surround yourself with a bunch of "friends" who vanish when it becomes inconvenient. Don't worry about not making a lot of friends, especially if you have other going concerns in your life that are important to you. As to the all-important relationship question, my best advice is, women are friends too. if you find a great lady, take it slow, get to know her, and if the attraction develops from there all the better.

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So, I'm really interested to know how you all manage this dichotomy, the fact that some fun can only (easily) be had by wading through the swamp that is most other people (dating, relationships, sex)? How do you express yourself socially and genuinely at the same time? Do you even have to? It sounds like an utterly silly and insecure question, but will I "die alone" if I continue enjoying myself in the selfish, high-drive, ambitious way I've gotten used to?

I've personally tried to "manage this dichotomy" by trying to forget it. Similar to career choices and sexual relationships, friendship should be an off shoot from your values, not a value in and of itself.

Or should I simply raise my standards in meeting people, even through Facebook? (They are already too high, since in the last 4 months I've actually *lost* a friend instead of making new ones).

Not raising your standards, but now in accordance with your true standards.

PS: Is "social networking" even *moral*? Isn't that the same concept that you advance in some arbitrary non-meritocratic hierarchy because you trade "pull"?

Depends on the situation. If I really like conversations with my boss, and he introduces me to such and such because we are really friends then I would call it moral. If I evade the idea that I'm not being myself and continue to barrage my boss with a person that isn't me, and therefore fake person gets promoted (if your boss is this gullible change companies) then I would consider it immoral.

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I only have close friends and family in my friends list, and have the security settings as high as they go. I have a few quotations from various books and websites that I enjoy. A few website and video links to various Objectivist stuff, as well as anti-environmentalism videos. If I say something in my status, it's generally whimsical and not really about anything I'm doing "IRL". It's as social-network-y as you make it, and a tool like anything else, neither good nor bad.

If people choose to use it in a "Peter Keating" manner, why do you care?

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I love Facebook, as it is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family. I personally am myself on FaceBook, and post notes, have a link to my blog, and connect with friends, family and some that I have networked with at other places (either face to face at business networking functions, or have worked with, or have gotten to know on business related forums.)

I think it is a fun way to see the lighter side of people - especially business associates. For example, I had no idea how much I had in common with another recruiter that worked on the same project as me for over a year because we had only met in person for a week during initial training and had no real interaction after that (it was a huge project where we were broken down into sub groups.) This helps me because right now, this person, who is very respected within our org knows me a little better, and may help me get on another project sooner because she sees what I have been doing outside of work to stay relevant in my field and be productive, although I am currently "on the bench" waiting for a new assignment.

For me, it is a much great social networking tool than say MySpace, because there is a little higher level of professionalis, as well as more mature people in general.

But I agree - it is ONLY a tool. You can waste a lot of time there, or use it in a manner that can greatly benefit you.

Also, I have friends that have used it pretty successfuly (in my opinion) to promote Objectivism. That is never a bad thing.

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Nice! My impression more or less. I've caught myself trying to weigh myself against the others in the "tribe" and I always have to cringe when I actually realize that's what I've been doing.

Perhaps you're being too hard on yourself? It seems odd that someone can admit something like this and yet actually have it. From seeing what you dislike about facebook, you really don't sound like the type I described.

It is true that I can get carried away trying to emulate a character that has inspired so much admiration in me, even if that character is an archetype. The impression that I got from The Fountainhead, in fact, overall my impression from Objectivism is that if you're enough of a rational egoist, it doesn't even make sense to bother showing others who you are;

No, you misunderstood. I find it very rational to want others to see who you are. Especially people you value. Remember Dagny's reaction when people in the valley told her she did a good job? It was one of the most exciting moments in her life. Heck, think how a romantic relationship would look like if the two people did not take pleasure in sharing who they are with the other. There is great pleasure to be had in being seen, understood and appreciated by people you like.

that is only something that should concern you and ideally it shouldn't even concern yourself, since if you know who you are, you know who you are and that's it.

I think you're taking the action as indicating of only one possible motive. That's not true. I agree that someone (or maybe even a lot of people) can try to define who they are by what others think of them, but it could also be the opposite case, that someone knows exactly who one is, and enjoys showing it to others and being appreciated for it.

You're not the quotes you post, you're not the captured moments in the photos you post of yourself allegedly having fun. You just are, and the others are also who they are, and you live your life according to your standards.

I think posts and photos can show a lot about a person. However, if you try to capture yourself in a certain way because of how it would appear to others, it is definitely a problem to look into. If left unsolved, it can really dump on your self esteem, so this requires 100% honesty to solve.

Side from that - it is great that you have the willingness to even consider such an option. Many people would not dare to even consider this.

Maybe I've got the "egoist" notion wrong, or maybe my conception of defining your identity and your sense of life, especially whether you should even bother to "broadcast" those things to people you usually don't care about, has been influenced by my reading Albert Camus' "The Stranger" last week, and finding it strangely intriguing for a book that's pretty desolate compared to Atlas Shrugged or even We The Living. Anyone care to correct me?

When you "broadcast" yourself to people it expresses a certain need of psychological visibility, which is normal and good. If you don't like your friends enough, you can try looking for others? But by itself "broadcasting" yourself can be good (so long as it is used for self expression, not for self-definition by others, which still doesn't make the action bad but indicates a problem nonetheless).

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See... that's also interesting. If I take a piece of paper and list all the things through which I express myself, most of the things are going to be actions independent from others. But I live in a society in which the norm is expressing "yourself" mostly by the interactions you have with other people. Thus, parties are had, and great debauchery is being had, and lots and lots of moments pass, where most people are drunk in the sense of having decoupled their brain from reality by means of drugs, alcohol, or even the simple fact of posing as some image they want to project in order to substitute self-acceptance for peer acceptance of their projected image (which is usually not their self).

So, I'm really interested to know how you all manage this dichotomy, the fact that some fun can only (easily) be had by wading through the swamp that is most other people (dating, relationships, sex)? How do you express yourself socially and genuinely at the same time? Do you even have to? It sounds like an utterly silly and insecure question, but will I "die alone" if I continue enjoying myself in the selfish, high-drive, ambitious way I've gotten used to?

Or should I simply raise my standards in meeting people, even through Facebook? (They are already too high, since in the last 4 months I've actually *lost* a friend instead of making new ones).

I think you are focusing too much on the actions. Instead, I think you should be focusing on your own psychology. Having more or less friends is not, in my opinion, what's going to make a difference for you (for your happiness). You have identified what you don't like in other people (and perhaps in yourself) - good. That's a great first step. Next, you need to act on it. In regard to other people - don't cooperate with this kind of behavior. You obviously don't like it - well, express it!

When it comes to you, if you think you have similar psychology to some degree (which in my opinion, takes a giant to admit this), you need to think about it, a lot, until you understand this aspect of yourself, where it's coming from, what need it serves... Once you fully understand it, I think the way to the solution is short. Your main tool here is introspection (<--see link). I think a personal diary or talking about it (with the right person) can help.

PS: Is "social networking" even *moral*? Isn't that the same concept that you advance in some arbitrary non-meritocratic hierarchy because you trade "pull"?

I think you have a consistent error in your method of thinking things over. See, you look at one instance of a motive behind an action, and then decide - this is the only possible motive associated with that action. "People use facebook in a bad way - this must make the action of posting on facebook bad", or "Roark has no friends really... this must means having friends is bad". You need to really ask why - understand the motive for an action.

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I don't think social networking is inherently a bad thing. After all, we live on planet earth. There's no getting around the fact that we live in a "social" world. So I don't think abhoring social networking for its own sake is rational. You still have to live in the world. Unless you grow your own food and live in a bubble, there's no avoiding it. Buying your coffee this morning and walking through the door at work involve mild forms of "social networking."

That said, we have choices as to how far we take social networking, and with whom we employ it. I personally don't derive any "social benefit" from spending time looking at complete strangers' vacation pictures (because let's face it; most Facebook "friends" are really more aquaintences). However, I DO benefit from Facebook in that it allows me to learn the nuances of the people I do care about and who serve some rational purpose in my life.

As for your observation of people using Facebook to show off or otherwise make themselves look cool, that is most likely an age thing. I'm 30, and the majority of my Facebook "friends" are my age or older. So I don't see many "drunken party pics" in my newsfeed as maybe the younger crowd. Rather, I see a lot of wedding and travel pics. The people I associate with aren't ones to do these things just to make a statement. In fact, I'd wager that most people don't. They're simply living their lives. Buying homes, being successful at work, being a good parent, and producing artwork and good poetry are things to be proud of. Why not show off productive things to those who matter to you?

Take weddings, for instance. By this "anti-social networking" logic, people shouldn't have even weddings or wedding photographers because the process involves other people looking at them and potentially comparing them to other weddings. But that's life. There are always going to be people who are going to be comparing you, and to be frank, you can't get around comparing other people, just for the simple fact that we compartmentalize as part of our psychologies. But so what? Does that mean you should never do anything or share your life with anyone?

If drunken party pics are of no value to you, why not simply delete the people who clog your newsfeed with them and focus on the people whose activities you value? I did that once. Not because of party pics, but because this girl was taking upwards of 50 headshots of herself every day and keeping them in the newsfeed. I didn't see the point of this, and I got sick of looking at her. So DELETE. She isn't someone I knew well, and the people I'm close with don't do those things anyway... so there's no point in keeping her on my friend list and looking at her every 2 minutes. That's the beauty of online networking; it's easier to get rid of the "riff raff."

ETA: As an aside, I get a lot of enjoyment out of the Facebook "chat" feature. I have never been a "phone person," and in many ways I find the chat feature is a time saver, cuts out the small talk, and is otherwise more efficient.

Edited by Tabitha
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  • 1 year later...

I've got friends all over the world (by friends I mean people I actually know not just "facebook friends"), my daughters are both away at University, and my immediate family is on the other side of the country. I find FB a very useful tool to keep in touch with all of them. It's much more personal than an email and much easier than a letter.

I do have FB friends, ones I've never met in real life, but I'm quite specific about who I accept. I also delete all the stupid notifications you get on there for games and other applications.

As Ifat pointed out, there can be a happy medium. The choice isn't shameless attention whore or cloistered monk unless you make it so. If that were the only choice an individual could consider, it would say far more of the nature of that individual than it would on the utility of Facebook.

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