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“Northern Wasteland of Unread Updates,” “Bay of Drama,” and “Plains of Awkwardly Public Family Interactions…” I am quite pleased with this map I found online; it is a creative interpretation of the web revolution we are experiencing. I hope you enjoy it! (The map, that is, and not the revolution.)
Here is a post where you can actually read the map: Online Communities. And, this post shows the forerunner to this map, created in 2007, for a neat compare and contrast.
Although I don’t believe the eHow post on fighting Facebook addiction intended itself to be sarcastic, I found the tone hysterical. Perhaps it is my sense of humor, but see if you find these eHow recommendations amusing (italics added for effect):
“Actually call up a friend you want to reconnect with.”
“Select and print out your favorite pictures of you and your friends from the past few months. Spend an afternoon creating an album–a real one…”
“Start a real game of scrabble with your roommate.”
“Buy a crossword puzzle book. When you are bored, work on a puzzle. This is more fun and better for your brain than movie quizzes.”(Source: How to Fight Your Facebook Addiction | eHow.comhttp://www.ehow.com/how_2192540_fight-facebook-addiction.html#ixzz1OSJLlhVt)
Think about the implications of those statements. eHow is saying that online scrabble is somehow NOT REAL SCRABBLE. And I like the fact that eHow just asserts the fact that crossword puzzles are more fun than movie quizzes. Ha! I think that is a tad bit extreme. We need some sort of clarification. Perhaps that crossword puzzles are generally more fun than movie quizzes to those whose lives are properly ordered? I don’t know, but eHow is funnily drastic.
Signing off, let me end with a quote:
“There will still be things that machines cannot do. They will not produce great art or great literature or great philosophy; they will not be able to discover the secret springs of happiness in the human heart; they will know nothing of love and friendship.” (Bertrand Russell, 1872-1970)
(The above comic found here: http://itmanagement.earthweb.com/cnews/article.php/3715291)
By the way, Mark Zuckerberg being named Time’s 2010 Person of the Year is a joke. Be assured that insightful criticism (not to be mistaken as futile ranting, mind you) is forthcoming.
Finally, here is the Part II promised long, long ago… hope you enjoy!
Is there any defense for social networking under democracy’s banner? After all, Zuckerberg seems to think so. Zuckerberg says that the power of democracy is at work in Facebook and that, by giving everyone a voice and “power,” the system will end up in a really good place. Well, Facebook does reinforce interest-group politics. But it does not serve democracy— at least, not deliberative democracy— because a) it does not encourage people to have their opinions challenged, and b) it thwarts delving deeply into issues. So, though social networking strengthens interest groups, it does not benefit deliberative democracy.
The web as we know it is a sort of mathematical tool; Zuckerberg would like it to be a kind of omniscient god. For Zuckerberg’s open web wish to come true, everything will have to be owned, in a sense, by one potent force. If lots of power corrupts a lot, this only spells trouble. But could this ever even happen? This is where the present tension between Facebook and Google comes into play. Less than a year ago, Facebook made it so that users could access Facebook relationships, without logging in, on over 10,000 independent sites. In April, Facebook rolled out an array of developments, specifically the Open Graph and Social Plugins, aimed at increasing Facebook’s capacity for power. In October, Facebook entered into a search engine partnership with Microsoft. This friction between search engines underscores the real battle, one over the future of the web. Facebook contends for a social web, Google primarily for a content web. Through Facebook, Zuckerberg is daily prying information out of the hands of Google, broadening Google’s “blind spot” as its servers receive data which Google cannot reach. It is certainly not implausible that Zuckerberg’s social web revolution will succeed.
Zuckerberg’s vision also lends itself toward a social stigma around those who have privacy concerns. In Zuckerberg’s eyes, exposing your life online somehow endorses integrity. This has raised some sparks from Alan Jacobs, that loveable blogger for The New Atlantis. “So I have some sort of obligation to make it easier for people to get in touch with me?—to match my life to the ‘expected way to make connections’? That seems like a philosophically suspect claim to me,” he said. It is indeed an unsound claim, but it is the claim that will possibly be at the heart of Web 3.0. Jacobs’ offers two further complaints worthy of note. First, he hints that Zuckerberg’s ambitions are just another instance of American culture’s unceasing war against introverts. Second, he notices that no one seems to be able to provide a decent response to those who share his own reason for not using Facebook: “I’m not freaking interested.” Problem is, if Zuckerberg’s social web comes to be, it’s doubtful that one will be able to opt out of surrendering one’s personal information, whether he’s interested or not.
“On Facebook I know who you are because I know who the people are who you know,” said Zuckerberg. This sounds like nonsense because it is. But this much is true: whoever is in charge of this one, huge web family Zuckerberg envisions will have access to an unprecedented amount of information. Amusingly, Zuckerberg critiqued Google by saying that no one wants to be part of a surveillance society. He assures that in his social graph, users will be allowed to decide which information they make public and private. Unfortunately, it is just the case that whatever information one puts on Facebook is effectively public, regardless of privacy settings, because it’s officially owned by Facebook. Not to mention that Facebook’s record of abiding by its own terms of contract has been, well, far from sterling. Let’s not even bring the government into this. Do people really want the web to be one extension of Facebook? Centralizing power on the web will only lead to the abuse of information, as web history has proven time and again.
“Up until now all the advancements in technology have said that information and data are the most important thing. The most important thing to us is that there is a person sitting behind that keyboard. We think the Internet is about people.” These are the interesting words of Facebook’s senior platform manager, words which fall short in so many ways. The Internet is in its element when it deals with data and information; it is not in its element when it deals, in a much removed way, with human beings. Computers are for information, not for meaning and purpose in one’s life. Overemphasizing linking us to who we know, ZuckerWeb would separate us from the strangers surrounding us in the real world. This is precisely why Zuckerberg’s vision of web future is disordered: it wishes to revolutionize the web’s role from tool to society. The web can serve man well as an instrument; it does not, however, make for a wholesome and meaningful place in which to live.
 Alan Jacobs, “Against Facebook Fascism,” Text Patterns, January 15, 2009. http://text-patterns.thenewatlantis.com/2009/01/against-facebook-fascism.html. 10/22/2010.
 Carlson, 10/22/2010.
 Fred Vogelstein, “Great Wall of Facebook: The Social Network’s Plan to Dominate the Internet— And Keep Google Out,” June 22, 2009. http://www.wired.com/techbiz/it/magazine/17-07/ff_facebookwall?currentPage=2. 10/22/2010.
(This is the unedited version of an article I wrote for my college newspaper, The Rambler. It was published earlier this month on nice glossy paper. It is rather lengthy so I think I will just post part of it for now. In this article I tried to tackle some of Facebook’s problems from a different, rather philosophical, angle. Tell me what you think! Part 2 will be coming soon.)
The Disconcerting Dreams of Mark Zuckerberg
by Savvy J. Buckner
“But civilization is to be tested not so much by the dexterity of inventions as by the worth of what is invented.” –G.K. Chesterton
Twenty-six year old Mark Zuckerberg, the youngest billionaire in our cosmos, has fathered a philosophy that is this very moment redefining the web and our understanding of human relations. He is honest about the novelty of his experiment, but what end-product we should expect has been a little murky. In fact, it is only by studying Zuckerberg’s past words and actions together that a blueprint of his dream emerges. The Web 3.0 envisioned by Zuckerberg parts ways with the traditional Internet; it is grounded in different, and worrisome, first principles. The key to understanding Zuckerberg lies in his concept of the social graph. Zuckerberg calls this graph the core of his work, adding that his philosophy of the world and the inter-connection of things are embedded in it. Basically, the graph refers to a global digital mapping of both humans and objects, defined exclusively by their connections. The web Zuckerberg looks forward to is one in which the default is social and everyone is known by their real identity. One vast, united front that is “smarter” and more “personable.” On every page you click on you receive advertisements and recommendations tailored specifically to you, based on your web history as well as the history of your friends. Everything, yes everything, is inter-connected in Zuckerberg’s dream world.
And Zuckerberg’s philosophy, incarnate in Facebook, has been eaten up. Lauded as an advanced method of communication and sharing, Facebook’s climb to superstructure status has been more of an elevator ride than an upward haul. Over five million online users have adopted Facebook, and the number continues to rise. Zuckerberg’s philosophy is evidently invigorating, but not necessarily healthy. There has been an appalling silence in the space where a natural question should have been raised. Why? Why build our entire web structure on this idea of social sharing? Zuckerberg’s own answers are inadequate, even humorous: “Ultimately, just being able to map out all these things in one graph is just going to be really valuable for understanding what all these people and things are and what they’re doing.” “The idea is that people don’t exist in isolation. You are the set of things that you are connected with. It’s your real identity, and these are real connections that you have.”
Zuckerberg’s plan is paradoxical; his gentle words about community and sharing and social are misleading in the case of the virtual network. While Zuckerberg would have us believe that it is possible to foster true friendship via social networking, he fails to see that there is something fundamentally withheld in such a relationship. Zuckerberg wants the web to be used more personally. But social networking is depersonalized by nature, the most frequent messages are ones broadcast to the public, and screen communication is ever in competition with everything else that can, and does, pop up. On the web, relationships are less people and more objects you can choose to click on and play with when you like. Relationships on the web simply are not real; they are removed and only receive “life” from the user’s interest in them. Most people still agree that it is unhealthy to use the screen as the primary sphere of one’s relationships. Yet this is exactly what Zuckerberg’s philosophy encourages: the pouring of one’s whole life into an avatar. This is a disquieting thought, especially considering that these online communications cannot occur without abandonment, to some degree, of real-world relationships.
Zuckerberg’s words also falls short when we analyze how social networking functions, or fails to function, as a community. Social networking does indeed aid the flow of the web. But it clearly does not refine the quality of information that people share. Unlike a real and healthy community, Facebook demands neither service or sacrifice for the greater good, nor preparation for it. Technologies like Facebook center on self-interest, not genuine cooperation. In the context of community, Zuckerberg’s hope for more openness again falters. The true communal instinct fostered by social networking is found in the abnormal curiosity of users. As Sebastian Waisman noted, the whole success of online networking is due to one feature: “the ability to look at other users’ information without their knowledge— in other words, to spy. ” It is also troubling to compare social networking to a community because social networks contain practically none of the repercussions that offline life does. Meanwhile, Zuckerberg says that Facebook always tries to emphasize the utility component. Reasonable enough. The ease of having all one’s contacts in a big lump is undeniably attractive. But there is a grave discrepancy in Zuckerberg’s words. On one hand, he wants to build one big social community online, based on utility. On the other, he wants us all to have a more “meaningful” web experience. How does utility correlate with meaning? It seems more likely that, if Zuckerberg’s web comes around, both real life and the web will suffer as their roles become increasingly confused.
(To be continued…)
 Nicholas Carlson, “Zuck: Facebook’s Future is Not As a Web Site,” Business Insider, June 13, 2009. http://www.businessinsider.com/zuck-facebooks-future-is-not-as-a-web-site-2009-6. 10/22/2010.
 Sebastian Waisman, “The True Face of Digital Democracy,” The New Atlantis, Number 24, Spring 2009, pp. 89-93. http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-true-face-of-digital-democracy. 10/22/2010.
“Facebook is like a refrigerator. You get bored and keep checking, but nothing ever changes.”(Well, except your privacy settings.)
Dear honorable members of the AFLI,
I would like to issue an apology for my apparent laziness of late as to the upkeep of this site. Be assured that it is not truly laziness that is keeping me from my duty to the AFLI. On the contrary, it is my business in that wondrous place known only to people like us. Yes, I refer to the REAL WORLD. Because I assume my readers have lives worth living, I hope they will have a little sympathy for my difficulty in finding time for matters of the web. As pressing matters in the R.W. lessen, I hope to find more time to post relevant updates as to Facebook’s rising assault on civilized folk. So be on the lookout; the AFLI is very much alive! Indeed, the AFLI celebrates its one year anniversary this very month!!! Long live the AFLI and its dedicated members!
Savanna J. Buckner, President
“… a spiritual dope for deadening the pain of modern living… all the characteristics of a powerful narcotic, but it works on the spirit of man rather than on his body… the general effect of narctoics is in the brain area. They induce a stupor, a sort of sleep, a dulling of the brain, which prevents pain from registering… It does not make the unhappy marriage happy, or the job creative; it does not give hope, but it does give forgetfulness. This it does through its tremendous, almost hypnotic power of centering the attention of a person on a screen. It is like a huge distraction. It keeps pictures racing through the mind so fast that the power of thinking, the contact of the mind with reality, is virtually suspended through not being able to intrude on the person’s attention…” (My Life With Thomas Aquinas: Common Sense from St. Thomas Aquinas For Your Family)
Carol Robinson was speaking particularly about television. Yet, she was also pointing out the general problem of overusing technology. So often we use our advanced technology for the wrong reasons. It is dreadfully harmful when we allow addictive things like Facebook to deaden our ability to to live. Instead of acting, speaking, and moving in the physical world, we choose… a virtual world. And thus we remove ourselves one sphere farther from the supernatural world, which is reality. I don’t think there can be too much caution in this matter. More often than not, Facebook lends a hand in drowning the spiritual element in a person by disconnecting him from or deadening his free will, sense of value, compassion, ability to contemplate, appreciation of true friendship, and, to put it bluntly, brain cells.
→ Also, be sure to check out this story, “A Death on Facebook” by Kate Bolick, which appeared in The Atlantic the other day. It’s very interesting…..http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/09/a-death-on-facebook/8177/
Hello everyone! My sincere apologies that I have not been posting of late. I like to think that it just goes to show that I have a life in that novel place known as the real world. However, as I’ve been traveling around the world the last four weeks, I have been doing a lot of thinking about the AFLI. Some of your comments have been thought-provoking, and I welcome your input. Inspired partially by all of you, there are a few changes I plan to make in the near future which will hopefully make the AFLI a more effective organization. Keep your fingers crossed that I can finish thinking the issues through and bring the AFLI up a notch real soon. In the meantime, there is much to say. Here is some tasty stuff to think about…
Dr. Boli, that favorite fellow of mine, has this to say about the net:
2. Alan Jacobs says this, which applies well to Facebook, I think:
“I don’t think that Tolstoy vs. lolcats is just a matter of taste. To be sure, not everyone needs to read Tolstoy; most people don’t need to read Tolstoy. It would be nice if more people did, but it’s not socially or personally necessary.
What is necessary, I think, is for all of us to be engaged in some activity that challenges us, that tests our intellectual limits. For some people that might be reading Tolstoy, while for others it might involve writing code or learning Klingon. But as Lanier says, “You have to be somebody before you can share yourself,” and being somebody is an achievement. It requires intentional labor, and a degree of personal ambition — and anyone can work and strive, though some have farther to go than others. But a lot of fooling around on the internet is just that, fooling around: it doesn’t test our resources or stretch our capacities. In many cases that’s fine, because we shouldn’t be working all the time: but even if fooling around on the internet really does somehow increase social creative capital — which I have no reason to believe — it doesn’t achieve a damned thing for the person doing it.”
I concur with Jacobs. Exactly. You have to be somebody before you can share yourself. One of my pet peeves about Facebook. Pointlessness, unnatural gossip, and fake identities. It’s Narcissism Central. Literally.
3. This is also interesting:
“Children growing up in homes with many books get 3 years more schooling than children from bookless homes, independent of their parents’ education, occupation, and class. This is as great an advantage as having university educated rather than unschooled parents, and twice the advantage of having a professional rather than an unskilled father. It holds equally in rich nations and in poor; in the past and in the present; under Communism, capitalism, and Apartheid; and most strongly in China. Data are from representative national samples in 27 nations, with over 70,000 cases, analyzed using multi-level linear and probit models with multiple imputation of missing data.”
So this talk about books being in a state of demise… well, I sincerely hope it is phony. I doubt having Kindles in the home is going to help make kids smarter.
(Source: First Things Online)
4. Last thing. Here is a lovable pic from Unhappy Hipsters which sums up modern man pretty neatly:
Without the daily self-portraits, he feared he might disappear completely.
(Photo: Kent Dayton; Dwell, Jan/Feb 2004)
Seriously. This reminds me of when (after an hour long class) I watched a girl check her phone and exclaim: “Nobody loves me! I don’t have any texts!” People need to reclaim their ability to be free and independent thinkers and not merely fish in the current. People looking for love need to depend on something much sturdier than technology. People need to quit Facebook. JUST QUIT THE THE DEMONIC THING! PLEASE! By the way, that pic is going in my dorm room. Ha, ha. As always, I am grateful for your comments and insight. I promise that I do take your thoughts into consideration, even if I am too busy to respond promptly. Long live the glorious AFLI!
Savvy J. Buckner
“The Internet is a shallow and unreliable electronic repository of dirty pictures, inaccurate rumors, bad spelling and worse grammar, inhabited largely by people with no demonstrable social skills. ” (Author Unknown)
Okay, so I wouldn’t go so far as to call the entire Internet “shallow.” I like the Internet. Quite an ingenious thing. I just don’t like Internet abuse. If not exactly fair to the Internet, this quote is still a nice little blast at the Internet-abusing population at large. BUT WAIT! We could make this statement much better… let’s fix it up…
“FACEBOOK is a shallow and unreliable electronic repository of dirty pictures, inaccurate rumors, bad spelling and worse grammar, inhabited largely by people with no demonstrable social skills.”
Perfect. Can I get the credit for that one now?
By the way, I am out of the country right now and do not have internet access 99% of the time. I hope that explains the quiet on this end. No fears, I will be back from my thrilling trip soon!
DRUM ROLL, PLEASE! INTRODUCING THE SECOND COMMON HOUSEHOLD ITEM WITH MORE VALUE THAN FACEBOOK…..THE DASHING DOORKNOB!
Give this little guy a round of applause. The doorknob is one hardworking little household item with quite a bit more value than Facebook. Indeed, the doorknob has been working hard ever since the first real doors were invented. Studies show that the doorknob was invented even before the ground-breaking first wheel. Originally, doorknobs may have been straps of leather or small holes into which one might stick his fingers and pull. However, scientists can’t really say for sure, as the first doors have long since rotted away. Definitely, these knobs have a lot more historical intrigue than Facebook. They also now come in a variety of beautiful and useful sizes, shapes and colors. Today, you can even get your doorknob in the shape of a peacock, glue-gun, lime, or (if you don’t mind special ordering and a tad longer wait) llama. Almost 70% of doorknobs are go-getters. 20% are overachievers, and a 10% minority are slackers. A good doorknob is used about 100 times a day on average, which I hope is many more times than the average person logs on to Facebook each day. Doorknobs can also be locked and therefore keep snoops and burglars out of places where they should not be. Facebook, on the other hand, only invites snoops and burglars and supplies them with all sorts of private information. Doorknobs generally have love-interests in the form of gloves. In this modern era, people have tried to impede these healthy relationships by refusing to wear gloves. This is why people usually go around bare-handed nowadays. It is a pity, for it is proper and natural for a new doorknob and glove pair to elope at least every other Thursday. The severe lack of gloves these days has fired a revolt in the youngest doorknob generation. Many of them intentionally squeak, a few angrily rattle, and a small number of radicals voluntarily open the doors to chatty political activists, fire-breathing dragons, and/or telemarketers who have lost their voices. But can we blame them? Doorknobs have a history of helpfulness. Often braving wind and rain and sleet and snow, doorknobs stick to their charges (the stoic doors) and get the job done. In conclusion, next time you use the dashing doorknob to open or close a door, reflect on how this hardworking knob is a lot more valuable than Facebook.
(Authored by M. S. Feiring, With Some Strange Additives by S. J. Buckner)
Dear Big Brother,
Hello! I admit that I was rather hoping never to see you so close, so mighty, and so universal. And in all honesty, I must say that I find your pseudonym pathetic. “Facebook” has so little twang to it. No, I am not forgetting that you have managed to garner the support of millions of souls worldwide. You deserve little credit for that. You only grow in power when the rest of the world sleeps. And sleeping we were. You certainly jumped into the game at the psychological moment. You entered a weary, rapidly deteriorating America sometime near the end of the world. The right card to play. You purged yourself of any suspicion by standing under the little black umbrella of “fad.” Everyone thought about wanting to plug in, overlooking the monster they were plugging into. And while we clicked unconsciously, your intelligent little head began manipulating us. The unseen manipulator.
But what I really want to discuss is your latest decision. Am I surprised? No. Distressed? Yes. You announced your new plug-ins and Open Graph protocol, making it sound awfully exciting and innovative. You made it sound nice and useful. So now you own the Internet. We can count on you to use it well, right? You have such a spotless track-record in the security region too. What? Those past few slips which made the security settings advantageous to you and difficult to change? Oh, probably a tiny glitch in the system. No worries. So now you’ll have the most comprehensive database concerning people and their interests. You’ve made an information-sharing deal to help companies target consumers. Good. Because that’s what we all desire deep down inside. To be targeted. We all want to be the deer behind the hunter’s gun. And you want to extend your reach to other sites. Good. Because we want you to be everywhere, Facebook. We wouldn’t know what to do without you. You’ve got so many smart people on your side. So we should just trust them when they say that this is a development that is good for us, shouldn’t we? They say that targeted advertising is good for us, that a trainable Internet that listens and remembers what we like is not to be feared. Should we wonder about who owns the Internet, because whoever it is really owns us these days, doesn’t he? Should we wonder whether it is good that he has so much power and will be getting so much more money out of our pockets? They say your plan is brilliant and unstoppable. That you’re going to catalog the entire web, and remake the Internet. They say you’re tearing down your walls and inviting everyone on the great big web to play on the Facebook playground. Nice… nice and socialist and cheery. They say it makes us ssooo human, innovative, better people. That’s true. Forget helping teach the starving little kid in South America how to read. And definitely forget visiting your grandparents. Instead, log on to Facebook and take a quiz to find out which one of Dante’s circles of hell you belong in. But I’m forgetting myself. People stopped reading Dante years ago. Bottom line is, you tell us you can organize the Internet for us. That’s just fine, because why would we want to do it for ourselves? It’s not as if we know ourselves any better than you know us, right? In fact, it would probably be better if you just arranged our whole lives for us, and told us when to die too. We’d appreciate that, Facebook, it’d take a load off our minds. We’re just too busy to deal with those sort of things anymore. Please take care of us, Big Brother.
Anyhow, with these expansion plans, you are going to build up for yourself the largest company database ever of human intentions and desires. I wasn’t surprised to hear it, Mr. Greedy. But I am very upset. See, I just don’t like invisible systems which manipulate millions of people without them realizing it. I just don’t want an invisible system that will constitute a governing power over the habits, thoughts, opinions, and actions of masses worldwide. And, I must ask, all the power in whose hands? Someone with half a Harvard degree? I’m not even sure. I realize there is little I can do. So please just consider this a mere letter to the editor, Big Brother. But I want you to know. Just for the record, you understand, that I sincerely despise what you are doing.