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Thứ Năm, 21 tháng 4, 2011

      [Just to get the thoughts off my chest so that I don’t have to constantly think about them. (Think about the thoughts? Sounds quite weird)]

            Facebook is increasingly becoming, to me, a form of social media rather than a social network. It means I use it less to connect with people than to keep track of what issues are talked about at any given moment. Every morning, instead of reading a daily newspaper like a traditional respectable intellectual would, I browse my facebook homepage. There, I find new music, often more than enough for the day, hot news both locally and globally, some of which are definitely not covered by the mainstream media. I also find thought-provoking videos and articles. People share links to all kinds of interesting and serious topics that I can find myself spend hours to absorb them all. I think it’s time to stop feeling guilty for spending time on facebook.

     Of course, for every type of media, it depends on the users’ preferences and purposes. The point is, with its very powerful aid in sharing, facebook acts more as a audience-censored medium than a mere tool for people to be in touch. This is rather significant in itself. The process is fueled by both spontaneous selection of “friends” and “pages” resulted from the social tendency to associate with similar others as well as facebook’s actively filtering to display only those you interact the most. Even if facebook plays no role, in theory, people can only handle about 15 “relationships” at a time, which means even if they have a thousand “friends” on their list, they only read, comment and send message to around 15 people. Humans are not extremely good at multi-tasking and diverting their attentions. We can deal with only such and such. The internet and its capacity to access indefinite information often overwhelm people. That’s why amazon and youtube record your preference to recommend videos and books. You are being censored, all the time, even when it’s based on your own like.

      Facebook, is multiple-layer when it comes to filtering. It is the freest, which precisely what makes it more necessary to filter through layers and layers before any feed get your attention. First, you choose the people you want to see. They come with their taste and opinions, most often implicit in what they choose to share. The third layer lies in facebook’s decision when it chooses to display only those you are most interested in. And the forth, probably not the last, is what you choose to read amidst of hundreds of feeds every day. For a piece of information to get to you, it must travel a long way. Both active and passive selections add on to filter what you read every day. It can be constraining, like I have worried before about surrounding myself with like-minded individuals. Im afraid I’ll end up listening to what I want to hear only and shut myself from diverse opinions because all my friends are somehow similar to me in education, social class, from one generation and very similar interest. But all things social have their dual faces of constraining and enabling. You can’t have just one. As soon as one artifact becomes social, it evolves both aspects.

      This brings me to my next point of facebook’s ability to connect people and foster common interest in a very remarkable way. I can get to one page of a group concerned about the same issue from a random comment on a random post in a random profile of a random person, as long as Im interested enough to follow through the steps of clicking. One page, such as the Doremon’s “creative dialogues” page, which becomes popular at a dazzling speed thanks to Doremon’s popularity among manyVietnamese generation, actually can address social problems in a critical way, if one just looks carefully. The ability to talk and make fun of social problems before they are shut down by “official” censorship on mainstream media is valuable, because as any sociology students know, power lies in the invisible, the things that people can’t talk about or even are not aware of, and to undermine issues, the first step is to talk about them. After a while, I have friends who are roughly on the same page with me, and “like” groups which constantly provide me with new thoughts, facts and laughs. I get annoyed easily at people who update their status above 5 times a day. Do they think they are so important that others want to know about every little single detail of their lives? If they are my friend, I mean real friend, I will just skip them. If they are not, I will unfriend them. On the other hand, I am led to and get connected with high value others, who act as my filtering in what I read every day. Facebook is amazing this way, while of course I value it as a tool to keep myself in tune with others, receive emotional support from them and maintain a quite stable social life despite the distance.

     What is the point here finally? Well, no more guilt for spending time on facebook. It is more than a social network and a place to procrastinate. As a user, I care less about people’s distress, their newly broken relationship, their pictures taken at last Friday’s party, their conversations with mutual friends of ours. I care about what they share, what they like, what they think. This way, facebook for me is extremely useful and amazing. Yep, it is.

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