An Experiment in Scotch

"I write to discover what I believe." Michael Lopp on Twitter

The Cryptic Facebook Cliffhanger

I think some peo­ple treat Face­book like it’s a prayer chain. Maybe Face­book is the mod­ern day incar­na­tion of a prayer chain but some peo­ple seem to have the Face­book prayer chain on speed dial. If I worked on a prayer chain and the same 4 peo­ple called every other day, I’d begin to think maybe they were just being self­ish. It must be a big enough prob­lem because some­one wrote an entire blog post about the 7 ways to be insuf­fer­able on Face­book (as if there were only 7). I think the cryp­tic cliffhanger is the most annoy­ing but I could be con­vinced oth­er­wise with­out much effort. Of course, if we stopped being insuf­fer­able on Face­book, our news feed would be lonely like Tomb­stone right before the OK Cor­ral. The trou­ble is most of us are only really inter­ested in our­selves. Oh we read our Face­book feed but all we really want to see there are pic­tures of kit­tens and George Takei updates. We aren’t inter­ested in the brag, hum­ble or oth­er­wise, of some­one we haven’t talked to in 23 years but whose friend request we accepted blindly one night when we had had 4 glasses of scotch too many.

And this is the core prob­lem of Face­book as a “social” media. It’s a dirty lit­tle secret but Face­book isn’t that social. If it were, our friend list would be much shorter, just like it is in real life. If some­one did noth­ing but tell us how awe­some their life was with­out ever actu­ally ask­ing us how we were doing, we’d unfriend them by throat punch­ing them. Ok, maybe that’s a lit­tle harsh but the idea is sound. If some­one said to me IRL “Tomor­row is going to be big, pray for me”, I’d think they were atten­tion whores. And unfriend them by remov­ing their num­ber from my phone.

The first sign that Face­book isn’t actu­ally about friend­ship is the num­ber of peo­ple we have as “friends”. The anthro­pol­o­gist Robin Dun­bar pro­posed an idea “that humans can only com­fort­ably main­tain 150 sta­ble rela­tion­ships.” We just can’t keep up with many more than that. Yet we have Face­book friends that num­ber in the thou­sands. Wha? Peo­ple with more than 250 friends are either young (the orig­i­nal Face­book tar­get mar­ket), run­ning a busi­ness, using Face­book as a ver­sion of Linked In but with pic­tures of kit­tens or are very lonely. That’s just a per­sonal theory.

Tomor­row is going to be big though. Keep me in your prayers.


  1. I’ve been on social media since myspace. Then there was xanga. For me then it was twit­ter and face­book. With a few other small stops along the way. I very spo­rad­i­cally par­tic­i­pate in any social media these days. I think social media is a quin­tes­sen­tial expres­sion of the amer­i­can iso­lated indi­vid­u­al­is­tic psy­che. Every­one is busy and feels like they are keep­ing in touch via social media. Obvi­ously there’s a lot of use­less crap on face­book. But it does allow us to stay up to date with old friends at a cur­sory level. Espe­cially those that live else­where now. Think of it as a cheap sub­sti­tute for writ­ing let­ters or the more mod­ern vari­a­tion: email. Cheap isn’t always bad. It’s just cheap. I also think social media low­ers the bar for intro­verts to par­tic­i­pate socially. Which might be a very good thing. We all want to connect.

  2. Brett Bim

    April 10, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    I think social media is a quin­tes­sen­tial expres­sion of the amer­i­can iso­lated indi­vid­u­al­is­tic psyche.”

    That’s awe­some­ness right there. That’s exactly what social media is for a lot of peo­ple, an expres­sion of iso­lated psy­ches. It’s an easy way to pre­tend to con­nect with­out the dif­fi­culty of actu­ally connecting.

    Though mostly now, my feed is just an expres­sion of clas­sic Amer­i­can iso­lated exhibitionism. :-)

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