Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Facebook Paradigm

Facebook users are familiar with the world at large, have real life social groups, and/or interact with people off-line in course of their daily lives. Social interactions, however, ofter rather clear-cut distinctions between classes, gender roles, professional affiliations, and between the haves and have-nots. Coupled with real life challenges in social relationships and the effort one must invest in managing nuances in human emotion, millions of people have gravitated toward Facebook in order to construct their own way of interacting with the world and understanding interpersonal relationships: by using what this article calls the paradigm of Facebook. 

Facebook offers (me) a platform to explore what people consider funny or interesting. I do not post much of consequence about my personal (or professional) life other than admitting to the fact that I have one. Other than a few significant life moments (moving countries, general travels [after they occur], and a couple life events), the majority of my own sharing involves disseminating interesting articles, sharing comics or artwork, and/or responding to follow-up comments from my "Tweets" on Twitter, which are "tweeted" into my Facebook account. Essentially, Facebook, for me, is mostly a chance to see what some of my friends are posting and share a few laughs or interesting dialogues in return. 

Because Facebook has such a robust platform, it is often times easier and faster to share photos with friends or family via private message than it is to email these same large files. It is also a great place to store photos, keep an archive of one's social sharing, and have everything we do neatly time-stamped for our own reference (or records). 

Facebook's platform allows users to neatly categorize people (friends, family, close friends, acquaintances, groups, followers). "Friends" are the ones with whom users prefer to share their thoughts or discoveries. This ordering provides users with a sense of security and a framework from which to interact with others. That there are so many users who rely on such a framework is not surprising. After all, people are habitual in nature: taking the same routes to work, eating many of the same foods over and over again, or living their daily lives in a similar fashion year after year. Unless a major life event occurs, it is generally business as usual. 

In all these routines, most people understand the world in the context of social interactions, major life events, news headlines, advancements in technology, or the cuteness associated with little furry animals. Thus, it is not surprising that millions utilize a Facebook paradigm to make sense of social interactions. 

Facebook only offers a few simple options with respect to interactions: like, comment, share. There are other more advanced options like: hide this story, report, etc. however, the major action involves liking a post, commenting on a post, or sharing a post on your own wall, via private message, or with a friend (assuming you have permission to post on their wall). 

Over and over again, users perfunctorily like, share, or comment on posts that intrigue, interest, delight, annoy, or otherwise move them to share their own thoughts on any given matter. While the majority of comments are generally "on topic" others can sometimes be self-promoting, subject-specific promoting, or entirely "off topic" in a way that decorum in responding (or not responding) is called for. This is when "things" can get a bit dramatic. While my own participation in this type of social interaction is null, I have read a few doozies that made me quite glad I was witnessing these things virtually and not in person. 

There are people who do thrive on dramatic interactions or themes, and Facebook users offer endless opportunity to post material for these people. 

Facebook is one of the biggest social experiments of our generation. Whether you are a person who enjoys what is posted or not, largely depends on the friends you have on Facebook as well as the individuals or organizations you follow. 

Facebook can be an endless source of primary source-like information, even if you're reading the information second-hand. For individuals who enjoy exploring the world in general, without strong biases or prejudices, reading posts by individuals across the globe can provide one with more nuances that news stories can offer. Real thoughts and opinions expressed by the individuals involved or living in a certain area when a major world event takes place provides endless material for writers, researchers, and scholars who are seeking out empirical evidence to support a theory or argument. 

While one could maintain that Facebook is senseless, a less-than ideal form of social interactions, or a complete and utter waste of time, these opinions occur as a result of free will that could be used for bad, as well as for good social interactions. In this sense, perhaps it is best that these negative interactions occur virtually like in a video game rather than in real life interactions. While this point could be argued, it is not the focus of this article. 

(Irregardless of how one uses Facebook) The Facebook universe can only present the world in such a limited two-dimensional fashion that the paradigm of Facebook ends up being one that essentially limits human interaction to a Technicolor-like experience, with all its vibrant joys, saturated levels of meaning, and "like" faux pas (such as those that occur when individuals click "like" on a sad news story) that leave many feeling less than satisfied. 

Like most people, I am of the belief that Facebook, like any activity, social or otherwise, is what you make of it.  It can be a positive add-on to one's life: be that a chance to retreat from work or real-life social pressures, an opportunity to goof-off, a way to keep in touch with friends or family members who live far away, a window into the lives of fellow world citizens, a chance to read interesting or relevant stories one might not come across online or on the news, or a way to express oneself - all in a time-stamped, permanent footprint that might not EVER blow away with the winds of time. 

(just like what we post, share, or email online)

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