Aside from the wry chuckle I enjoyed at his comments, I found his perspective on Facebook insightful: it's addictive, and it promotes conformity.
First, let's look at some behavioural characteristics of addiction.
- Obsession - person cannot stop thinking about an activity.
- Relentless Pursuit - person will engage in activity even to the detriment of his/her physical and psycho-social well being.
- Compulsiveness - person will engage in an activity despite not wanting to, and finds it difficult to stop.
- Withdrawal - once the addictive activity is stopped, person becomes irrational, irritable, depressed, restless.
- Lack of Perception of Time - person cannot control how long, when, or how much s/he will engage in an activity.
- Denial - person cannot, and will not accept that s/he has an irrational attachment to an activity, even despite the negative effects.
- Covert-Ops - person hides his/her activity from friends, family, and concerned individuals.
- Blackouts - person simply blanks-out during activity, which results in a lack of recall about what went on during addictive activity.
- Depression - person experiences depressed states surrounding, and even during activity.
- Poor Self-Esteem - person deals with personal anxieties and low self-esteem issues by "filling in their lack", as it were, with an addictive activity.
As a loose gauge for my own participation with Facebook, this list shows me that I fit at least 7, possibly 8 of the characteristics usually associated with addictive behaviours. As a family man, and a man with a conscience, I find that unacceptable. So, for this reason alone, I shut down Facebook.
Now, just so we're clear, I am not blaming Facebook for my problems. I am solely responsible for how I attend to an activity, how much time I spend doing it, and in what manner. Facebook itself is simply a computer application and has nothing to do with my addiction to it. But, as a vehicle for part of my social life, I cannot trust myself to use Facebook anymore because I was not able to control myself around it. Also, because I was allowing my time on Facebook to interfere with my family, my real-life relationships were starting to break down. So, for me, having parrotted the common sentiment that I would "take a bullet" for my family if I had to, why would I allow myself to shoot my loved one's down with an inordinate compulsion toward Facebook?
The answer to the rhetorical question above is an easy, "I wouldn't." But I did. And I did so unintentionally, and to my shame. But even unintentionally having hurt my family because of my own addictive behaviours surrounding Facebook, the result is the same: my family was hurt. Intentionality does not exhonerate me from the pain my family has felt this past while. My work is ahead of me; I have a lot of wounds to heal.
Coming at this from a different, more 'academic' angle, however, there is a certain conformity proffered in applications like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, et al. That is, applications such as the ones listed dole-up a common denominator people can easily access and use. The fact that applications like these offer the same basic templates for social interaction, aesthetics, and mindless pursuits (e.g., Farmville) now strikes me as a little creepy. I don't ascribe anything apocalyptic to it, but the fact that there is a definite sense of sameness across the board comes across a little Hux-Wellian.
Facebook is a little like a prototype for the 'Feelies' so excellently imagined in Huxley's Brave New World: slip into a virtual reality where everything surrounding you is a template for homogeneity, and predictability. The best part about it is that you don't actually have to carry on a real relationship with a real person. You can simply 'Add' and 'Delete' on a whim, and at will.
At the same time, Facebook is also a little like Big Brother. Mind you, the government is not prescribing Facebook as a means of mass-control, so the comparison is very loose. Still, people are screened for jobs by employers looking up Facebook accounts. Corporations actively monitor people's use of Facebook to keep an eye on the corporate reputation. Facebook does not protect your privacy, but instead, allows your information to be readily accessible to marketters (data-mining), industries, government, etc. It is a wonderful vehicle for corporate voyeurism (ever wonder why your stuff is hyperlinked without you having hyperlinked your information?). It is not quite Big Brother, but it is like having Big Brothers.
Facebook promotes uniformity not in people's ontology, but in people's expressions. That is, you don't stop being who you are by using Facebook, but you begin to alter how you express yourself to fit the mold offered. Eventually, this will impact who a person is. The same principle is illustrated in a positive light in the movie Patch Adams: if you change the conditions, or parameters of a persons environment, you affect their response. This in turn affects who the person is on a fundamental level. Seeing as Facebook is generally a breeding ground for poor grammar, thoughtless banter, useless games and quizzes, ambivalent attachments, and techonological distancing (i.e., moral ambivalence via technology), it shouldn't come as a surprise when people start communicating in real life as they do on Facebook. I imagine conversations would sound like Valspeak, but less eloquent.
I refuse that measure of conformity. I refuse that common denominator, which, as I see it, will continue to get lower and lower as the phenomenon of social-networking applications trim out the fat of human-to-human contact, and unwittingly inject us with the narcotics of virtual reality, and pseudo-relationships. I will not follow suit any longer. I am officially anti-Facebook.