Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Facebook and the Circle of Life

Wild Card #3. There were no Parent Trap style handshakes involved but I have nonetheless made a pact with Amanda of A Noodle in A Haystack to produce one wild card post a month. Not only is it a chance to flex muscles outside of filmdom, it has the added fun of not knowing what we may come up with. Feel free to pull up a chair and join us if you like. The more the merrier.

Internet fads come and go, but one that has attracted my attention recently is Google +, a 'new and improved Facebook' with less mess and no invites to raise barnyard animals. One of the main selling points is the ability users have to place those they allow to view their posts into different categories. Don't want your gym partner in high school/mailman/grandmother to know you have undying love for grape jello? Easy. Just put them in a circle labeled "Anti-Jello."

This seems like a logical step in the evolution of social media. One that I imagine Facebook will be forced to adopt if it wants to remain competitive. And while I understand the rationale, the ways this makes social networking more like filters we have in life, it creates a potential end (or twilight) to a fascinating, sometimes embarrassing, sometimes litigious chapter in digital history.

Chances are you've seen it before (and done it before. I know I have). The late night post of self-doubt, photographic documentation of the fling of a friend you haven't seen in five years. It can be uncomfortable if you don't know the person well and run into them at a supermarket. And yet I find the no-holds-barred approach many people take to social media fascinating. With party phone lines there was no way of knowing who was potentially listening to a personal conversation.  Pouring private thoughts into a tape recorder has something of a message in a bottle effect. Now hundreds of people can be made privy to personal thoughts instantaneously. Seeing your Uncle Alfonso post about his smelly socks is the same as if he'd mentioned this outright at the dinner table, though the latter seems less likely. It's like going out into a field and yelling obscenities into the night sky, all the while knowing that now the stars can listen. And comment. And pass the information along to their friends in other galaxies (or your boss).

I love seeing different sides to those I know. Of course this is more satisfying when the information is earned in person, but now the field is more open to those outside of one's immediate circles. It offers a limited opportunity to walk in someone else's shoes, even if that means reading posts about hand painted mailboxes. With more prevalent filters it seems less and less likely that these different viewpoints will be as accessible. And I think that's a shame.

Who knows what the future of social media will be, or if these sorts of advancements will keep those with over share proclivities from curbing the habit. For better or worse the practice underlines the need we all have to communicate, and offers more opportunities to be heard. Call me crazy but I think that's kind of beautiful.


  1. No networking site comes with mess. The messing happens at the users side. Now Google+ looks clean but just wait for some days That also will be meshed up by the users.

  2. It's a good point to make that the evolution of the site may make it just as cluttered, but there is still some control on the part of those in charge (I would think, I'm no web expert) in terms of whether or not games, quizzes, and other third party applications are allowed, which is a big part of what makes Facebook a bit obnoxious from time to time. For some this extends to what people actually post but one thing I dislike about the rationale behind google plus is the way it makes friends into advertisers who are forced from the get go to place you into a certain niche and targeted audience. I think it's just another way people are becoming more and more narrowed in their internet usage and the viewpoints they tend to come into contact with, and I don't think that aspect of it is a positive thing.