Pixelated: The Binary Network

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It’s the end of school term finally. And yet again, two of my close friends are acting like they’re part of an elite clan for hating Facebook. Insert some of the usual clichés about how it’s too crowded, how it’s full of attention seekers, how there are so many people who complain about their first world problems on it. All of the usual garbage.

One of them then announces, to the eye-roll of myself, that Google+ is the solution, and that he closed his Facebook, and I should do the same to my account, along with my Twitter account. Google+ is so much better. It’s as if it’s a scene from 1984, and Winston Smith has uncovered a way out of the dystopian night-mare hell-ride of Web 2.0, as if it’s a place where you get trapped. As if keeping your account open makes you a lesser-person. That’s not a very good parallel, but I’ll go with it.

They continue their conversation, with mild interruptions from myself, as I tell them how stupid their points are. David has to go. I continue the discussion, or argument, on the walk home, with James eventually persuaded from myself into believing that the problem isn’t Facebook, but rather the way Facebook is indicative of the, to pardon another cliché, ‘human condition’. Facebook is an amazing example of globalisation, of technology ingraining itself in everyday life. Every problem people on Google+ seem to have with Facebook isn’t Facebook’s problem. Rather, it’s simply an example of the platform going mainstream, of this great mass of people then turning it into, and I’m not excluded, a ‘Like’-whoring, self-conscious, sudo-narcissistic second world.

Again, Facebook didn’t do this.

We did.

It’s like how people claimed Twitter was stupid, and how some people still claim status-updates are dumb. They’re only dumb because some of us choose to make them dumb. Before Facebook Timeline spam there was MySpace spam, there was Email forwarding chain-mail, emails that would recommend you send it to 30 of your contacts for great reward. Facebook has just become so big, so popular, that the people who ‘abuse’ it aren’t blamed, but instead the dedicated group who builds it and gives it away for free, only using advertising to get a return. As if it’s their fault that people complain about their big assignment due the next day.

Facebook is simply a reflection of humanity. The need to belong, the need to feel good and be good. Slacktivism, for example, isn’t a Facebook problem. If you were to switch everyone on Facebook to Google+ you’d find that it’ll become bad too. In fact, in some ways, some of the annoyances of Facebook are already there, right now. You just have to see the ‘What’s Hot’ section that appears on the homepage occasionally to know this.

People love to complain about Facebook when instead they should be complaining about the people on it. Facebook is almost digital-perfection when it comes to emulation of human life, converting life into a binary entity, where it’s a requirement of 2012 to be on it, to feel connected. Like’s are just a representation of an emotional response with two options: on or off.

If you don’t turn on the ‘Like’ button, people won’t know your reaction. And we, as people, when the button is turned on, then assume the role of that ‘Like’. If someone Like’s a photo, it’s a simple compliment. If that photo’s funny, that one button can represent the fact that the receiver found it funny. If someone complains about something, and the Friends ‘Like’ it, we assume that they’re in agreement. Comments expand this, but Facebook has found an automatic response as a binary response to an open question.

So basically, as usual, I’ve swirled around a number of topics, but generally Facebook is just an emualation of real life. The difference, the problem perhaps, is that in real life if you aren’t friends with someone, you’ll ignore, exclude or just not talk to them. There is a hierarchy of friendship. On Facebook, however, most people simply see that they have one bundle of ‘Friends’. A lump of people who, maybe you’ve simply walked past. It’s now common courtesy to befriend everyone on Facebook, whereas in real life you subtly or obviously, if you’re a douchebag, make a destinction between friend and acquaintance. And this is almost always a subconscious response.

Facebook isn’t the problem here. Like Google+, you can make Lists of people, which is supposed to represent the hierarchy of life. Yet people ignore this feature.Making the broad statement that Facebook is just bad, or even that it’s a waste of time, is stupid in itself. We’ve made it that way. And there are ways to reverse it. We’ve failed to see that it’s a social setting made digital. The only difference, coming from a late Gen-Y, between now and 20 or 30 years ago is that we’ve made our thoughts available and our social availability unlimited.

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