A recent article on CNN.com by an Austin based reporter garnered several antagonistic and arrogant responses, not least of which called users of Facebook "sissy men" and encouraged readers to play sports and watch more sports channels. I tried to weigh in with a comment that was possibly too passive-aggressive, and when others jumped all over me for it, I found I wasn't able to respond to them; further encouraging the beast that is an internet argument.
So I've taken to my own unread blog to respond, mostly because I won't be able to get through my day unless I offer a long-winded, ambling and incoherent response.
The article basically says that despite everyone bitching about social networks, privacy and the erosion of face to face communication, Facebook is here to stay. One seventh of the world's population uses it. I think at this point the only thing being more utilized is oxygen. I use it a lot. I tried moving away from it, but here's the thing about ubiquitous monopolies; they're usually very easy to use. I know they come with scary privacy policies and leaky protections against third party data mining, but my view is, if I was worried about that, I wouldn't be using the thing in the first place. Is it fair to say I should have to trade my personal information in order to use a free social site? I think that's the price you pay for "free." I fail to see how much more nefarious Facebook can be than targeted ads. Think about it. They aren't getting a dime from you so they have to use advertising to make some money to cover the overhead. Targeted ads result in more revenue because you're more likely to buy. So, is that the worst thing that can happen?
Imagine you walk into a bar and start ordering drinks. The drinks are free, there's no cover, and you can meet all your friends at any time. You dictate the music that's played and who is invited. Now, in order to pay for all this, the bar has to sell ad space on the napkins and coasters and TVs and the backs of chairs and maybe the servers' shirts. For everything you see there that you go buy later, the bar gets a cut. If they're randomly putting up ads for medical equipment, crochet needles and tours of the airbases at Okinawa, are they going to get a lot back? Not from me. If, however, I walk in the door and they ask me some questions about who I am and then all the ads become about space combat games and cheap places to take my kids and a few good breakfast taco/coffee shops, you bet I'd shop those.
Is the trade off bad? That's up to you to sort out. I'm not going to comment too much about personal privacy or else I'll have every Libertarian I know yelling at me about government interference and the death of personal privacy.
What I would like to talk about is all the negativity that seems to stem from using social networking sites as a waste of time. First, let me just say, "Duh!" Social networking sites are supposed to be a time waster. What could you possibly be thinking if you feel Facebook and Twitter are built primarily as constructive, community building applications? To be fair, they CAN be used to organize events, reach out to your constituents, be the face of a foundation or cause, but at their cores, these things are ways for people to talk to each other in much the same way we talk face to face; about nothing.
Think about it. The last time you hung out with your friends, what did you talk about? Stuff you saw on TV? A sporting event? What your kids or parents were doing? How many of you (dictators and billionaire geniuses aside) planned the next revolution? How many of you even said more than a few meaningful and deep things that changed someone's life? And I'm talking about the most immediate interaction you had. My guess is very few of us.
So why is it that there's this constant desire to put down Facebook because you're not on it? Is your time better spent than mine because you aren't wasting time the same way I am? I don't watch a lot of TV, and when I do put something on the big box sitting on that shelf, it's usually talking head shows or Netflix. So is my Facebook time somehow worse than your reality TV time? If I'm posting artwork in the hopes that someone will see it and order something from me, how is that worse than you watching The Bachelor? Which is more noble, posting pictures of my kids so my grandparents can see them, or you taking that time to have another shot of tequila and then puking an hour later? Which "social" is more constructive?
Agreed, I don't care to see when people say their lives suck but never follow up. I don't want to know who is playing what game online. I don't need to know what purses you like or what opinion you have about certain musicians. But I read it anyway because that's part of who you are. If we were at a restaurant catching up, what would you say to me? I really like this new pair of pants I saw, or did you read that latest Green Lantern, or man I can't believe how much lag there is on Diablo III. It's the same thing. We're wasting the same time, so don't get all high-and-mighty about how your beer swilling floats down a river are somehow better than my party organizing or news article reading.
You're not better, you're just bitter.