MIDWAY : What a waste!
The young are doing it, so it must be worth doing — join Facebook! You put your little face in, or not, if you can’t work out how to do it. Other people who’ve done the same can now claim you as a “friend”. Facebook emails you, to ask if they’re really your friend. Depending on your mood, you can accept or reject these tendrils of companionship. Upon accepting, the person might message you with some sort of goodwill and you’ll chat away, and then realise you’ve had their email address for ages anyway, so if you wanted to chat that much, why not just email each other?
The most frequently over-egged assertion is for the importance of cyber-social networking. MySpace was the frontrunner, Craigslist was the MySpace for grownups. Controversy and cash accrued to both enterprises in tandem — would MySpace take responsibility for old people pretending to be young in order to communicate with young people? All cats are grey in the dark, and most cats in cyberspace are 17.
Would Craig Newmark sell out or reject the dotcom millions for cred? (“How much money does a human need?” was his final verdict.) MySpace threw up the odd pop sensation, a droll video of a cat falling down the back of a sofa. Like so much internet traffic, it’s just You’ve Been Framed without a decency filter.
As blogger and professor Jeff Jarvis wrote about Facebook: “So, we are the masters of our identities and our communities, which establishes trust.” We’re using our real names, in other words. But whether as ourselves, under pseudonyms or on Second Life as avatars, we are still messing about. What does it mean, to have 183 Facebook friends? That you will waste a small amount of time communicating with them, irregularly, or ignore them and feel a tiny amount of social guilt.
The internet is like the wheel — a lot of work has become faster as a result of its invention. People, once with a bicycle and now with online lonely hearts ads can look further afield for sex, and in the long term this will probably be a boon to genetic diversity. Cyberspace hasn’t changed our natures. Meaningful communities are still small in scale, built on time, effort and contact. Gangs of 200 people saying hello to each other are just so much landscape.