Social Programming

Caitlin and I had dinner with my parents over the weekend and I couldn’t help but notice that a lot of their stories that in the past would have started with “I was talking to [so-and-so] the other day,” now begin with “I saw on Facebook the other day that [yada yada].” That’s not a meaningless difference.

Facebook, not unlike Snow Crash‘s Metaverse, which I discussed yesterday, has become more than just an online community. Its has become the social community, online or off.

I realize that this is not news and, in a lot of ways, is not particularly exciting. But I do think it’s interesting for what it says about people as a whole. I disagree with Snow Crash‘s asserting that people, at some basic and fundamental level, can be reprogrammed like computers, in part because I think that something like the inverse of that is true. You can’t reprogram people like a piece of technology. But if you reprogram your technology to better suit the underlying wants of people, well, that could work.

I would suggest that Facebook has expanded out of the virtual realm due to two principal factors: 1) accessibility, and 2) ease of use. Essentially anyone with internet access can join – and probably has joined – Facebook. And because of that all-encompassing accessibility, Facebook has become something of a one-stop-informational-stop for a lot of people. Everyone you know – and everything that they know – is already there, so where else would you go for information? Why surf around the internet or TV or browse through books or magazines when you could just go to one place and find everything you’re looking for?

The power of Facebook isn’t that it’s reprogramming humans, it’s that it’s playing to our most basic wants. We want to feel connected. We want to listen and to feel heard. We’re also pretty lazy about the whole thing. So Facebook gives us everyone and everything, all in one spot. That the quality of both the connections and information is suspect at best is irrelevant. Quality is not a primary concern. If it were, McDonald’s would not have 32,000 restaurants worldwide.

We want access to people and information and we want it easily. As long as Facebook keeps giving us that, we’ll welcome it into our lives, even if it may not be the most trustworthy companion.

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