Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Electronic Sandbox

I heard this morning on the radio that a student in Omaha left a profanity-laced suicide note on his Facebook page before shooting others and then himself. And I recalled that I recently exchanged emails with a friend on the subject of how lonely many FB users seem, and we wondered if commenting on FB helped to ease their pain and sense of isolation. In the case of the Omaha suicide, apparently not. One can feel ignored even on a social network.

Looking at my Facebook wall this morning, reading about this woman freaking out and that man posting photos from his early boyhood, this woman advertizing her latest poetry reading (mea culpa) and that man sucking up to an editor, I wonder if the popularity of this social-network site is its indulgence of immaturity. The level of communication is generally pitched quite low, encouraging adults to behave like children--maybe not kindergarteners but elementary-school or high-school students. Is Facebook the way for many people to make up for the attention they longed for but never got in school? Is it an electronic pool for Narcissus to gaze into? Also, in spending a lot of time online, including on FB, are people ceding politics, which still demands face-to-face contact, to the most venal among us? And pols also excel at manipulating the Internet.

Thankfully, there are some intelligent FB users who seem to desire genuine discourse and who post provocative questions, good quotations, or references to serious reading and who reply to other users with thoughtful comments. I like to think that these are the sort of people who follow my blog, and I thank them. And, yes, I'll post this blog entry on Facebook.