[div class=attrib]Echo and Narcissus, John William Waterhouse [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons[end-div]
About 12 months ago I committed suicide — internet suicide that is. I closed my personal Facebook account after recognizing several important issues. First, it was a colossal waste of time; time that I could and should be using more productively. Second, it became apparent that following, belonging and agreeing with others through the trivial “wall” status-in-a-can postings and now pervasive “like button” was nothing other than a declaration of mindless group-think and a curious way to maintain social standing. So, my choice was clear: become part of a group that had similar interests, like-minded activities, same politics, parallel beliefs, common likes and dislikes; or revert to my own weirdly independent path. I chose the latter, rejecting the road towards a homogeneity of ideas and a points-based system of instant self-esteem.
This facet of the Facebook ecosystem has an affect similar to the filter bubble that I described is a previous post, The Technology of Personalization and the Bubble Syndrome. In both cases my explicit choices on Facebook, such as which friends I follow or which content I “like”, and my implicit browsing behaviors that increasingly filter what I see and don’t see causes a narrowing of the world of ideas to which I am a exposed. This cannot be good.
So, although I may incur the wrath of author Neil Strauss for including an excerpt of his recent column below, I cannot help but “like” what he has to say. More importantly, he does a much more eloquent job of describing the issue which commoditizes social relationships and, dare I say it, lowers the barrier to entry for narcissists to grow and fine tune their skills.
[div class=attrib]By Neil Strauss for the Wall Street Journal:[end-div]
If you happen to be reading this article online, you’ll notice that right above it, there is a button labeled “like.” Please stop reading and click on “like” right now.
Thank you. I feel much better. It’s good to be liked.
Don’t forget to comment on, tweet, blog about and StumbleUpon this article. And be sure to “+1” it if you’re on the newly launched Google+ social network. In fact, if you don’t want to read the rest of this article, at least stay on the page for a few minutes before clicking elsewhere. That way, it will appear to the site analytics as if you’ve read the whole thing.
Once, there was something called a point of view. And, after much strife and conflict, it eventually became a commonly held idea in some parts of the world that people were entitled to their own points of view.
Unfortunately, this idea is becoming an anachronism. When the Internet first came into public use, it was hailed as a liberation from conformity, a floating world ruled by passion, creativity, innovation and freedom of information. When it was hijacked first by advertising and then by commerce, it seemed like it had been fully co-opted and brought into line with human greed and ambition.
But there was one other element of human nature that the Internet still needed to conquer: the need to belong. The “like” button began on the website FriendFeed in 2007, appeared on Facebook in 2009, began spreading everywhere from YouTube to Amazon to most major news sites last year, and has now been officially embraced by Google as the agreeable, supportive and more status-conscious “+1.” As a result, we can now search not just for information, merchandise and kitten videos on the Internet, but for approval.
Just as stand-up comedians are trained to be funny by observing which of their lines and expressions are greeted with laughter, so too are our thoughts online molded to conform to popular opinion by these buttons. A status update that is met with no likes (or a clever tweet that isn’t retweeted) becomes the equivalent of a joke met with silence. It must be rethought and rewritten. And so we don’t show our true selves online, but a mask designed to conform to the opinions of those around us.
Conversely, when we’re looking at someone else’s content—whether a video or a news story—we are able to see first how many people liked it and, often, whether our friends liked it. And so we are encouraged not to form our own opinion but to look to others for cues on how to feel.
“Like” culture is antithetical to the concept of self-esteem, which a healthy individual should be developing from the inside out rather than from the outside in. Instead, we are shaped by our stats, which include not just “likes” but the number of comments generated in response to what we write and the number of friends or followers we have. I’ve seen rock stars agonize over the fact that another artist has far more Facebook “likes” and Twitter followers than they do.
[div class=attrib]More from theSource here.[end-div]