I like you, not what you like

‘We’re more than what we did recently.’

A rather inelegant way of announcing the continuing growth of Facebook, I thought, til I realised that by ‘we’ Mark Zuckerberg meant ‘Facebook users’, and he was explaining the new Timeline.

Well we certainly are, but that doesn’t mean we want to put more of our lives online. Is that not the most common reaction to this new development? Yet Zuckerberg appears to be quite obsessed with everybody sharing everything online, going further and further back.

I saw him on TV enthusing about how you can share with and recommend to your ‘friends’ even more of what you do – meals you cook (this seemed to excite him a lot), films you’ve seen, books you’ve read (well, maybe not, heavy Facebook users don’t tend to read books).

As Ben Parr on the Mashable blog put it, ‘Facebook wants to chronicle your life, and now you can see the scrapbook.’

Perhaps this will appeal to groups of like-minded people who always take notice of what their friends like, and like to share everything with them, but it doesn’t really work for my group. And, let me say here, my Facebook friends are real-life friends. I’ve chatted over a drink, for far too long, with all of them, and I’ve even shared a house or been on holiday with lots of them – both, in many cases.

Then it clicked why this sort of thing excites people like Zuckerberg. Facebook was  invented by a Harvard student for other Harvard students, and there can be no more homogenous group of people in the world than Harvard students: similar age group, similar socio-economic backgrounds, similar intelligence. Perhaps similarly lacking in imagination or originality?

‘See what your friends do! You should be the same! You must do whatever your community does!’ is how internet consultant Phil Bradley sums up this latest move. In his recent blog post ‘Facebook taking control’, he is unhappy with a new Guardian Facebook app which means that if you read a Guardian article while in Facebook, it appears as news in your Timeline. ‘There is no “Liking”, no recommending – the simple fact of reading the specific article is all that’s needed to tell everyone… exactly what you’re reading,’ says Phil.

A lot of young people believe that their Facebook profiles are pored over in detail. Every  taste, choice, ‘like’ marks who you are – but at the same time it’s not really you.

And in her book Alone Together, Sherry Turkle has found that these young people are becoming worried about Facebook. They are unhappy with this ‘bad way’ of thinking in which they are reduced to fit a stereotype.

As one senior year student says, ‘You get reduced to a list of favourite things. “List your favourite music.” That gives you no liberty at all about how to say it. ‘You have to worry that you put down the right band or that you don’t put down some Polish novel that nobody’s read.’

To share his interest in political mural art in Belfast would be, he says, ‘the kiss of death. Too much… too weird. And yet… it is a part of who I am, isn’t it?’

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About libraryinfonews

Writer on publishing, books, libraries, mountains, Spain
This entry was posted in Facebook, Guardian, reading. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to I like you, not what you like

  1. Kathleen says:

    I’m not sure why the senior year student feels he can’t put down that Polish novel. Or the Belfast murals. Comments like these show why Facebook usage (separate from the “intent” of the site itself) is interesting. Many people using it worry that they have to construct an “acceptable” (even when apparently non-conformist) identity for themselves through their “likes” and “lists”. Which has always been the case for young people but perhaps online it’s writ large? A magnified set of perceived pressures? Fascinating! I don’t use Facebook myself because I didn’t find it a particularly useful forum for self-expression or conversation. Then again, plenty of others do…

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