Over a week ago, I introduced the cover story in the current edition of The Atlantic by Stephen Marche entitled, ”Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?” (May 2012, pp. 60-69). As part of his material, Marche reviews the contributions of John Cacioppo. Cacioppo is with the University of Chicago as the director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience.
Based on Cacioppo’s work about Facebook and its users, Marche shares two deeply significant observations. The first one involves the dynamics of friendships online versus offline:
”The idea that a Web site could deliver a more friendly, interconnected world is bogus. The depth of ones social network outside Facebook is what determines the depth of ones social network within Facebook, not the other way around. Using social media doesn’t create new social networks; it just transfers established networks from one platform to another.” (pp. 67-68)
In other words, social media will not produce what you don’t already have. Nevertheless, what you already have can be transferred into a whole new dimension online should you so choose. That additional platform of interaction might facilitate relationship enhancements and connectivity.
The second deeply significant observation, partially based on the first, involves a simplified, yet very accurate, depiction of exactly what Facebook is:
“Facebook is merely a tool, . . . and like any tool, its effectiveness will depend on its user.” (p. 68)
I’ve done some pretty cool things with hammers, screwdrivers, and drills. Occasionally, I’ve done some pretty stupid things with them too. I have some friends who can use those same tools far more effectively than I can. Facebook is the same way. It is merely a tool. Each user determines Facebook’s effectiveness.
Instead of poking fun at Facebook, criticizing it for its many changes, constantly questioning its privacy policies, expecting more from it than it can deliver, and laying guilt upon it for its supposed infliction of evil upon society, let’s simply treat it for what it is–a tool. How you use it is entirely up to you.
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