Michael Albert on Facebook and Twitter
What are the major problems of using sites like Facebook or Twitter, particularly for activists?
First there are the general problems, and I suppose you could say the more subtle ones. So, Facebook is basically trying to take the place of most of what is potentially good about the internet.
At the beginning of the internet there was an effort to have all online activity mediated by large corporations - American Online was the archtype. Then along came the World Wide Web and the possibility of organizations putting up their own sites, their own blogs, etc., all outside the purview of any overarching company such as AOL. The development of the web was actually a very liberating step that generated lots of creativity, originality, etc. It happened because the costs of provision and maintenance of individual sites dropped dramatically. What are called the barriers to entry lowered and, as a result, the internet became a very diverse place. Now what Facebook is doing, I believe, is trying to get everyone back under one umbrella - which is Facebook itself. And they are actually succeeding, and not only succeeding but, incredibly, being celebrated for doing so. Thus many operations now see their most important web presence as their activity on and within the confine of Facebook. Independent Web sites are declining in significance, separate blogs too, and even email - as Facebook and Twitter grow and all the activity comes under their purview with a sharp diminution of diversity and creativity. The associated trend, quite predictably, is that information is sustained by ads, commercialization runs wild, personal data is no longer personal, and information flow is made steadily less substantial and rich, and more oriented to sales.There is more volume to generate more eyes on ads, but there is less substance to remove controversy and anything else that could deter sales. Twitter even enshrines the value of short nuggets, tweets, rather than more complete substance, and people get so used to this that preferences and attention spans begin to alter in accord.
Using Facebook may still make sense for finding old friends and staying in touch with friends and relatives and for transfer of non revelatory information - and I am unsure what that might be - sort of like using banks makes sense, or pharmaceutical companies, and so on, for limited ends. But beyond that, I am not sure it has other virtues - and its problems are certainly enormous. Twitter? Well, if you eliminate length limits and bend it so it doesn’t bias against substance, I think something like Twitter could have some valuable uses - and so FaceLeft is developing a system of Flows. rather than tweets, but other than that, for myself, I am not sure Twitter has any redeeming features at all. Except, again, that in the absence of tools of our own, we can try to bend and cajole it into servicing worthy ends, even while, overwhelmingly, it is doing the opposite.
We condense unmarked time.