Saturday, February 09, 2013

Postman's Take on Facebook

Neil Postman believed that through television, our society would become consumed and destroyed through pleasure.  In Amusing Ourselves to Death, Postman wrote in the early 1980s that of the futures presented by 1984 and Brave New World that we would not allow the intrusive Big Brother of Orwell.

We would be Soma'ed into allowing the kind control that Orwell couldn't imagine. Aldus Huxley presented a world as numb, or worse, from the intoxicants presented and voluntarily consumed in Brave New World.  Postman wrote:

In the Huxleyan prophecy, Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours. 

If he were alive today, Postman surely would see social media circa 2013 as the total fulfillment of his dystopian vision.  Two recent developments regarding our Facebook lives bring this into focus.

The warnings are out there now that Facebook's app will soon begin tracking you 24/7/365, whether you use the app or not.  In some ways, no ground breaking here since Apple had to admit it has been doing the same.

For years I warn students in social media training they are signing up for the world's largest data mining operation when they join Facebook.  So we shouldn't be too shocked that geolocation is now added.

And if having a tracker in your pocket -- no need to ask for your papers please -- is enough to finally send you running away from Facebook, your lack of participation may be viewed as dangerous as well.

Would future employers, potential suitors or Homeland Security personnel understand your concern about the invasions of your privacy by Facebook?  No, they will see you as having something to hide, someone to be concerned about.  Even so far as to label you a sociopath.  Not sharing your live and location with the world becomes the new abnormal.

He writes of TV, but a longer passage from Postman to think about:

When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.

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