In a recent phone conversation with a friend I was chided gently (or, to be fair, tacitly) for not involving myself in a conversation that he begun via the medium of facebook. Of course, the obvious response to something like this is to adapt the disdainful tone of the habitual Facebook-abstainer, but I think it may be worth considering what I don’t like about it, especially as its popularity has allowed its design principles to cast their baleful influence far and wide.

Leaving the whole content issue aside, the “wall” format that FB copped off of Twitter a few years ago is hell on conversations. The stream of detritus that it represents encourages only the briefest and more cursory interactions, and furthermore encourages monitoring to such an extent that taking time out to string more than a glib aside together prevents its use as intended. Topics are not to be stepped into, they are to be waved at as they go by.

I think that there’s a real false sense here that seeing everything go by constitutes a grasp on the world. The fact that the internet has made everyone a bogoexpert on every subject in existence has been fairly widely noted, and this sort of info-consolidation encourages that no end. Nobody bothers to remember that actually knowing about a particular thing and using it as a lens is the best option a human being has available for real comprehension.

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