Patricia Bralley, a friend who I met through blogging, recently tagged me on Facebook, asking what I thought of a recent article in the International Business Times by Hossein Derakhshan calling Mark Zuckerberg a hypocrite for claiming that Facebook encourages a global, interconnected society. Derakhshan was imprisoned for his own web activism in Iran between 2008 and 2014; the stakes of using the internet were considerably greater for him than for most of us. Let me first quote a few bits of his article; my own reply to Patricia is below.
"While Zuckerberg laments at walls and admires bridges, the fact is that his Facebook algorithms have created billions of these comfort bubbles that are more isolating than walls. Also, he has destroyed the most powerful bridges that perhaps ever existed in the human history, the hyperlinks...Facebook's desire to keep users inside of it all the time is why it can generate so much advertising money. But that means it provides less and less reasons for anyone to leave its environment, in order to read an article or watch a video.
"It is heart-breaking to see how Facebook has changed the internet into little more than a portal for entertainment."
"Blogs were the best thing that had ever happened on the internet. They democratised writing and publishing – at least in many parts of the world. They gave a voice to many silenced groups and minorities. They connected friends, families, communities, and nations around the world. They encouraged discussions and debates...The World Wide Web was founded on the links, and without links, there won't be a web. Without links the experience of being on the internet will become one of a centralised, linear, passive, inward-looking and homogeneous kind. This is happening already, and despite Zuckerberg's sermon, it is largely Facebook and Instagram who are to be blame for the demise of links, and thereby the death of the open web and all its potentials for a more peaceful world."
Patricia, I'm on Facebook, basically, under protest. I use it for letting people know what's going on with Phoenicia Publishing, and to keep in touch with family and friends who aren't anywhere else, or those who simply don't use email anymore, but it is no substitute for what our blogs used to be. Facebook, in my opinion, has impoverished content, and impoverished community, thoughtfulness, and connection. I keep my blog going, but often wonder if I'm just doing it for myself. I always post a link on FB to a new blogpost, but question whether many readers even leave FB to go to the blog and actually read it or look at the images before "liking" or commenting below the FB post.
Back in March, when The Cassandra Pages turned 13, there were 13 comments on my blog. On the FB link to the same post, there were 12 comments and 60 "likes." Three years earlier, almost all the comments -- 40 or so -- were on my blog itself. I appreciate those "likes" and comments very much, but these statistics represent a big shift in terms of where people are reading, and what they see as their place of communication.
One of my biggest objections is that FB encourages our natural laziness (my own included, unfortunately) - it's so much easier to just hit "like" than to actually engage when we are all inundated with internet information. It also plays into our anxiety about isolation through the falsity of quantitative reassurance. I think, frankly, it's time to start resisting this and to engage more seriously again with the people we care about - yourself included - even if that means fewer "friends," and dealing with the radical concept of less actually being more.
I'd like to add that while my FB interactions are fairly minimal, I have started posting longer-form content on Instagram in connection with certain images. Other people are doing this as well, and we seem to be forming a loose community that reminds me somewhat of blogging. I don't think social media is necessarily devoid of creativity or content, but it takes time and effort to use it differently.
Thanks for asking.
Readers, what do you think? Is it worth keeping a blog like this going? What about your own? If you've stopped blogging, why was that, and are you happy with social media as a substitute? Do you think there will be a swing back to longer-form content in other places on the web, and a reaction to social media - as some have predicted - or do you think the die is cast?