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Fri Dec 09 01:58:12 SAST 2016

Facebook is making fools of us

Alen Proud | 2016-08-08 07:35:15.0
KNOWING ME, KNOWING YOU: FindFace, a mobile application that allows users to identify strangers at the click of their smartphone cameras, is the newest craze among Russia's youth.
Image by: ANDREY RUDAKOV/BLOOMBERG via GETTY

Facebook recently reported that, globally, its 1.65 billion active users spend an average of 60 minutes a day on the site.

So, what's the effect of Facebook on our public discourse? Without putting too fine a point on it, Facebook has had a terrible effect on the level of discourse globally. It bears a lot of the blame for the soundbite-laden, fact-free shouting match that much of modern politics has become.

Worse still, it has ruined the internet. It has taken a network which was once a freewheeling, intellectually focused place for the exchange of information and views and turned it into something resembling the future that was imagined for TV in the early 1990s.

Facebook dominates the online sphere, dumbs down debate, smothers media companies and brings out the worst in people:

DUMBING DOWN

In 2006, someone sent you a link to a blog post which ran to 800 words and made you think, perhaps changed your opinion. Before then, you might have picked up The Economist, read some articles with interest. Either way, your horizons were broadened.

Now you have your Facebook news feed. It's a series of soundbites, videos and one-liners like "Take Back Control". When it does link to longer articles, you probably don't read them. You skim the headline and move on to next piece of informational junk food.

IT'S AN ECHO CHAMBER

According to a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, people tend to congregate in communities of interest such as their Facebook friends . Instead of having their views challenged, their prejudices are reinforced.

IT'S A STALKER'S DREAM

Want to know what that ex-girlfriend is up to? Or the new bloke at work? Or just some random stranger whose name you know? Facebook's there for you.

EVERYTHING'S BLACK AND WHITE AND RED ALL OVER

Social media and smartphones have created something called "disinhibition". That is, you wouldn't laugh at someone whose child had died if they were standing in front you, but you might online because you don't see it as quite real.

LOSING TOUCH WITH PEOPLE IS OK

People move away, drift apart, lives change. Yet, it's surprisingly hard to cut that last, virtual link with someone you haven't seen in a decade . So he's still in your timeline and you still read his posts because there's still that ghost of an obligation.

BUT NOT SEEING YOUR REAL FRIENDS ISN'T

Spending time on Facebook makes you feel you've been hanging out with your friends.

But you haven't and there's no substitute for spending time together, drinking and laughing and talking. In the way that Facebook boosts the worth of people you never see and no longer care about, it devalues people you should see and do care about.

© The Daily Telegraph

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