What do we do about Facebook?

Every technology… every tool… that has ever been invented has the potential to be used for good or for evil. A sharpened rock helped us plow the first garden and a sharpened rock helped us kill more efficiently. How we as a society and as individuals will go forward using the tool known as Facebook (where ironically a version of this piece appeared) will be an interesting study in that phenomenon. But I am firmly of the opinion that every tool can potentially be useful.

Social media, when used without intention or thought, can properly be accused of sometimes creating only highlight reels of people’s lives, which can then create a false sense of your own relative success or happiness or worth. It can also reveal the absolute worst in people, their hatred and ignorance and ugliness.

But all it is, really, is a fancier mirror.

Mirrors let us see a reflection of ourselves, but only a reflection. On the one hand, it lets us see something of how the world sees us, to see ourselves in the world, and ourselves in others, sometimes creating tribes that span the globe. But it can also become a narrow view, an echo chamber, showing only one version of ourselves, and sometimes dividing us more.

Mirrors can reflect back reality, but sometimes they also distort. We sometimes see our blemishes for what they are, harsh and real, and it can also shine a light into the dark corners around us, and within us. But if we’re not careful, all we’ll see are the blemishes and the scary things in the corner, instead of the fuller, richer picture of the world that a mirror alone can’t give us.

So as you ponder what you’re going to do with Facebook going forward… and Instagram and Twitter and Tinder and Pintergram and Twitterist and InterWebstiMail… first ponder the hammer. And what a hammer is for.

Suppose I want to hang a piece of art on my wall because it brings me joy. I need a nail to hang it from. Do I use a rock or a hammer to knock that nail into the wall? Both will do the job. But one works better than the other, most of the time.

Or I can use a fancier new tech like my beloved 3M Command Hooks… don’t need a hammer at all.

Or I could just put the artwork on a shelf.

So when it comes to wanting human connections, because they also bring me joy, what are the tools I’m going to use, and when? Do a need a hammer, or some fancy self-adhesive wall hangers (and the factory that makes them), or just a place to spend time with and admire the works of art that I love? Or do I occasionally need a large rock? (take that metaphor as you will!)

My suggestion? As you are able, fill up your toolbox with all the tools you can, learn how they work as best you can, and learn how they best work for you. And if you’d like help finding new tools, or working better with the tools you have, that’s a conversation I’d love to have with you.

But in the meantime, it’s also just fine to start with a rock.

Or a stick.


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