Reluctantly Facebooking

It’s hard to believe I haven’t posted since February. Given the topic of my last blog post and the length of time that has passed since, I feel like I should jot some thoughts down.

I reactivated my Facebook account when I realized in late May that it was, indeed, my only way to contact some people I actually did want to keep in touch with. There’s a lot of utility in the software, all its invasive advertising and privacy warts aside. To help keep my sanity, I have prioritized some user feeds for notifications in the Android application while generally avoiding logging into the web site. On the few occasions that a visit to the full Facebook site is in order, I have begun launching a Chrome incognito browser window to separate it from my other online activities. In exchange, I imagine at least that I am minimizing the invasiveness of online tracking features such as Facebook Connect. As an added bonus, maybe I moved down the priority of a government watch list somewhere. After all, Facebook Abstainers Could Be Labeled Suspicious. This is a weird new world we live in.

I’m re-reading a book from the mid-90s called Silicon Snake Oil by Clifford Stoll. I started reading it when I was a super-nerdy teenager who was convinced the Internet was the best thing since sliced bread. I don’t recall if I ever finished it the first time, as I found his questioning of everything I found so magical to be disconcerting. This time around, I find most of his assertions about the utility of technology to be laughable. He openly questioned the feasibility of social networking (without knowing that term), e-commerce, and a variety of other things that we take for granted now. What he was very spot-on about is the loss of “realness” that comes with so many online interactions. He painted beautiful pictures with his words that made library shelves and card catalogs, human interaction, and outdoor adventures seem charming and exciting rather than relics of bygone eras. As a whole, the book is so anachronistic now that it seems absurd, but I would be very interested to read a follow-up essay from Mr. Stoll on what we have lost as a society with the Internet.