This post applies to many so called social networks, but I am going to use Facebook as an example here, since it is the one I know best.
There are many great things about Facebook. The one that I like most is that you can quickly ask for support from a large network of humans. There are quite a few stories where such on-line networks have been used to locate a person or to bring together people needed to collaborate on a creative project.
It has a great, easy to use interface and it’s friendly. And it does provide a good way to stay in touch with people that you care about and news that you’re interested in.
But from Facebook’s great advantages come its great short comings as well.
The very short story is that Facebook answers „What is new?” Instead of addressing the question: „What is best?”
„What is new” vs „What is best” is an idea that I got from the book „Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance„.
What is new? is a shallow question. It’s something that you ask, learn and forget about. It’s flooding your mind with information that you do not need and so you will never recall. And the next day you come back for more news, for more excitement, for more pictures, for more quotes. What happens with what you read yesterday? Or the day before that? Forgotten… Saved in the Facebook data-servers, feeding the ads engine.
There are a few alarming posts on Facebook from time to time, raising awareness on issues of great importance, but they suffer the same fate. They get buried under the „What’s new” of tomorrow.
So Facebook is great for flashy stuff, for organizing an event or for doing stuff that is fun and quick. But it’s terrible for things that take time and deep thought.
Have you noticed that when you write a long, thoughtful comment, Facebook truncates it and shows only the first 2 or 3 lines :)? Does anyone read those long comments? Judging by my own patterns and the „likes” those post get, the answer is: not many read them.
What is best? is a question that cuts deep. It forces you to pause and think and consider the possibilities. To research what others have discovered, what the state of affairs is, what the proposed solutions are, what has worked, what has failed and why?
„What is best?” is tough to answer and the answer is likely to be only temporary and biased towards the information that you currently have. And it takes time to inform yourself. But that is not a reason to shy away from the question!
Most forums and social interactions shy away from „what is best” and call it „flaming”. I am familiar with that process. However that is NOT what I talking about. I am not talking about „I am right and so you are wrong” kind of „best”. I am talking about genuine research and genuine search for truth and best practices. So it’s not a „debate” on my truth or your truth, it is a learning process and a discovery process of yourself and the world.
I can give some examples from the software industry where „What is best” has lead to the open source movement and some of the great software we are using today.
So why did I write this post?
I wrote it because, today, I was sent a piece of video where some students have acknowledged a beggar and have played music around him and have donated the money to him.
Impressing and moving video. I nearly cried when I saw that. And then I realized that tomorrow this will all be forgotten. It will bubble for some time on the „social network” but then more „new stuff” will take its place. My temporary emotional reactions are a personal release but will not help anyone else.
So I started to wonder about „what is best?” and this is closely linked to „what matters, what is most important”?
The answer that I’ve found so far for those questions is Energy. No, it’s not money… Money is just a shadow of something else.
Everything runs on energy. From our bodies, to our cars to our „economy”. And we can go much deeper into cellular life, chemical reactions and then out in the cosmos, but that’s a different story.
To be fair, this pops up now and then on Facebook (and in the „online social sphere”), but it quickly gets buried under the next trending story, the next „What’s new”.
Because very few ask the „what’s best?” question, most do not realize the importance of Energy. If they did, it is likely that it will be the only thing posted about on Facebook.
So it seems like there is some kind of limit of what we can take in: cute cats, emotional videos, cute babies, uplifting quotes: those are OK. But do they have an effect? Are they „what’s best” for us right now? They probably do have an effect helping us go through the drudgery of the day, but that’s pretty much it.
Now imagine, if you can, that for a few days the trending stories would be about Energy and Energy supply. About Alternative Energy sources that are renewable. About a reality so different from that of today where work is no longer required, where people no longer have to beg to live, where cute cats become obsolete (because everything is just so beautiful), where we live in peace and harmony and we would no longer need our „daily fix” from Facebook.
Could this happen?
I know some have attempted it and others are still at it but it does not catch on. Why? Because it’s not new. (In fact is pretty ancient). It requires thought and attention. It requires time and deep thinking. It requires introspection and creative thinking. And sometimes it requires giving up on some of our core beliefs. It is much harder than crying at a video of a beggar impressed by the sudden attention.
And this is really my problem with Facebook and other social networks. Their potential is amazing and they offer us awesome power to focus and come together… and yet we waste that. We dissipate our energies and mental power and memory, chasing the ever elusive „What’s new” while „what’s best” and „what’s important” (as old as they are) are being ignored and not addressed, unless someone writes an „what’s new” rehash of the old story.
I invite you to take an hour or two and think about „What’s best” and „What’s important” in your life and then expand it to your family, your country and the Planet.
And now I wonder how many of you got this far? How may read more that the 10 words in the Facebook intro? 🙂
To those of you that did… I thank you!