Since the earliest days of Facebook, social scientists have sent up warnings saying that the ability to maintain separate “contexts” (where you reveal different aspects of yourself to different people) was key to creating and maintaining meaningful relationships, but Mark Zuckerberg ignored this advice, insisting that everyone be identified only by their real names and present a single identity to everyone in their lives, because anything else was “two-faced.”
Zuck was following in the footsteps of other social network entrepreneurs who attempted to impose their own theories of social interaction on mass audiences — danah boyd has written and presented extensively on the user rebellions of Friendster from people who wanted to form interest-based affinity groups and use pseudonymous identities for different activities, which Friendster rejected out of a mix of commercial concerns (it wanted users to arrange their social affairs to make it easier to monetize them) and fringe theories of social interaction.
But while all the other social networks collapsed, Facebook thrived, and imposed the Zuckerberg model of “one identity, one context” on billions of users, who, research consistently finds, are made unhappy and angry by their use of the service, but are nevertheless psychologically compelled to continue using it, creating a vicious feedback loop that even Zuck has acknowledged as a risk to his business.
Read the whole thing.
Over the last couple of years I’ve been off Twitter except for the occasional silly remark, and limit my Facebook time to little more than similar silliness and pictures of my kids. And I’ve found I’m much more relaxed.
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