Monday, June 30, 2014

This week's Facebook kerfuffle

Everyone is up in arm's about Facebook messing with their emotional lives this week.  As those of you who know me will not be shocked, I am of two minds about this, but really not all that much.

On the one hand, yes, it is not nice of Facebook to deliberately play around with people's emotions.  I get that.  Had someone gone and killed themselves or somebody else while being subject to their feed manipulation, there would have been some kinda lawsuits landing on Zuckie's doorstep.

On the other hand, I suspect that the real issue here is people realizing the extent to which they leave themselves open to emotional influence by Facebook, or by the people we see on Facebook, which is the mirror of ourselves we have constructed there.  Some people look at it a lot, others not so much.  Some people have lots of friends on there, and therefore almost by definition (see Dunbar's Number) , are connected to people they don't know well at all.  Facebook has gained an unprecedented power in people's lives.  Which can be both very very good and very very bad.

There was a great piece in the Wall Street Journal this morning on the "Distraction-Industrial Complex."  In short, the author talks about how not having a broadband connection at home is the greatest boon to his productivity at work and his life at home because he's not being drawn back to his computer screen all the time to do some task he could've gotten done at work or, alternately, to see how the rest of the world is reacting to his most recent wisecrack, or how his high school girlfriend or nemesis is spending vacation.

I think there's a lot of truth to this.  I have to really try to limit my time on Facebook.  I try not to pay too much attention to my blog traffic, though I totally know what it is.

I recently read about a mutual fund manager who models himself on Buffett who has built a no-distraction room at his office.  No phone, internet, what have you, where he can go in and read and think.  We all need and crave that.  Everybody who exercises cites as a benefit to be unconnected from all the hullabaloo to be calm and think about stuff.

But it's hard to get there, because connection and attention are like crack.

In the end, re Facebook, I gotta quote Gogol:  don't blame the mirror if your mug is crooked.

But now, back to the coalmine.

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