The Virtual Gardens of Social Media

I exist on Facebook. I do not exist on any of the other social media sites (twitter, instagram, snapchat, etc… )—mainly because I have avoided getting a smart phone.

In any case, I find Facebook to be a really useful tool.

I like it.

I find out about various events and I use it as an information feed about various stuff going on in the world. Yes, there can be lots of memes and spam—but I’ve diligently spent time removing such things from my newsfeed—whether that meant hiding particular sources of information or removing particular people from appearing in my feed.

In other words, I weed my feed on a regular basis.

Facebook is, in my view, a kind of virtual garden. It is a place where stuff comes into existence, grows (or doesn’t if people don’t comment and build upon it), and then fades—only to be replaced by new stuff.

cybergarden

It is a virtual environment. It is not reality—not even close. It is clearly a construct, and it is always under the control of a private group who can manipulate it at will (See the latest facebook manipulation of users’ feeds..). Despite all of this—I find myself at home on it, and I will continue to use it as long as it is useful.

Not all of my friends see it that way. I have a number of friends who have left facebook. Some of them did so because of privacy concerns—which are legit. I mean, this useful venn diagram speaks the truth…

privacy1

Others, however, have talked about leaving facebook because of the content of their news feed. They’ve talked about how they don’t like all the negativity and conflict.  And, indeed, if you have certain people on your friends list who are assholes, your feed can become an ongoing list of reasons why to avoid certain humans.

But it doesn’t have to be like that.  Facebook is not reality.  It does not show you what reality is like–it merely shows you how a collection of people want to construct and shape their own reality.

This collection of people form the virtual environment.  But we have the power to shape this environment.  Although we do not have absolute power in shaping it, we do have powerful abilities if we just have the will to use them.

This is why I think of my facebook as a garden.  And my feed is lot like my own garden.

garden

It can be somewhat wild, but it is full of healthy and fruitful interactions.  Sometimes weeds get into it–or their are infections that spread to parts–but careful pruning and the application of smart rules of conduct keep it growing and productive.

This is also partially why I still like my facebook–because it is a garden–and I like working in my garden.

This metaphor–and that’s all it is–does not accurately describe everyone’s interaction with FB, of course, and I make no claims that it does.  All I would say is that FB–like most other social media technologies–is a kind of environment.  It is a space filled with many different subjects and agents pushing their own conscious and unconscious agendas.  Some of these will be in conflict, while others will be in harmony.  For me, it’s important to maintain a certain level of basic structural harmony, even if I let low level conflicts exist within this controlled space.

So–if you are avoiding facebook because you don’t like how the content is–then know that you can change it–but it does require work.   Gardens do not take care of themselves–whether physical or virtual

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About Prof. Woland

I contain multitudes. Come meet us.
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