Saturday, 13 April 2013


It is well known amongst educationalists that if you are struggling to get a shy child to communicate what they have learnt, it is often successful to give the child a puppet or a bear and let the child express the ideas it has through the puppet or the bear.  The child invests some effort into constructing the personality of the toy (over which it has total ownership) and is therefore quite happy to let the toy voice opinions.  It depersonalises the right and wrong of what may or may not be being said.  If it get things wrong, it is the bear that has got things wrong and not the child.

I have been wondering if Facebook works along similar lines.  However, before I go any further I will have to admit to being a Facebook virgin, I only know about it in theory and from what people tell me and from the damage it does to the relationships the teenagers I teach have with each other. What I find fascinating is that people do adopt Facebook personas.  You read what they write (I've seen screen dumps of argument threads) and you can hear their voices, but yet it isn't them.  They are in some ways bolder, in other ways more trivial and careless than the individuals you know in real life.  It is something to hide behind, it is a stage onto which you can project a certain representation of who you'd like to be at that precise moment.  And critically, for Facebook you NEED an immediate audience, these are your "friends".  I think it would be very rare to find someone who was self-assured enough to be themselves on Facebook, warts and all.

So it involves the projection of a certain image, it means that when a "conversation" happens on Facebook it is not a conversation reaching cor ad cor.  It is "my projection of myself reaching out and wanting your projection of yourself to make some sort of response to this".  The danger really is, that people believe their Facebook persona to be them.  It is, it has to be, a shallow, vague approximation of the person with all the difficult and deep bits removed.  As a forum for people getting to know each other, ie. become real friends, it sucks. It will always have the fallback position of becoming Punch and Judy or Sooty and Sweep.
Harry Corbett and friends.

As least with blogging, a blogger is writing the thoughts wafting through her skull, it is a diary of sorts but in the public domain, and as such it does not demand responses.  A blog isn't crying out for attention and "likes", it just sits there, the static creation of a flawed creator who for some unfathomable reason doesn't mind their thoughts potentially going global. Though I am left wondering if bloggers are therefore wierder, and even less emotionally stable than regular Facebook* users.

*There are other Social Networking outlets.

1 comment:

Robert said...

I am not fond of Facebook. I think you are very correct about the persona/puppet element. I think it is very common, and very harmful. I think there is a similar problem with email. I think people can more easily "say" very harsh, critical, nasty, harmful things in email that they might not say at all, or might say less harshly in person. I know a couple who can argue for hours by email, and say the most hurtful things that can then lead to face-to-face arguments as a result.

But Facebook and the like are worse, because of all the liking and so forth, and because at least email is generally a private conversation.

Blogging is sort of like writing an article or an editorial in a publication. There is potential for problems to arise, especially if the blog has a large diverse audience and comments are enabled. But I think in general, most blogs are fairly benign compared to Facebook.