Last night I couldn’t get to sleep. So, as I often do – on sleepless nights, in elevators, waiting in line for coffee – I scrolled through Facebook on my phone.
It didn’t take more than a few swipes until I felt completely and utterly annoyed: annoyed at a friend from elementary school who was ranting about politics; annoyed at a former coworker who was proclaiming his love for his wife to the entire world.
All of which lead me to be annoyed at Facebook.
And I think that’s really, really unfair to Facebook.
I know that slamming Facebook is all the rage right now. I’ve seen the same articles as everyone else about how it makes people feel lonelier, and I know that it’s far from a perfect system.
But lately, whenever I get annoyed at Facebook, I can’t help like feeling like a passenger on the fifth day of Noah’s ark complaining about the smell. How, in spite of every living creature together, out of the rain, on a journey of survival and discovery… and I just can’t past the smell of the place.
When I think about what Facebook is trying to do, it’s really unprecedented. Facebook is trying to help the entire world – every human from every country, religion, race, gender, and sexual orientation on the planet – to better connect with each other.
Any time you connect different people together, you’re going to have difficulty. If I have a dinner party mixing different sets of friends there’s always speed bumps. Multiply that by a few billion when you’re dealing with a planet.
So, to expect Facebook to do this perfectly and without offending or boring or rubbing me the wrong way – it’s asking for a lot. While Facebook seems like old news some times, this concept of connecting people across the globe in real time is still a concept in its infancy. Not even ten years ago, there were a dozen ways in which people would easily and routinely fall out of your life forever: switching phone numbers, changing addresses, starting a new job – one transition and it was either a hopeful search in a phonebook or a lost connection for life.
And there are parts of Facebook that are truly incredible. Life has gotten a lot quicker and there are a lot more people I care about these days. So, while it’s not the same as seeing them in person or catching up by phone, it’s nice having a place where I can still see the amazing things that are happening in their lives – their kid’s birthday, the articles that inspire them, the day-to-day events that make them happy. If I can see the world that way then I think that Facebook has done something right.
I say that for Facecbook but I also say that for every social network out there. Yes, they’re trying to make money and yes a lot of what they’re doing doesn’t work perfectly, but they’re helping us – as a society and as a planet – communicate more easily and understand each other more fully.
And that’s a part of my job that I really love at StoryBox. How I get to see the organizations that are trying to find ways for us to better connect with each other: to help spread political freedom in a repressed region; to express condolences with a shared “Je suis Charlie”; to share a collective cheer as we take evolutionary steps together as a species into a new, digital age.
When it comes to social networks, the ride may still be choppy, the space may still feel cramped, but all the same I can’t wait to see where it goes.