Facebook

I’ve suspected it for awhile now. Social media is the newest form of tyranny of the extraverts. For several years now, the virtual space which enabled introverts to socialize comfortably (to be intimate at a safe distance) (our unique requirement) has been muscled in on by those extraverts who believe they have a monopoly on social interaction. Only theirs is the right way. If you don’t run with the herd, you’ll be trampled into the dust.

Time Magazine Mark Zuckerberg Person of the Year

In the 1970s the communes faded away, but the Internet only grew, and that countercultural attitude lingered. The presiding [Does he mean “prevailing”? –mss] myth of the Internet through the 1980s and 1990s was that when you went online, you could shed your earthly baggage and be whoever you wanted. Your age, your gender, your race, your job, your marriage, where you lived, where you went to school — all that fell away. In effect, the social experiments of the 1960s were restaged online. Log on, tune in, drop out…Zuckerberg has retrofitted the Internet’s idealistic 1960s-era infrastructure with a more pragmatic millennial sensibility. Anonymity may allow people to reveal their true selves, but maybe our true selves aren’t our best selves. Facebook makes cyberspace more like the real world: dull but civilized. The masked-ball period of the Internet is ending. Where people led double lives, real and virtual, now they lead single ones again.

I agree with that this is trend on the Internet in 2010 but I don’t agree with the cause.

The idea that we have only one face to present to the world is boring in the extreme. I prefer layers and layers of intimacy, with the promise of more to discover. Face value is shallow. I’d rather plumb the depths.

I’ve been online for almost a decade, juggling four faces to the world. As a writer, I know to narrow my focus to the interests of my audience. My interests are broad; my imagined audiences, varied. Few of my gardening friends would care about the intricacies of learning kanji anymore than expats in Japan would care about my garden projects in Austin.

In the early days of my blogs, my writing was much freer, partially because they were an extension of my correspondence. My posts were like letters to family and old friends. However, my readers didn’t turn out to be my family and friends but strangers with the same interests who had found me on the Internet.

Among the people I interacted with most in the early days of blogging, I believe we had similar personality types. We were introverts who found intimacy easier because of the “masked ball” nature of the times. I have always shared myself through my written words more easily than any other medium.

Signs of the extravert takeover first appeared in 2007, about a year after I joined Blotanical. Suddenly there were a bunch more people to interact with. But they seemed to be more interested in how popular they were, how many followers they had, than in actual conversation. They would leave comments on a blog designed only to pressure the blog owner to leave a comment on yours. If you didn’t reply to their comment on you own blog as well go their blogs and comment, well, they crossed you off their list.

Blotanical was designed to reward people logged into the site. In the drive to become popular, people got ugly. They gamed the system. They gossiped about other people. It was like being in high school all over again…in all the bad ways.

Twitter, Plurk, and Facebook all seem to get people obsessing about how popular they are. “How many followers do I have? What are the tips and tricks for getting more? Why does X have more followers than me.”

Unmasked people are ugly. While it’s true that anonymity brings out the worst in some people, it is not a given. The ability to present one’s best possible face to the world is the heart of diplomacy and good manners. Nor is our worst self necessarily the true self. When I look at someone, I try to look for the best in them and see that as their true nature. It helps them (and me) live up our ideals.

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