This idea came to me one day while I was on Facebook, that ingeniously designed social networking site which has quickly become the place to be for staying in touch with family and friends, sharing pictures or videos, and having some laughs. I came to notice that a friend of mine, Dale, had voiced his displeasure with a mutual friend, Bill, over a rude comment made during one of his conversations, or “threads.” Among my circle of friends, I may have said he was “popping beef” with Bill. Also, in that same circle, his comment probably would not have raised an eyelash. The problem was, as Dale complained, his family members, both young and old, were on that same site, and it was disrespectful. Bill replied that Dale shouldn’t take things so seriously and that it was only a joke. Actually, they were both right.
There was no reason for this to happen, but unfortunately, the premier site for socializing on the web needs a place where you could let your hair down and loosen your tie. It just isn’t natural to combine your social relationships into one big melting pot. You probably wouldn’t invite your dear Aunt Mildred out to the local bar to watch football, which, incidentally, may not be the best place to whip out pictures of your new puppy. Everything, from your use of language and your subject matter to your appearance, conforms to a different set of standards at a family function or a company meeting than at your pal’s keg party. Both events should be enjoyed and not ruined by incivility or smothered with censorship.
Facebook as it stands is brilliantly designed, and unlike its prototypes, remains rather true, free of spam and other cheapening pranks like ridiculous aliases or phony characters. It is cleverly coded to simulate a social environment and has an uncanny way of connecting you with those from the past or far away. However, it fails to take into account that unwritten divide between a person’s interactions with close peers and those with authority figures, elder statesmen, business associates, and family members. As hard as Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has worked to tap into the virtual reality of society, the task is still not complete, and since he is too busy donating $100 million of his new-found fortune to charity, I’m not sure he cares.