Technology changes so many things for good or for ill — or more likely a combination of both. Facebook is one such technology. For good, Facebook can certainly allow us to keep in touch with distant friends and relatives but, for ill, it can also distance us from a real encounter with another human being.
Any technology that can be used to dehumanize the human person or human relationships should be approached with caution. Alexandra Petri's article in today's Washington Post, Facebook Nation, facial recognition and our portable lives is edifying and worth an excerpt here because she raises this caution by identifying Facebook as "reduc[ing] most human communication to the level of the press release."
Facebook is a country founded on the fear that undergirds all modern life: the suspicion that everyone you like is off somewhere else having more fun than you are, that you will turn around and miss it. And as it turns out, this is true, because you are spending all your time on Facebook.
The funny thing about Facebook is that it is turning our real friends into virtual Friends. Did I go to your birthday party? No, but I wrote a nice note on Facebook saying that I approved of it! Did you come to my shower? No, but you said “maybe attending.” Did you call me to see how I was? No, but you liked my status update!
That story of the woman who tattooed her facebook friends on her arm may be false, but it’s true — Facebook is making us wear more and more of our lives on our sleeves.
It reduces most human communication to the level of the press release. It is actively making us less capable of interaction. We are training ourselves not to comprehend the rich symphony of non-verbal cues that used to comprise human interaction. “He’s smiling at me,” we type. “What can it mean?”
“Maybe someone linked to an article that can help you make sense of it!” our friends comment.
“I wish there were a like button in real life,” we scream.
Have we already forgotten?
Ms. Petri also explains that
Tuesday night [June 7, 2011] they slipped in a new program, a facial recognition software that suggests tagging pictures of yourself that had previously slipped below the radar.
N.B.: The procedure explaining how to disable Facebook's new facial recognition feature can be found here.