The Church Of Facebook

One of the most common debates I have about Facebook is with people who are fixated on content.  If content is your focus then you appear to have a very good case that Facebook it a total waste of time and could well possible lead to your brain rotting and the economy losing billions of dollars in productivity.  Finally I have an authoritative book to recommend which helps explain what the main focus is: connection.

Jesse Rice’s book The Church OF Facebook is a rigorous examination of primary motivations that draw people to interact on Facebook, and an examination of the issues that this new phenomenon throws up.  This is no pop psychology treatment of the subject.  Rice covers important research in social psychology research although a somewhat less rigorous theological framework within which to fit this phenomenon.  Rice digs up some very engaging stories to illustrate his points throughout.

Rice doesn’t just observe, but towards the end of the book gives some useful guidelines for using the platform effectively.  Rice also dwells on the downsides of the more dysfunctional uses of Facebook and the devastating consequences of its misuse.  Rice’s examination of Linda Stone’s CPA – Continual Partial Attention did actually get my undivided attention as I conducted an on the spot diagnosis that I may well be suffering from this malady!

“Continual partial attention and multi-tasking are two different impulses.  when we multi-task, we are motivated by the desire to be more productive and more efficient.  In the case of continuous partial attention, we’re motivated by a desire not to miss anything.”

Ouch!  Another prescient observation from Rice:

“We talk to each other with constant glances down to our iPhones.  We have conversation face to face whilst our Bluetooth hangs from our ear.  We constantly stop our friends and family midconversation because we have a call coming in.”

Rice calls this the “always on” state of the “tethered self”(as expounded on by Sherry Turkle)

The debate about whether ‘community’ can be genuinely experienced online is dealt with very well with compelling arguments from both sides. The closing chapters of the book dwell very effectively on the misuses of Facebook, and the effects on the quality of relationships, and rightly calls some users on their arrogance:

“Facebook pushes our “monarchy” button and makes us feel entitled to say and do whatever we feel like in the moment.”

This is a book I will read a few times over, and I’m sure it will continue to yield helpful perspectives to help me fully comprehend this powerful medium.

Rice runs an excellent blog, expect much more from him in the future. You can read the first chapter of the book here.