Rob Horning on Facebook and shyness, in Vol 3 of The New Inquiry Magazine:
So while Facebook can aid in the pursuit of social capital, it doesn’t seem to alleviate the psychological hangups that produce shyness in the first place. Facebook doesn’t attempt to solve the shy persons fear of social presence; one remains free from the obligation to reciprocate in real time; one preserves a safe distance from any potential audience by broadcasting at them rather than interacting with them. It caters to an appetite for attention on demand, administering the illusion that an audience’s sincere ego-sustaining interest can be automatically inferred from our continual participation. By improving users levels of social capital, it a more stable rationalization for the shy person’s behaviors of avoidance, and by offering mechanisms to control social presence at a distance, it may actually exacerbate the selfishness of shyness and re-inscribe solipsism. Instead of having to reveal oneself, with all the vulnerability that implies, one can calculate self-presentation much more deliberately in social media. This sustains the idea that personal identity is a purely individualistic proposition that it is not formed through social interaction but prior to it, in isolation.
Rather than eradicate shyness, Facebook seems to generalize its pathology to all its users.
Some of my friends and I are prone to complaining about how more and more people are bad at friendship these days. Those people want friends, yet they aren’t able to actively cultivate friendships. We all have stories of these exhaustingly one-sided relationships with otherwise well-meaning and very interesting people.
When working out why, the best we could do is vague finger waving in the direction of “The Internet”.
Rob (a self describe “shy person”) has a much more useful perspective. His essay makes a convincing argument that Facebook is pushing us towards unhealthy expectations of control and convenience in our social interactions. It makes perfect sense to me…The behaviors he describes map perfectly to the people and situations that have frustrated me and my friends.
So: Down with Facebook!
Or better yet: How can we design applications that encourage vulnerability in expression…How can we encourage people to express their full selves, rather than present a narrow self?