I believe the world may be divided into two types of people: those who think Facebook Home is a genius idea and those who don’t.
Me? Not so much.
My library grows as I research If Emily Posted. It’s a mix of traditional style guides, and books on ethics and on etiquette, but also a lot of writing on living with screens, because I believe that life online affects life offline. And vice versa.
As MIT professor Sherry Turkle writes in Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, everything from the clothing we wear to the rooms where we eat our meals are part of “creating rituals for demarcating the boundaries between the world of work and the world of family, play, and relaxation,” and yet, “Demarcations blur as technology accompanies us everywhere.”
We need breathing room. But the smaller our screens, and the more we keep them on hand, the more we’re struggling for air.
Reading through the Facebook press release for Home, passages from articles and books and websites I’ve read for IEP, like Turkle’s, kept flashing through my mind:
“Frequent interruptions scatter our thoughts, weaken our memory, and make us tense and anxious. The more complex the train of thought we’re involved in, the greater the impairment the distractions cause.” Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains
“Multitasking is essentially the juggling of interruptions.” Maggie Jackson, Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age
“It’s easy to blame all of this on the tools. Too easy.” William Powers, Hamlet’s BlackBerry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age
The value of social media is dependent on how we use it. We must create the spaces that make screen time valuable.
Facebook Home doesn’t agree, and that’s fine. We don’t all have to agree. Facebook Home is about being plugged in all the time.
The press release presents the question: “If sharing and connecting are what matter most, what would your phone be like if it put your friends first?”
The answer doesn’t seem to talk much of phoning home with Home. Just Facebook. 24 hours a day.
(No actual mention of actual phone calls. On the phone.)
Which made me think of something else I’d read about the need for disconnect:
“What is, in fact, the meaning of life? And in a world where everything is remembered and everything is kept forever—the world you are in—you need to live for the future and the things that you really, really care about.
“And what are those things? Well in order to know that, I hate to say it, but you’re going to have to turn off your computer. You’re actually going to have to turn off your phone and discover all that is human around us.”
That was part of the 2009 University of Pennsylvania commencement address by Eric Schmidt.
Schmidt is Executive Chairman of Google.
Facebook Home is only available on Android phones.