... researchers looked in particular at connections between social-network use and the personality trait that psychologists refer to as "need for cognition," or NFC. NFC, as Professor Zhong explained in an email to me, "is a recognized indicator for deep or shallow thinking."
People who like to challenge their minds have high NFC, while those who avoid deep thinking have low NFC. Whereas, according to the authors, "high NFC individuals possess an intrinsic motivation to think, having a natural motivation to seek knowledge," those with low NFC don't like to grapple with complexity and tend to content themselves with superficial assessments...
The study revealed a significant negative correlation between social network site (SNS) activity and NFC scores. "The key finding," the authors write, "is that NFC played an important role in SNS use. Specifically, high NFC individuals tended to use SNS less often than low NFC people, suggesting that effortful thinking may be associated with less social networking among young people." Moreover, "high NFC participants were significantly less likely to add new friends to their SNS accounts than low or medium NFC individuals."
Finally, it’s the idea of Facebook that disappoints. If it were a genuinely interesting interface, built for these genuinely different 2.0 kids to live in, well, that would be something. It’s not that. It’s the wild west of the Internet tamed to fit the suburban fantasies of a suburban soul. Lanier:These designs came together very recently, and there’s a haphazard, accidental quality to them. Resist the easy grooves they guide you into. If you love a medium made of software, there’s a danger that you will become entrapped in someone else’s recent careless thoughts. Struggle against that!
Shouldn’t we struggle against Facebook? Everything in it is reduced to the size of its founder. Blue, because it turns out Zuckerberg is red-green color-blind. “Blue is the richest color for me—I can see all of blue.” Poking, because that’s what shy boys do to girls they are scared to talk to. Preoccupied with personal trivia, because Mark Zuckerberg thinks the exchange of personal trivia is what “friendship” is. A Mark Zuckerberg Production indeed! We were going to live online. It was going to be extraordinary. Yet what kind of living is this? Step back from your Facebook Wall for a moment: Doesn’t it, suddenly, look a little ridiculous? Your life in this format?
Just in the United States, Clay Shirky maintains, we collectively watch about 200 billion hours of TV every year. For a vast majority of us, watching TV is essentially a part-time job.
What would the world be like if many of us quit our TV-watching gigs? Critics of television have long lamented its opportunity costs, but Shirky’s inquiry into what we might join together to do instead if we weren’t watching TV isn’t as fantastical as previous efforts. That’s because for the first time since the advent of television, something strange is happening — we’re turning it off. Young people are increasingly substituting computers, mobile phones and other Internet-enabled devices for TV.
The time we might free up by ditching TV is Shirky’s “cognitive surplus” — an ocean of hours that society could contribute to endeavors far more useful and fun than television. With the help of a researcher at I.B.M., Shirky calculated the total amount of time that people have spent creating one such project, Wikipedia. The collectively edited online encyclopedia is the product of about 100 million hours of human thought, Shirky found. In other words, in the time we spend watching TV, we could create 2,000 Wikipedia-size projects — and that’s just in America, and in just one year.
Facebook is wildly successful because its founder matched new social media technology to a deep Western cultural longing — the adolescent desire for connection to other adolescents in their own private space. There they can be free to design their personal identities without adult supervision. Think digital tree house. Generation Y accepted Facebook as a free gift and proceeded to connect, express, and visualize the embarrassing aspects of their young lives.
Then Gen Y grew up and their culture and needs changed. My senior students started looking for jobs and watched, horrified, as corporations went on their Facebook pages to check them out. What was once a private, gated community of trusted friends became an increasingly open, public commons of curious strangers. The few, original, loose tools of network control on Facebook no longer proved sufficient. The Gen Yers wanted better, more precise privacy controls that allowed them to secure their existing private social lives and separate them from their new public working lives.
Facebook's business model, however, demands the opposite. It is trying to transform the private into a public arena it can offer advertisers. In doing this, the company is breaking three cardinal cultural norms:
- It is taking back a free gift. In order to build profits, Facebook has been commercializing and monetizing friendship networks. What Facebook gave to Millenials, it is now trying to take away. Millennials are resisting the invasion to their privacy.
- Facebook is ignoring the aging of the Millennials and the subsequent change in their culture. Older Gen Yers want less sociability and more privacy as actors outside their trusted cohort enter the Facebook space in search of information and connection. These older Millennials want more privacy tools for control of their information and networks.
- Facebook is behaving as though it owned not only its proprietary technology platform but the friendship networks created on it. It doesn't. Millennials believe that ownership of their networks of friends belongs to them, not Facebook, and resist their commercialization.
Facebook, under intense pressure, is belatedly agreeing to streamline and strengthen its privacy tools. That will lower the anger of its audience but increase the anxiety of its advertisers. The brand value of Facebook has already taken a hit and competing social media platforms that promise privacy are beginning to appear.