A friend wrote about her frustration with Facebook where commercialism and self-aggrandizement rule (she didn’t use those words). Here are a few of my thoughts it, not the whole truth most certainly . . . Mostly they’re from my book Evolutionary YOU: Discovering the depths of radical change which is about escaping the control of the social matrix we think we already know about. I added the junk food metaphor just now.
In the tribes of old, we lived in full view of each other. Members were fully and constantly updated on what other members were doing. That was the tribe’s way, and there was no place to hide. In other words, long before Facebook, in our ancient past, tribal members were caught in an ongoing celebration of belonging and checking for the stone age equivalent of Likes. Everything we did reaffirmed our belonging and how much (or how little) we belonged to the tribe.
Facebook updates make this status-checking behavior more visible to us, but Facebook is just piggy-backing on the social architecture that’s already there: the need to know how we’re faring in the group and how “Liked” we are. How much we belong. Facebook members may check twenty or thirty times a day, but in the tribe of the past, this was constant, ongoing. The matrix is our past, whatever it may be in our future.
The difference, and it’s an important one is that in the tribes of old there was a context of kinship and agreed upon social values so the connection was nourishing. FB by comparison is closer to social junk food.
There are a few nutrients in there. There are added vitamins in junk food too. The body takes in and assimilates whole foods in their contexts, food grown in healthy vibrant soil and local if possible. But with FB, the wholesome article-vitamins are denatured because they don’t come within a wholesome and complete context.
People are seldom able to actually use the intellectual, emotional, or spiritual material they get from FB to understand something more deeply. If they do, it’s in spite of the medium not because of it. FB doesn’t help to build a body of knowledge, live in it or connect with each other.
But it’s incredibly compelling.
Status and belonging are the invisible dark matter in our social space. Just like the dark matter in space pulls at us and is not seen, the need for status and belonging tugs at all of our exchanges. Beneath the stated purpose of the get-together, people have an underlying and more basic need to be accepted and respected – to belong. Although we seldom are conscious of it, this need is the glue of social cohesion and everything else rests on it.
We maintain our physical comfort by, for example, moving slightly or adjusting our sitting position. We loosen our too-tight clothing or scratch the momentary itch. In much the same way we monitor and maintain our social connection. With a similar effortlessness we bring our actions and thoughts into harmonious alignment with what fits into the culture. Just like our balance orients us to what standing upright feels like in the moment, our conscience orients us to what feeling and acting “upright” are in the moment.
Belonging is the hidden subtext in group settings and the hidden subtext underlying our mood and thoughts when we’re alone. As long as the dynamic is hidden and invisible, we’re shaped like Plasticine dough by the pressure to belong. Our sense of meaning is pulled subtly this way and that according to different loyalties. Meaning becomes free-floating, unmoored, not tied to our sense of self.
But when you’re seeing this, and especially if some other tribe members do too, you’re no longer under the influence of the tribe’s hidden rules. You’re now, at least partially, in a we-space where the rules can be rewritten.