Facebook is to community like porn is to sex

Antonio Garcia Martinez, writing for Wired:

Ultimately, nobody really cares about privacy, except media elites, under-employed Eurocrats, and zealots who’ve made it a career. Everyone else would sext you their privates for a fleeting feeling of human connection. And they do.

[Zuckerberg] very immodestly proposes that Facebook occupy the social nexus vacated by the disappearance of churches, unions, lodges, and other local associations that once served as core of American civil life. This resurrected public forum would be as abstract and mobile as a Facebook group, and would no longer be restricted by the pesky limits of distance or national origin.

Facebook is to real community as porn is to real sex: a cheap, digital knockoff for those who can’t do better. Unfortunately, in both instances use of the simulacrum fries your brain in ways that prevent you from ever experiencing the real version again. But we’ll take what we can get.


I don’t think anthropologists or historians will look back on western society or American culture and say, “Ah, the Internet was where people started becoming lonely, depressed, and sad”. Institutions like churches and other parts of civil society started collapsing around the time television was in every home, sometime around the 60’s and 70’s.

Was it television that drove us away from other people? Maybe. In Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam makes the argument television news scared the heck out of us all and made us distrustful.

I wrote in a paper recently there may be an upshot to Facebook for democracy: it serves as an antiseptic. It lets people show themselves in a way they may not have before. If they’re racist, homophobic, or genuinely a bad person, you’re likely to see it on Facebook. The medicine stings for society, but ultimately it is good for the patient.

As Martinez points out, teachers in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma organized a teacher’s strike more effectively than unions ever have.

There are bits and pieces of the “Facebook is to porn” metaphor I agree and disagree with. I get the point, however, that Facebook serves as a weak proxy for building meaningful connections. I just think it’s unfair to blame Facebook for it. Poor community organization and construction patterns, reliance on welfare, the drug war, and a clear market demand for a moment of simple relaxation are bigger factors. If anything, Facebook (like porn) is the last thing some people have to work with.

I suspect our cultural issues surrounding health and depression come more from other cultural changes. Facebook just amplifies them a bit, letting us see what’s happening faster and close-up.

I just don’t think people can afford to be in most social organizations anymore. They cost thousands of dollars a year and require hundreds of hours of time. Ask a college graduate with a $400/mo. car payment, a government-mandated health insurance bill, hefty rents despite splitting it three ways and a car payment of $250 a month because your city is huge and you can’t plunk down $5,000 for a used car all at once to join Rotary, Kiwanis, an industry association, or go bowling for $3,000 a year and see how far that goes.

Healthcare Debates from the Back of an Ambulance

This past Monday morning I got up at my usual 5am, I left the house at my usual 6am and was at my desk at the office by 6:30am. I started working on publishing some content to the court’s website and around 7:30 I started feeling this odd, sharp, pain in my groin. A few minutes later, a dull pain started spreading around my lower back, particularly on my right side.

I got up to use the restroom just to make sure someone hadn’t stabbed me from behind, but everything “seemed” okay. A few short minutes later back at my desk, I became unusually sweaty and suddenly couldn’t keep myself cool. I finished the email I was writing and drafted another to my boss and said, “I’m going home.”

I raced back to the car and lo, hit every damn red light in town. Once I made it home, I laid down for about 10 minutes but the pain was becoming nauseating and too much to bear. I dialed 911 and a few short minutes later an Indianapolis Fire Department ambulance was in front of my house.

I had already walked out the door, but collapsed on the porch. The paramedics, a man and a woman, leapt out of the truck and came to lift me up and put me in the back of the rig.

This is where my experiences in understanding America’s Healthcare Debate kicks in. Here are the questions they asked me, in the order they asked me, to the best of my memory:

1. What’s your name?

2. What’s your date of birth?

3. How much do you weigh?

Those first three all seemed like logical, expectable medical questions. Then they had a few others…

4. What’s your social security number?

5. Do you have insurance? [Yes]

6. Do you have your insurance card with you? [Yes]

7. Where do you want to go?

Where do I want to go? What do you mean “where do I want to go?” I want to go to the frickin’ hospital!

At this point the pain was causing me to black out and lose sensation in my legs, arms, abdomen and back. It turns out, when an IFD ambulance pulls up, they can ask where you’d like to do. Knowing I was minutes away from St. Francis in Beech Grove and Community East on 10th Street, I asked the driver what he recommended. His response to me was (and I remember this very clearly), “I’d go to Community. I never liked going to St. Francis and I grew up in Beech Grove.”

We went to Community. Where, upon entry, they proceeded to ask me the same questions all over again. Clearly, the laptops and mobile units used by IFD and I assume by Metro Police, don’t communicate at all with local emergency rooms.

Although, the hospital quickly asked “what brings you in here today?” followed by, “Do you have your insurance card?” and “let me bring you the release forms so the doctor can see you.”

Clearly, Obama isn’t kidding when it comes to converting medical records to electronic documents. The amount of work required was a little extreme and left me writhing in pain for an additional 20-30 minutes.

After some tests and initial consultation with the doctor, who was very nice and prompt, he diagnosed me with a kidney stone. The bastard of all stones.