Facebook and facing forward

We have had our first ice storm of the winter here in Southwest Virginia. In an entirely unrelated development, I injured my right hand last month so I’m playing less music lately, but down at the Floyd Country Store the dance and music jam session goes on every Sunday, and I do still get out to take hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway or in Radford City parks. (The picture is one I shot at the Smart View Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway a few months ago. Must look a lot chillier this weekend!)

Those are all things that several hundred people who follow me on Facebook know, including friends in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Mexico, England and Ireland, as well as former students and classmates from New England to California.

Most of them do not follow this blog, which I have been writing intermittently for many years. But on Facebook I write shorter, less formally, and include many more pictures… like the ones here.

I have to remind myself to use my own blog out here on what fans called the “open web,” not within the password wall of Facebook, where you give away a lot of privacy to see what everyone else (including spies, politicians, marketers, deluded innocents and outright liars) has to say — all in one convenient package.

Another friend has just posted a note on Facebook saying that he doesn’t expect to be around that neighborhood much longer… Every set of headlines about malfeasance, misfeasance, misdirection and hubris by the young cyber media moguls has brought leaving notices.

My problem with leaving Facebook, as some sort of protest against Emperor Zuckerberg and his inability to recognize the Star Trek prime directive when giving great communication power to non-geeks, is that Facebook made itself just reliable enough and easy enough to use that significant online communities have abandoned other platforms and moved… from places like email lists, Usenet, Fidonet, Yahoo groups, Google Groups and Orkut… all of which I have enthusiastically used at one time or another.

The Old Time Radio Researchers Group I belong to is one example. Its OTRR.org, OTRRlibrary.org and several related sites still exist, but the group discussion is now on Facebook and has never been as easy to join.

Meanwhile, new local neighborhood and interest groups have grown up here that never existed before, such as the “Floyd 411” group where residents of that County share information about road conditions, storms, flooding, lost animals and other things — like a twenty-first-century AM radio neighborly kitchen-chat call-in show.

In the small city where I live, there was much more discussion of local politics and issues during the past year’s city, state and national elections then I have ever seen before. It was like having a robust local newspaper with a four-page letter column daily. Both the new mayor and the registrar of voters are on my Facebook friends list… and both use Facebook to make announcements that are much easier to access than those on the city’s frequently out-of-date web page.

Similarly, some very non-technological and non-political organizations use Facebook to get the word out about events like never before. The interlinked or overlapping membership groups for old-time String Band fiddle and banjo and guitar and mandolin music in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina links to groups interested in the same music in England and on the West Coast and in Australia and everywhere in between.

Yes, there are still independent websites for local music venues and organizations like Floydcountrystore.com and The Crooked Road, or independent bulletin boards for banjo players and mandolin players and guitar players, but the interconnection on Facebook is really amazing.

I am going to start spending more time on a couple of those independent groups, just to see whether there is any growth there and decline at Facebook. I will continue to encourage improvements in the City website, because I’m uncomfortable with its doing doing so much City business on Facebook. And I will try to remember to post my own writing out here in the public web more often instead of letting it sit in easy to use but ethically troubled Facebook.

But I still feel like a media research anthropological Observer, doing my thing while trying to figure out what’s going on out there. Am I part of the solution, or part of the problem? I don’t know.

(Thanks, as always to Dave Winer of Scripting News, whose sadly defunct Manila and Radio Userland systems blended blogging, shareable RSS feeds and discussion forums rather nicely in 1999… And whose reminders to stay out on the open web I highly appreciate.)

mild-mannered reporter who fell deeper into computers and the Web during three trips through graduate school in the 1980s and 1990s, then began teaching journalism, media studies and Web production, most recently as a faculty member at Radford University.

Posted in 2018, Appalachia, communication, Digital Culture, Facebook, Floyd, Internet, Online-Only, Social media
2 comments on “Facebook and facing forward
  1. John Armond Sabean says:

    “Am I part of the solution, or part of the problem?” Yes.

  2. Mike says:

    Facebook is mostly evil, if assigning a moral order, so I can’t have anything to do with it. I don’t care what benefits it might offer me given the whole “evil” thing.

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