Facebook: Helping you “connect and share with the people in your life”
When we “add a friend” on Facebook or meet others on Facebook and on similar social networking websites, Marx would argue that we are alienated to a certain extent. Marx’s basis for this argument would be that in this process of meeting people, a new interface or layer has been added between the two people and that most of the work, which would otherwise have to be done by the 2 individuals, is now taken care of by software or applications. (Marx, 704)
One might respond to this by saying that the increase in the number of layers and/or the presence of software to facilitate a relationship does not mean that the relationship is less “true” or that in forming these relationships, one is alienated from others. By understanding the term “relationship” to be one that is in flux, being molded from person to person, from situation to situation and from time to time, it is easier to understand and accept ‘on-line relationship’ as having equal worth as other relationships established in the physical world. Hence, one could argue that it is the attempt to impose a simplistic singular definition on to the term ‘relationship’ that leads one to label online relationships as being less ‘true’.
In contrast to the above claim that social networking sites such as Facebook may lead to alienation, this article claims quite the opposite. Here, Facebook is seen as a “lubricant for social relations”. This excerpt (from “Skeptics…meet up”) provides an argument explaining why the claim that ‘Facebook leads to alienation’ is not necessarily true.
Another source from which we can draw examples which support the idea of social networking sites being a facilitator for forming relations, is the article written by Khoo, ‘Sexing the City’. Khoo quotes the political scientist Noor as writing, “The arrival of the internet has become the solution to the problem for many of those [queer] constituencies that feel that they were somehow left out…” In this case it could be said that the detachment that these websites provided for the users from certain machinic assemblages (such as neighborhood, religion, family) is the reason why they joined such websites in the hopes of finding an online community.
Go here to read about a different approach which suggests that Facebook and similar social networking sites may not be as described above.
Or, if you would like to read about a different social networking application and how it affects social relations, click here to read Park’s thoughts on it!