Seeing the Faces Behind Facebook

As my younger sons inadvertently remind me on a daily basis, we humans are born with an instinctive and powerful curiosity. But that curiosity can "cut both ways;" at times, our desire to learn and to compile information serves as an anchor rather than wind in our sails, damaging our ability to react to the very events we are observing. For Folke, this resistance is expressed most clearly in HFI's command to watch from a distance—a dictate eerily reminiscent of Adam Smith's "Men of Speculation, "whose trade it is not to do anything, but to observe everything."

Kitchen Stories raises the specter of my Facebook problem: the danger that my ability to observe such a wide range and constant stream of human actions will leave me permanently stuck in neutral, convinced that I am responding by the sheer volume of observable events that flash past—a Theory of Moral Relativity, where I have somehow mistaken the train rushing by the station for my own movement.

At the same time, however, Hamer's film presents the solution to my problem of "analysis paralysis"—a solution so simple, I can only marvel at the One responsible for its existence.

Indulging our natural curiosity is only an impediment to action when we fail to recognize the humanity of those we are observing, mistakenly viewing them as things rather than people. Mistaking "watching" for "acting" is only possible when we, like Folke's fellow HFIers, "maintain a safe and sterile emotional distance." But dissolve that distance, and our innate desire to interact with our fellow human beings will return in full force.

For those like me who have find Social Media more of a hindrance than a help, the solution is simple. And while our ability to implement it may yet prove challenging, the path to Social Media Salvation is clear: stop thinking of the status updates, rss feeds, and ubiquitous tweets as data points to be analyzed or optimized. Remember the people behind the updates; the faces behind Facebook. And the rest will take care of itself.

10/6/2011 4:00:00 AM
  • Catholic
  • Through a Lens Darkly
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  • Joseph Susanka
    About Joseph Susanka
    Joseph Susanka has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since his graduation from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. He blogs at Crisis Magazine, where he also contributes feature articles on a variety of topics.
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