This morning, Mark Zuckerberg unveiled Facebook's newest feature, email. Not such a big deal in the grand scheme of things; email's a web 1.0 innovation in a 2.0 world. Actually, it's a little techier than grandpa's old AOL in that it will streamline and organize your various communications--provided that they happen on Facebook, of course.
And what doesn't happen on Facebook? Over the past year or so, I've noticed how much of what was once general internet content getting transferred to Facebook. I blog about beer, and I've seen that breweries are starting to use their Facebook pages as their central communication medium--their old-school, non-interactive websites are more like yellow-page listings. More and more, Facebook has collected information under its own, easy-to-use, interactive banner. Almost anything you can do elsewhere, you can do on Facebook, too. It doesn't take any imagination at all to see Facebook more or less supplant the regular internet. Commerce, communication, and content could all easily happen on Facebook, seemlessly. Sort of like Windows to the DOS of old.
Politicos have already embraced this, of course. Kari Chisholm was my entree to Facebook, when he posted about it on BlueOregon 3 1/2 years ago. Politicians were quick to sign up, and it's unimaginable that a candidate wouldn't have a FB page up now. Fundraise via Facebook? Of course you can. I think Sarah Palin gets credit for popularizing Facebook as a mass-communication medium. Remember the "death panels" incident? Facebook. Now journalists watch her page like they watch the wires.
In some ways, this doesn't seem like a bad thing. Facebook is handy, ubiquitous, and free. The company's a bit indifferent to their users' privacy, but hey, everything's got a downside. But I wonder if it doesn't have a much stronger downside than the loss of privacy. Facebook, because it's based on connections, manages to give you a wonderful image of the world you want to live in. My "friends" tend to be of three varieties: liberal politicos, beer folk, and Buddhists. Oh, and a few actual friends (almost all of whom are liberal and beery, but not always Buddhist). It is a seductive simulacrum of reality, appearing to possess the full diversity of the great wide world. Yet for all the information that flows down the "news feed," I'm getting a highly filtered view of the world.
This trend is nothing new, but it is nevertheless a change. We know when we're watching MSNBC that there's a FOX News out there. We see the filter. As communications become more subtle, and logarithms that bring the threads of our life together become more sophisticated, we can ignore the other side without even realizing it. There's no "news" in that news feed; I wonder, will we always remember?