Facebook Nice

Despite the countless criticisms lobbed at Facebook over privacy and the myriad studies lamenting how it’s making us more narcissistic, lonely and generally worse at human interaction, the world’s largest social network might actually help us re-learn how to be nice in an increasingly impersonal world. –Gigaom

We clearly live in a world where it’s increasingly easy to call someone a name, rather than actually having a discussion. We clearly live in a world where anger and angst are on the rise. Some folks have noticed, and they’ve decided to do something about it.

But will it work?

The answer to this question revolves around what we think “nice,” actually means. “Nice” used to mean, “he keeps his word, and doesn’t hang out with the wrong people.”

Today, “nice,” means, “doesn’t say things that make other people feel bad.” To put it in the words of Facebook:

The company recently held its second-annual Compassion Research Day, during which it presented some new methods for users to confront those by whom they perceive they’ve been wronged.

How do you know you’ve been wronged? When your feelings are hurt.

The answer is, then, that it won’t work. Facebook’s attempt at quelling bullying will just wind up with more bullying, only the bullying will take the form of “I find this offensive, take it down,” said constantly by those who just don’t want to listen to what you have to say. Saying something offensive has become the most effective way of shutting out anything you don’t want to listen to that we’re now institutionalizing it.

If you really want to restore civility in our national life, online and off, you must begin with the spiritual issues. Since we don’t, or won’t, deal with those any longer, the only straw left to grasp is to open the conversation up, to truly discern between that which is personal, and that which revolves around ideas. But in a world where expressing your ideas is increasingly seen as offensive in and of itself, there’s little hope for this straw to lead anyplace other than a pierced hand.

Facebook will fail at making us all “nice,” but it might succeed at forcing conservatives, and those who actually talk about ideas, off their service permanently.

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