The discussion about Facebook

There is something fascinating happening at the moment. It is the debate about Facebook. However, it is about something quite different than the question of whether Facebook is good or bad or even whether the new communication media are good or bad in themselves.

We can currently observe an important step in the development of the new communication media. It’s just not that obvious, because this process is being negotiated by people who speak as if it were a question of good or bad. Sometimes it sounds as if the new communication media have reached a point where they may not be able to carry on. As if the downfall of Facebook or something is imminent. The way it is reported, one could get the impression that the system is on the verge of collapse. This is not the case. In the hearings that take place in the US Senate, for example, the example of the tobacco industry is referred to again and again, where a branch of industry knowingly accepted the suffering of millions of people in order to make a profit. Even if the comparison is obvious, it is not particularly helpful, because unlike the consumption of cigarettes, the negative effects of the consumption of new communication media are offset by much more and much stronger positive effects. What is true for the new communication media as a whole is probably even true for Facebook itself.

FB is not as bad as most can surely understand if they are willing to follow the following reasoning:

The negative effects of FB are offset by many positive ones. I think anyone who uses FB can see that. Who uses FB despite everything that most have to criticise about FB. So what is to be criticised is counterbalanced by something else. And for most people (all those who continue to use FB) this thing is bigger than everything that is admittedly negative about FB. And this thing that stands opposite the negative is the positive that FB has.

Of course, it could go badly for FB and FB will be broken up in the course of the discussion. But that would certainly be the most dramatic thing that could happen. The long-term trend that the new communication media are becoming more and more important will not change at all.

What we can observe is simply how, with a large share of the public, mistakes in the system of the new communication media are being illuminated and the prerequisites for correcting these mistakes are being created. No more, but also no less.