There’s much to be said about Facebook—some negative, a lot laudatory—but one thing I haven’t seen much mentioned is its ability to enable us to travel more freely, in a substantial way. Surely, more substantively, more palpably, than other mediations in which we are standing still, passively processing. I’m thinking here mainly about TV, of course, which enables flitting contact with people and places—but which is all rather random and beyond viewer control. Even when we are “at” the game, it is filtered, stylized, modified, held at arm’s length.
So, too, might, the “traditional” Internet, 1.0, apply—where a huge amount of energy and time has to be sunk and opportunity costs incurred to make any deep connection with peoples and places. And even then, since there is no 2.0 capability, there is still a distance that can’t easily be bridged. The best one might say for 1.0 is that there are possibilities for deep connect, but it requires work: thought, gumption, and not a small amount of perseverance.
Aside from my gripes about third-party violations of privacy, stalking, the constant drone of unself-conscious self-promotion, and the perpetual need to have something original to say, in my mind, a major limitation of Facebook is that one can easily end up sampling him or herself. Meaning that as extensive as one’s contacts, as wide as one has grown their roots over the years, that is how much opportunity one will have to travel and settle into concrete places via the platform. On the other hand, even with a limited cast of the net, since no two people are identical, and since they often aren’t living in the same place, by employing Facebook, peripatacity can’t help but be facilitated.
For instance, in my case, despite maintaining a relatively tight web of privacy, if I simply look at my family contacts, I receive a daily stream of pictures, comments, and observations from Japan and the U.S., and within those two countries from (currently) seven dedicated locations: Nagasaki, Pasadena, Seattle, Ann Arbor, Monroe (NY), Northampton (MA), Lake Chelan (WA)—with occasional stops in Austin, San Francisco, Paris, London, and Madison. Throw in friends of these friends, and updates come in from Chicago and Singapore and Philadelphia and Seoul and Honolulu. And with the few colleagues that I have thus far added in, I receive rather steady updates from Melbourne and Boston and Guam and Chuncheon and Durham and Tokyo and Los Angeles. That is a lot of places to travel in a day, with rather concrete intel provided in the way of pictures of today’s dinner and the snow on the ground, the cherry blossoms on the trees, the performance in the rickety theater, the crowd in the field house, the kids playing in the yard, laundry hanging up outside the window, the workers tearing up the water main.
Of course not all of this intel makes perfect sense—not in the way it does to the person on the ground, in that place, posting it. And surely not as much had I actually been in that space to look about, draw a breath deeply into my chest, taste the breeze, or the meal on the table, or snap the shot of my own choosing, myself. Still, over time, such bytes add up, they are fit into specific folders that, once summed and sifted through, day-by-day, get me closer to knowing that place than had I simply stumbled across a TV show or gone fishing through Google.
In that way, Facebook may not be as satisfactory as actual, foot-on-the-turf peripatacity, but it is a rather good stop-gap, a decent half-measure. A way of telling me where I ought to travel. A preview that can place me in a surrogate, simulated there . . . until the time I can actually get out to that spot and see for myself.