if you're bored, you're not paying attention

Explaining Facebook to the teenager

The 17 y.o. came to me this morning full of outrage about something one of my friends had posted on Facebook.

Here’s what I told her: That outrage you’re feeling? That’s what Facebook is designed to produce.

What my friend posted was just her venting. People do that, among friends, after bad experiences. They make outrageous generalizations and say things that aren’t literally true, because they’ve been hurt or they’re frustrated and they just need to blow off some steam. An understanding friend knows how to listen to that and take it for what it really is.

But Facebook exposes that venting to the world, or at least to a wider circle, where it becomes subject to analysis, interpretation, criticism, debate.

Facebook wants to keep you on the site. The more emotionally engaged you are, the more ads they can show you. So it’s designed to make you engaged and keep you that way.

Anger and outrage are among the easiest “engaging” emotions to provoke. All Facebook has to do is show you some emotionally charged content (that may have been someone venting) and encourage you to respond to it.

So if you are easily outraged (as the 17 y.o. is) and you want to make Mark Zuckerberg even richer than he already is, by all means, spend more time on Facebook. You’ll spend a lot more time being angry and upset, though.


  1. Richard Cole

    Interesting post on modern poetry. And I would question the same things you questioned as well. I live between two worlds of business (as a business writer) and literature (as a poet), and I’d argue that the genre is more than the evolution of form, especially in a post-post-modern culture.

    • Dylan

      I’m not sure what this particular post had to do with modern poetry, but thank you for your comment.

  2. Richard Cole

    Ah. In fact, I was reading way down the list on the post about ModPo.

    • Dylan

      Aha! Now I understand. Thanks again for your comments. It’s good to hear from another writer who is trying to balance a business career with poetry.

  3. Richard Cole

    Yes. Good to meet you. I’ve been trying that balancing act for years now; it’s turned into one of my main themes, in fact. You can see samples at http://www.richard-cole.net. I just found tinywords. Excellent. A poet friend of mine, Joan Prefontaine, writes haiku and keeps me up to date on the genre. Let’s stay in touch.

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