Attacking social media is all the rage amongst the cool kids these days. Like most moral fashions, this one involves a great deal of hypocrisy. Studies have shown that many of those who rail against social media use it—and use it often—just as many of those who railed against Montreal strip-clubs in the 1950s were caught hanging out in them. Even so, the zeitgeist is what it is, and, as a consequence, saying something nice about Facebook may seem a tad perverse to some.
If social media allows you to keep in touch with family and friends that you have a long history with, then I think it’s an unqualified good. Facebook is also at its best when it facilitates the creation of new friendships.
So long as the lion’s share of your online interactions are with people that you’ve met (or would like to meet), all is well. Problems arise, however, when online relationships are divorced from face-to-face relationships; when people use aliases; when people misrepresent themselves online; and, most importantly, when an online relationship is all you’ve ever had with someone—and all you’ve ever wanted.
Facebook can put you in touch with fascinating like-minded people from all over the world. It can create wonderful new connections that at times lead to meaningful friendships. But it can also create connections that probably shouldn’t have existed in the first place, connections which would have fizzled in minutes if they had happened in person. I must confess that this has happened to me a few times. But, truth be told, it doesn’t depress me. I accept it cheerfully as an opportunity cost of the new medium.
—John Faithful Hamer, Being a Philosopher in Social Media Land (2017)