Google & The Facebook Fantasy


I just found an interesting reason why some people want to believe that Facebook will replace Google. With Google you have to decide what you’re looking for, and with Facebook interesting things come to you. There’s a fantasy that technology will free us from having to think, and decide, to be disciplined.

“Most of the technologies and platforms we use these days require our action. In order to achieve anything, we have to acknowledge the need, make a decision, and then follow through.

Example: You need a new swimsuit for the summer and you decide to find one that best matches your search criteria: Color, style, size, etc. …   This simple task requires a bit of thought and effort on your part.

What if you could skip this process and let technology offer you the perfect swimsuit once the summer season arrives, without asking you to take any action?”

Yuli Ziv, 5 Reasons Google and Search Won’t Dominate the Next Decade in Mashable

A nice thing about reading penetrating writers like Yuli Ziv is that they put their key premises right out there to accept or critique. I’ll choose the latter on this one.

The key part of the Facebook Fantasy here isn’t social; it’s serendipity. Disciplined goal-oriented determined activity will be a thing of the past. We can just do what comes naturally and everything we want will come to us. We can be our ADD selves, and the good things will come to us, while we just flow.

Then I realized that this was hitting a nerve because I was still reacting badly to Lisa Barone’s How to Write a Blog Post. I like just writing. Lisa actually has a 7-step process, which includes things like “decide on your goal,” “find your hook,” and read it out loud a few times and keep improving it.

But while commenting on her post that her system would make this take so much longer, I wondered if that kind of discipline would actually shorten the process, in addition to improving the end result.

By nature, I’m way on Yuli’s side on this one. I’m an extreme ADD, who loves jumping around to different topics and finding complementary and contradictory ideas from different voices and subject areas. This post is the result of just such an example, seeing from Yuli’s post why I was bothered by Lisa’s.

So yes, serendipity is great.

But part of the reason we value it so much is that it justifies things like watching TV while writing this post. I can just invite more stimulations and go with the flow. And when I get stuck trying to figure out the next sentence, I can just switch over to Twitter and see if anything interesting is happening there. My ADD brain hurts and freezes up when I try to force it to focus on the goals I set out for myself. So yeah, I like serendipity.

But the serendipity that we get from sites like Facebook really doesn’t liberate us from our needs for impulse control and self-discipline. In fact, it increases our need for those traits, and for finding the discipline to plan and execute complex activities in a goal-oriented fashion.

Yuli opened with “In order to achieve anything, we have to acknowledge the need, make a decision, and then follow through.” She writes that as though the need to make conscious decisions is a bad thing from which we will be liberated by cool technology. Sorry. We’ll always need to make hard choices, follow through, and do grunt work. Facebook is cool, but it doesn’t free us from the need for self-discipline.

And now that I’ve shared that thought, I’ll move on to the most annoying steps of quality blogging: editing and re-editing. And then maybe I’ll do what I was supposed to do this morning. Often I’d prefer if we lived in a world where serendipity and flow replace proactive thought and determined action. But we don’t. Get used to it.