We all know the feeling. You post on your Facebook wall or comment on someone's status, and no one replies. Not even a "haha." Well, there's a page for you: "I comment on something, no one replies, I feel stupid and delete it" has almost 20,000 fans and a wall full of commiseration.
Now that Facebook users can comment on or "like" virtually everything -- from people becoming friends to changes in relationship status -- it's time to ask: Is all this feedback good for us?
In many ways, yes. Like Twitter, Facebook can be used to get lots of information, fast. I recently posted a query for a furnished room in DC, and a friend directed me to padmapper.com, a site that combines Google Maps with Craigslist ads to make apartment hunting much easier.
Another friend of mine, looking for somewhere to recycle his old computer parts, received six suggestions within five hours. Comments and likes also add to the community on Facebook, making the social network even more social.
But having the possibility of feedback at our fingertips can also be detrimental. The commenting feature makes it easy to start judging ourselves in terms of others' responses. "All your posts get dozens of comments? You must be a fascinating guy! Look at her empty wall -- it's pretty sad." I myself am not immune to this kind of thinking; a friend recently posted a witty remark I made, but no one commented or liked his status. "Am I not really funny?" I couldn't help thinking.
I used to talk to one of my programmer friends about issues like this. He would always roll his eyes whenever I explained the latest topic I was studying in my media theory class, like Ms. So-and-So's argument about how online forums were changing our notion of the self. Halfway through, he would interrupt me: "Programmers don't think about these things. We just make the software, and people can use it however they want."
Although I think programmers could benefit from a little media theory, he makes a good point. Getting instant feedback isn't inherently bad; it only becomes detrimental when combined with the inability to think and judge for oneself. If I am not confident in my opinions and myself, I will soon start seeking validation from my 485 Facebook friends. But if I am, I can laugh at their comments and shrug off the ones I disagree with -- and know that I am funny, even if no one chooses to LOL at me.