Greetings, Instalanche! Welcome to Infocult. If it's your first time here, please explore. The main focus of this blog is exploring the ways people fear digital technology. Here's the main department for that.
The New York Times keeps up the dark view of the internet, with this article on a supposed "exodus from Facebook." It's an odd article, deeply flawed.
For one, it's entirely based on anecdotal evidence. Virginia Heffernan is clear about this from the start, leading off her evidence with: "If you ask around, as I did, you’ll find quitters." She continues to undercut her argument with "[t]he exodus is not evident from the site’s overall numbers." It's invisible, in short, except from the interviews to follow.
What follows is several different people saying what they don't like about Facebook. Who are these people? They aren't explained or titled, or even always named. But we are given one qualification for their inclusion in this journalistic item: they are "My friend Alex... Another friend..."
No experts are cited, no online authorities. Well-known Facebook critics aren't invoked. There's a single academic reference tacked on at the end, perhaps as nod towards the idea that, maybe, somewhere, someone else has expressed criticism of Facebook.
In short a New York Times article, an article from The Newspaper of Record, is based entirely on a reporter talking to her chums.
Moreover, not only is the exodus "not evident" from the numbers, but it simply isn't happening. As others point out, the numbers instead describe the opposite: continuing growth.
Towards the end the article gets even odder, ramping up the rhetoric, as reality has headed in the opposite direction. The piece suddenly turns Gothic:
Is Facebook doomed to someday become an online ghost town, run by zombie users who never update their pages and packs of marketers picking at the corpses of social circles they once hoped to exploit? Sad, if so. Though maybe fated...
Perhaps fearsome internet rhetoric is not only the expression of fears of offline behavior (violence, deviant sexuality, copyright infringement, etc.), but a rhetorical device used to paper over reality. It's like Gothic expliqué, a flight of fantasy meant to draw our attention from reality. Call it New York Times as Scooby-doo.