Goodbye Facebook

May 31, 2010

I just deactivated my Facebook account. I decided to do this last Friday but today was the first chance I got. Coincidentally, there was an article in the paper this morning about someone trying to organize a “quit Facebook day” today, but that was mostly about privacy which is not my real problem. (I never told Facebook anything I didn’t consider public in the first place.)

So, I had been considering getting rid of Facebook for a while, and I hadn’t logged on in at least two months, but what finally decided me was this article: Pondering Friendship Online: Focus on Intimacy.

The binary problem is that someone asking you if you are a friend or not becomes a referendum on the entire relationship you have with that person. If you say No, you’re rejecting an offer of kindness; if you say Yes, but mean No, you’ve set up a new and potentially damaging dynamic; if you ignore the request entirely, the person may notice the lack of response and be hurt.

The social networking services can’t simply set up a spectrum of intimacy, either. LinkedIn tries this by asking you how you know someone (did you work together, go to school together, and so on), thus establishing a venue for a connection, since LinkedIn is a business networking site.

But could Facebook ask you to select among acquaintance, friend of a friend, person you once dated, enemy, friend, lover, BFF, drifted apart from, longing to be back together with, and who the heck is that? Pick the wrong choice, and that friend (lover, colleague, nuisance) may be dead to you forever, or may become the new best friend you didn’t want.

In the end, I felt that Facebook spent more time trying to get me to play stupid games or “friend” new people, and not enough telling me stuff about people I really cared about. Even what it was showing me about the people I did care about was too superficial to make it worth the time and effort. Or maybe I’m just too antisocial to deal with a social networking site.

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Scientists

May 25, 2010

Sunday I finished reading a book Sarah loaned me: Empire of the Stars by Arthur I. Miller. It’s about Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, his discovery of the upper limit of the mass of white dwarf stars, and how Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington’s ridicule of him when he formally presented his results affected the rest of his life. As one of the blurbs on the back indicated, a fair part of the book could be subtitled “scientists behaving badly.”

Since there are people who try to make out that everyone should accept whatever scientists say, it’s good to be reminded that even brilliant scientists like Eddington can be totally wrong, and can bully other scientists into going along even when they know better. It’s not being against science to recognize that scientists are human and can distort their work to make it fit a non-scientific agenda. Real science isn’t about achieving consensus among scientists, it’s about theories that correctly anticipate the results of new experiments or discoveries.

My favorite president

May 18, 2010

As I think I’ve mentioned before: Calvin Coolidge.

A hero

May 14, 2010

German Mormon Karl-Heinz Schnibbe, who resisted Nazis with teenage friends, dies in Salt Lake City at 86

I have a book about the story of these guys, but it’s so poorly written it almost makes it boring.

Belief

May 12, 2010

Yesterday reading the Book of Mormon I came to this:

Now there was no law against a man’s belief; for it was strictly contrary to the commands of God that there should be a law which should bring men on unequal grounds.

For thus saith the scripture: Choose ye this day, whom ye will serve.

Now if a man desired to serve God, it was his privilege; or rather, if he believed in God it was his privilege to serve him; but if he did not believe there was no law to punish him.

But if he murdered he was put to death; and if he robbed he was also punished; and if he stole he was also punished; and if he committed adultery he was also punished; yea, for all this wickedness they were punished.

For there was a law that men should be judged according to their crimes. Nevertheless, there was no law against a man’s belief; therefore all men were on equal grounds. (Alma 30:7-11)

I think we have a human tendency to try to get by just on our beliefs, since it’s so much easier to say you believe something than to actually live up to it. “I believe in Jesus, so it’s OK if I lie or cheat a little bit; Jesus will forgive me,” or “I believe in global warming, so it’s OK to fly my private jet all over telling other people to cut their carbon footprint,” for example.

At the end of the day, it’s what we actually do that counts, not what we say we believe. Our actions reveal what we really believe more accurately that what we say or even what we ourselves believe we believe. Focusing too much on belief is often a distraction from doing the right things.

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. (James 2:19)