Half a Cheer--or Less

Scott, the only question about Facebook is not whether or not it is evil--it most certainly is--but whether or not it is an unmitigated evil like video poker and kiddie porn or a mitigated evil like the automobile.  Overall, the automobile does enormously more harm than good but it has become, for most Americans, an almost indispensable means of coping with modern life.  At this point, it seems quite clear to me that Facebook  does enormous harm and even the little good it does, in allowing us to maintain formal contact with distant friends, is also harmful in nudging us in the direction of virtual reality.  Our ancestors were too busy staying alive to invest much in communication with distant friends and relations--an annual letter was about it.  Anything that encourages the touchy-feely sentimentalism that characterizes my own and subsequent generations is something to be discouraged.  I have a Facebook account that I rarely consult, though if I found it useful, I would probably do more with it.  All these things are a lot like TV.  Before TV and radio, people read in the evening or played cards or games.  Instead of listening or watching people paid to talk, they talked themselves.  Instead of watching steamy romantic-pornographic shows--Mad Men, Desperate Housewives--they held hands or went to bed early.  All these forms of virtual art and virtual reality, from the gramophone to Facebook, tend to displace reality.  They are like the ring of power that makes the bearer grow thinner and thinner until he virtually disappears.

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is the former editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of The Politics of Human Nature, Montenegro: The Divided Land, and The Morality of Everyday Life, named Editors' Choice in philosophy by Booklist in 2005. He is the coauthor of The Conservative Movement and the editor of Immigration and the American Identity. He holds a Ph.D. in classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Before joining the Rockford Institute, he taught classics at the University of Miami of Ohio, served as an advisor to the U.S. Department of Education, and was headmaster at the Archibald Rutledge Academy. He has been published in, among others, The Spectator (London), Independent on Sunday (London), Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Chicago Sun-Times, National Review, Classical Journal, Telos, and Modern Age. He and his wife, Gail, have four children and four grandchildren.

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