Facebook’s Obvious Limitations.

I’m currently attending a conference at the University of Freiburg on the topic “newest media under control” (Neueste Medien unter Kontrolle

One of the many interesting and challenging talks today dealt with the problems and possibilities that arise when using social media- specifically facebook – as a tool of Holocaust remembrance. (Here’s a German abstract.) One of the examples was a facebook profil/page created by a local Polish museum curator for Polish-Jewish boy Henio ŻytomirskiFacebook users could interact with “the boy”, see a number of photos and even post on “his” wall. (The page has since been taken down by the creator.)

The possibilites of this combination of newest media and Holocaust remembrance is that it creates a new approach, especially for younger generations, to the topic and, most interestingly, by including the memory of a victim of the Holocaust into an “everyday sphere” like facebook the memory of the Holocaust reenters the sphere of communicative memory.In many ways, this form of remembrance is similar to the Stolpersteine.

When dealing with topic like the Holocaust, a number of problematic issues concerning the use of facebook in this manner. Is it morally and ethically just, what about anti-semite or right-wing extremist posting on the page by users, isn’t the Holocaust a topic too gruesome and ungraspable to combine it with a mundane, popular thing like facebook, is it justifiable to create a profile (and later page) in the name of a murdered child, etc. All very valid concerns. 

One of the minor issues shows one of the obvious limitations of facebook, in my opinion: It is highly cynical to “befriend” or even “like” a victim of the Holocaust. This is one example where facebook nomenclature reaches it’s limit, where facebook in my opinion goes far beyond what its creator intended. Facebook was created as a tool to gather information about your friends and talk about the things and people you like (and, if The Social Network has anything to do with reality, check out ‘chicks.’) By now, facebook has gone far beyond that use. It has become a general tool of social interaction and by now mirrors all aspects of offline interaction. One does no longer only talk about people and things you like. Pages on facebook no longer are defined by positives. Yet, if you want to include certain pages, interactions and activities into your facebook network, you have no other choice that to “like” pages about  rape jokes, police brutality or even the Holocaust.

Nomenclature is, by the way, one of the things that is better (as in: more neutral) at Google Plus. But if Google+ will (or should) ever catch on is a totally different topic.

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