Facebook and the illusion of communication

Facebook is just a tool for transmission of information. But it gives imprecise direction and indiscriminate dissemination of information packages which can only – at best – be part of a true communication process. Unfortunately the ease of the use of the tool creates the illusion of communication.

I have just deactivated my Facebook account and hopefully it will all be deleted in a couple of weeks (though judging from the number of Facebook “notifications” the deactivation has generated, I have no great faith that Facebook will actually delete all details of my account). I deactivated my Spotify account a little while ago.

I have not been a fluent user of Facebook but I have not been dependent upon it or felt that it was essential for my communications – even if some might argue that I could have communicated much more if I had used the medium better.  But that is mistaking the medium of information transfer for communication. It is just another medium – and a rather indiscriminate one – for transmitting a communique. It is not even a message (even if the use of the medium carries a part of a vague message) and it is not communication in itself. The weakness of facebook (and of faxes and mobile telephony and emails and every development of communication tools) is that the ease of use of the new tool always creates an illusion of communication. It actually provides for just one step in the eight distinct steps that are needed in a complete process for a true communication.

I would suggest that Facebook has actually decreased the quality of true communication while vastly increasing the indiscriminate dissemination of badly formulated information packages. Perhaps it is useful when discernment and thought and direction of a message is not necessary. As for example in arousing a mob. But I am doubtful if it is the best medium available for communication between two individuals.

Every true communication necessarily contains the following steps:

  1. the purpose of the communicator which includes the choice of the recipient,
  2. translation of the intended meaning into a message,
  3. the formulation of the message into a communiqué (where the communiqué is a package of transmittable information),
  4. the transfer of information to the chosen recipient,
  5. the reception of the information,
  6. the decoding of the information received into a message,
  7. The interpretation of the received message into a meaning, with
  8. a feedback loop from the receiver to the communicator.
(from Chapter 4 of EOAM)

All the above steps must exist for a communication to be completed. No individual step is sufficient in itself. The process may well involve iteration based on the feedback. There are many processes, for just the transfer of information, which are, in common parlance, taken to be communications but which are not. A letter or a conversation may be a well directed part of a communication but is not a complete communication in itself.  A post on a Facebook wall merely transmits information and even if some direction can be imparted by the choice of those being followed or those accepted as friends, the post is a tiny part of any true communication. A speech to a large audience, or a TV or a radio broadcast is not directed with precision. These may be part of a communication to some specific listeners but the transfer of information is not a communication by itself. A slide-show or a report or a sound recording or a movie is merely a package of information.  Marshall McLuhan in 1964 developed the concept that “the medium is the message”. This may well still be the prevailing paradigm today, that the message and the medium it is embedded in are inseparable. Since McLuhan coined the maxim, we have seen the explosive development of media; the fax machine, intranet and the internet, email, mobile telephony, text messaging, video conferencing, internet chat, web conferencing and now tweeting. But, in all cases, the media and the communiqués they carry are just channels with information packages being conveyed, sometimes – but not always – as part of a communication. The choice of medium itself is also part of the information package being transferred.

Extract from Chapter 4- Communication – Essence of a Manager (pdf)


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2 Responses to “Facebook and the illusion of communication”

  1. roberto Says:

    Hi k2p
    On http://www.baluart.net you can see HOW eliminate all your data from facebook.

    • ktwop Says:

      Thanks for the link. I am doing all that is suggested by the experts but I am not 100% sure that Facebook will actually delete everything. But information about me is not so interesting and I have a thick skin.

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