It looks like it's time for another round of Facebook bashing, courtesy of insecure news editors everywhere. The latest "news" is that <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1149207/How-using-Facebook-raise-risk-cancer.html">Facebook causes cancer</a> and <a href="http://www.newsweek.com/id/185641">compels us to act upon our baser instincts</a>. Only I would argue that it's some people's baser instincts that create the need to bash it.

Michael Hickins, Contributor

February 22, 2009

3 Min Read

It looks like it's time for another round of Facebook bashing, courtesy of insecure news editors everywhere. The latest "news" is that Facebook causes cancer and compels us to act upon our baser instincts. Only I would argue that it's some people's baser instincts that create the need to bash it.It may seem like only yesterday, but Facebook's stumble with Beacon was more than a year ago. Given the Greek chorus of anguished observers, you'd have thought Facebook would be dead by now, and that if that hadn't killed it, surely the recent kerfuffle over its terms of use would.

There also was the whole Facebook-puts-pressure-on-me-to-have-sex thing (as if time-honored traditions like going to college and drinking beer were exercises in celibate restraint) as well as the "new app platform clogging Facebook with annoying applications" squall from last summer.

Clearly, the Facebook-cancer link has not undergone serious peer review; I'll start worrying when an article about that appears in The Lancet.

The editors at The Mail aren't idiots, though. They publish that kind of trash because the venerable Fleet Street fish-wrappers realize that with the economy in the tank and tensions rising everywhere, Facebook represents the kind of vaguely elitist, vaguely snarky venue where derivatives traders and other ne'er-do-wells lurk, exchanging darkly venomous messages and engaging in behaviors for which responsible people with mortgages to pay and families to indebt don't have time.

This Facebook-baiting is by no means limited to the U.K. It was actually a Newsweek headline that first attracted my attention to this issue, and made me wonder what it is about trashing Facebook and it users that is so appealing to news editors (and, presumably, their ever-dwindling readership).

The drumbeat of criticism is ridiculous on the face, but pernicious nonetheless.

Those kind of pieces are actually Facebook-porn, allowing nonmembers a vicarious and titillating peek behind the mysterious curtain of social networking while pretending to deplore its effects.

Facebook is a virtual version of Berlin's cabarets, a favored target of Weimar-era German press, shocking bourgeois morals and challenging the preconceptions of a nation unmoored by other, more cataclysmic events of their time.

This discomfort with novelty is amplified today by the noisy death-rattle of an increasingly anachronistic activity; like the violent vituperation of outraged cuckolds, news editors are fighting a rear-guard action against the disintermediation of news by means of direct, virtual contact between news-makers and their audiences.

There is a chance, albeit a small one, that the established press will successfully spearhead a movement to throw Facebook and its ilk in fetters, for the sake of national security, the health and well-being of the people, or the preservation of public morals.

A fitting response for Facebook aficionados would be to invite more people into the fold. Once enough people are initiated into the mysteries of social networks, there won't be any value left in appealing to the baser instincts of those who have been left out.

And news editors should take heart, for they, too, will survive, if only as actors in a vestigial activity, appreciated by collectors of oddities and antiquarians nostalgic for a simpler time when the news came on at 7 o'clock at night and a nice man with white hair told us everything we needed to know before going comfortably to bed.

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