From the viewpoint of a ruthless psychologist «Facebook» is just the largest church on the planet uniting people who believe in friendship.
For fear of hurting feelings of the religious, I do have to defend the thesis by explaining what the concepts of faith, church and friendship are from the psychologist’s perspective. Emergence of such psychic formation as faith in the evolution of man was necessary to reduce metabolic costs. The brain is constantly predicting and building actions amid contingencies and in the context of incomplete information. It was so even before mankind, and no dinosaur or Java Man wondered what a contingency and incomplete information are indeed. Neurons actively collected experiences, shaped perception, loaded memory and constructed systems of action planning based on their connections.
On one hand, for predictions to be precise, the neural network should always be enriched with new neuron connections. On the other hand, these connections should be kept alive with fruit-sugar, proteins and minerals. The brain consumes the most energy, and there are physical restrictions for its growth, not only from the energy-saving viewpoint, but also in terms of skull dimensions. Women simply won’t be able to deliver too big-headed babies.
Therefore, evolution has reduced brain’s physical capacity, having preserved the main function of prediction by means of intuition. So, in higher nervous activity there has appeared a formation which cuts down the additional information gathering and logic, thus reducing the number of neuron connections and metabolic costs of an individual. Intuition lives in «industrial» psyche, regardless of the community. It is in the possession of dogs, horses, elephants and all those animals whose range of distribution as well as lifespan are big enough for them to have faced accidental changes. When it comes to making decisions and action planning, a person as well uses intuition.
Everything in our ancient brain was perfectly fine, without any depressions or extraneous thoughts, until consciousness and language have appeared, and along with them, the pressure on neural network has increased, and so has the number of the external world variations. On top of that, inner monologues have started running through our heads. Along with the development of consciousness and language the brain has included social surrounding into the process of prediction and instantly noticed that apart from the contingencies of physical world, such as changeable weather conditions or earthquakes, people around are also susceptible to accidental changes of behaviour. Thus, faith has been formed in social setting on the basis of intuition framework, enhanced by imaginary people and objects.
Faith has enabled the brain to restrict the process of information gathering and processing in social setting. The first primitive examples of faith such as beliefs in the evil witch Baba Yaga or in Father Christmas, are formed at the age of 3 years, when language and symbols are grasped. Ancient people also had idols with the first sensible speeches in the surrounding of family and tribe. Gathering around the object, each member of the group could see whose support he can count on in case of diseases, injuries or harvest failure. General assembly of people near the symbol of faith provided individuals with the insurance against contingencies. This common symbol created virtual and emotional bonds.
For faith to function in higher nervous activity the brain needs signs, symbols, images and «gestalts». Traditionally various visual means are used for faith, such as: idols, icons, images put together in churches or any other places of the religious gathering. The main function of symbols is to point out the possibility of insurance in the community of like-minded, in other words, to demonstrate a person that in case of sudden changes, he will be helped to cope with trouble.
Along with geographic spread and diversification of social groups, new social institutes, based on faith, were created allowing to insure people against sudden changes. A church has appeared as an institute of mutual insurance for people unfamiliar to one another. In traditional church every church-goer makes a contribution being sure that in case of personal hardship, he will be helped at the expense of other church-goers. The same scheme is basically used in other social institutes with various symbols. With the advances of communication more and more types of organisations started to offer their participants so called «insurances in case». A state, an army, trade-unions act as insurers to various extent. For example, in Soviet times people gathered around the portraits of leaders, flags and posters; in modern corporate culture logos, uniforms and national holidays are used.
Even the work at large factories was kind of a religion with trade-unions, social protection, sick leaves and vacations. But prior to the emergence of global communication network, social cooperation was confined geographically in community groups inhabiting the territory, whose overall area equalled 2 weeks of communication.
It is worth noticing that faith by itself contradicts the concept of friendship. The religious hold together around a certain middle-man, rather than directly with each other.
The concept of friendship, as interchange of social ties, providing that food and money is enough, has come to existence quite recently. There was no large-scale friendship until the technology of mass food production was developed. At first, certain representatives from well-off families started to make friends going beyond their families on the grounds of social class or occupation, later on friendship extended over to court nobility, public servants and craftsmen – those who can exchange their social connections for another benefit. One of the earliest friendships was described in the novel «The Three Musketeers». King’s warriors took advantage of their contacts in palace as well as personal connections to help their companions, and regarded the young Gascon as the odd one initially. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that people started exchanging their social connections with one another, before they would only exchange goods and money.
However, the more connections you make, the more contingencies occur, and the higher the pressure on the brain cortex is. Here again our brain has to deal with the task of restricting and predicting occasional acts from familiar people. One of the ways to secure our mind, by choosing the «right» idol or image, has been laying emphasis on the reference individuals, who become symbols, those who have the most references. Similar to the Bible, leaders and dictators. Citation rate of a person serves as a criterion for his credibility. Just like in any confession, the reliability of insurance is directly proportional to the number of participants. Clearly, this insurance can’t be sound, because there is a lack of neurons in the brain for predictions to be accurate; but individuals’ union creates correlative feelings – faith and hope, and reduces energy costs inside the union.
Any confession has an objective to widen the client base. The broader the geographic scope of confession, and the higher the number of its members, the more secure the system is.
Likewise, virtual communities compete in order to increase the client base. The first social networks tried to unite people engaged in the same professional activity, for example – «MySpace». Up until now this network has been connecting «creative minds». «LinkedIn» is growing based on belief in fair employment. However, for those who believe in friendship «Facebook» has become the largest social network.
In this network people insure their social relationships through posts and comments, believing in friendship, and in the fact that in case something goes wrong, there will be a person among their acquaintances, who will be able to solve the problem.
There is the main symbol – «Like» as well as secondary icons in the right upper corner, which are sometimes blue, and other times they are myrrh streaming red.
In this network the credibility of a person can be easily determined judging by the number of friends and followers. In order to prevent secession and dictatorship Facebook sets a 5-thousand limit on the number of friends one can possibly have. To illustrate how «Facebook» unites people who believe in friendship we can look at one of its functions which enables users to tag yourself on the map. For example, at the time of terrorist attacks, «Facebook» renders this button active, thus allowing users who happen to be in danger zones, to notify that they are safe. Last time by using Safety Check service the citizens of Nice and its tourists were able to notify their friends that they had escaped unharmed during the terrorist attack. Besides, it was possible to see which of your friends could happen to be on the English Embankment when the truck run over the crowd of holidaymakers.
Yet, you should remember that the hope for rescue is a mental function, not a computer one.
Author Ivan Sidorov
Translator Daria Samusenko
Original text Facebook (читать медленно)