Wednesday, September 17, 2008

On organic development, social networking, and liturgy

Like many people, I have a Facebook profile. (Yes, I do accept friend requests. Even random ones.) And thanks to Facebook, I believe I have a bit more of an idea how people may have reacted to the radical liturgical changes of a generation past.

Recently, Facebook developed a number of presentational and functional changes for its faithful - a.k.a. "The New Facebook." The redesign was touted as bringing extra functionality to its users, an easier-to-use interface, etc. - in short, an improved user experience.

To be sure, Facebook developers were making incremental, sometimes unnoticed, but definitely organic developments to this social networking liturgy. They opened up the platform to third-party developers to enrich it with their time, talent and treasure. Their treasury of new third-party compositions grew by leaps and bounds, and while the vast majority of them were of questionable value, others were seen as indispensable.

But the Consilium of New Facebook periti were promising so much more.

There was an ad experimentum period where early-adopters could voluntary opt-in to the new Facebook liturgy, with the option of going back to the usus antiquior at any time. The problems arose when the changes were imposed on the rest of the Facebook faithful. The outcry rivaled, and perhaps surpassed, that of the suppression, excommunication and expulsion of the Scrabulousian order from the Facebook realm.

Most accepted the new changes with resignation, sometimes resentful. Others, especially the early adopters, embraced the changes and sang their praises. Others, having lost the Facebook faith, left for other social networking sects, thereby writing themselves out of the Facebook of life.

Different groups of the Facebook faithful were formed in the wake of the changes. Some were formed merely to curse the darkness they saw in the new Facebook, while others were formed to call for the widespread imposition of the old Facebook liturgy. (To be sure, there was much overlapping of membership.) Other groups were formed in support of the changes, but these were looked down upon with disdain by those who were nostalgically attached to the old ways. To be sure, the disdain was mutual.

Recent converts to Facebook from other denominations like MySpace and Friendster were understandably confused by the rancor.

It remains to be seen whether a future leader of Facebook is to rise up and consider the possibility of both forms of the Facebook liturgy co-existing side-by-side, mutually enriching each other. Proponents of the changes probably would sneer at this notion; those entrenched in their old habits and devotions would probably view this proposal with suspicion, seeing it as a way to placate them before even the "old Facebook" finally morphs into the quasi-heretical "new Facebook."

Time will tell.

(Being open to the changes, I was an early adopter of the new layout. And while it took some time to get used to it - indeed, I haven't completely explored all of its possibilities and still get lost occasionally - overall I did view it as an improvement. The improvements were logical, rational and inspiring in their own way, and while I missed some things about the old liturgy, the new one was overall quite satisfying. But not completely.

Still, I'm not worried, since Facebook is semper reformanda.)

[Originally posted 2008.09.17 on]

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