I’m coming to the conclusion that I hate facebook. Its cultural ubiquity requires that I continue to use it indefinitely, mainly because of Everyday Driver, but I will do it grudgingly. In fact, in this world of “social-promotion” I should actually use it far more for our car show, even though it turns my stomach. Twitter should also be a more consistent part of my life, but it hasn’t brought me to rant yet… probably because I’d be limited to 140 characters and that’s more like a rant-let. And Google+ is an also-ran at this point even though I got and accepted the very exciting invitation. G+ positions itself as the anti-facebook, but that requires people to be both: a) completely fed up with Facebook b) concluding that what they really need is a “different” social network site. I’ll take a big scoop of A, and choose to ignore B.
So what’s my problem? Am I just old before my time and wishing for the days of snail mail and the rotary telephone? Not at all. My issue is the feeling that facebook isn’t actually connecting us as much as it’s feeding our vanity and laziness.
The facebook “news” feed provides a platform for all kinds of inane blather. We see photos of people’s dinner, hear their plans for the next few hours, scroll past their political views, and anything else a person deems so riveting that the internet needs a record of its happening. I imagine some sociologist of the distant future uncovering the code from a day of facebook postings and concluding “no wonder their civilization collapsed, no one actually did anything but yet they considered everything important. “. If you have a facebook account, and you’ve ever posted a status, you are saying “this is important enough that everyone should know.” Sheer vanity, fed by the relentless content black hole that is the internet… a beast in need of constant feeding. So we update again. And God help us if someone actually likes what you post.
Which brings us to the lazy part of the equation, spearheaded by the “like” button. Someone else posts something for all the world to see, you read it and conclude that you are so impressed you must: call them, write something back, smile and pass it on to others… no, none of those. Instead you show your appreciation for their “news” by a single mouse click, less energy than it actually takes to scratch your own nose. Now the world knows we are a supportive audience of someone else’s vain chatter but we literally barely lifted a finger. We’re a part of the conversation! Yeah, us! Vanity and inaction in one little click.
Birthdays encourage similar lazy interaction in the supposed name of connection. As we scroll through Facebook everyday it automatically provides us with mass lists of birthdays without a need to actually keep track of important dates in the lives of others. And so our birthday passes and dozens, hundreds, thousands of people comment on our wall with some generic “have a great day” which they’ve probably copy/pasted on every birthday wall of every friend for the past year. I find it an interesting litmus test for my own quality of friendship. When a birthday reminder strikes me, I write my friends a private email. Or call them. Something where they can hear from me directly and the rest of the world has no idea. Sure, I appreciate the reminder from the facebook overlords… but if I can’t take the time to step out to personally and privately connect with that friend, then how important do I really count their friendship? And similarly, I seem to receive more facebook birthday wishes from acquaintances than folks I call real friends.
So here we are, not closer at all but on our own stage with our own megaphone screaming “look at me, I’m the greatest thing ever”. Meanwhile, all around us everyone else is doing the same thing and raising the inconsequential moments of our lives into an overwhelming din of point and click vanity.
I long for those moments of one on one time with the handful of people who know me, sharing things they wouldn’t dare put on facebook. Struggles, private victories, or even a shared experience, allowed to land with the private resonance of real connection.
But the facebook experience has grown to a strange blending of Cyberdine and big brother. We can’t unplug the beast, it knows all our secrets and has begun to shape the very culture which gave it life. We even continue to feed it with special shout outs to other members @WhoeverTheyAre. The same members who probably don’t have a picture from the last decade, or show anything but their children, or give us any real pertinent information about their lives, their truth, and their day to day. We know what TV shows they like. Where they grew up. And what day to post an ingenuine birthday wish on the home of their digital avatar. Yet we call them friends.
We’ve all been assimilated. The Matrix is real, and I’d like to unplug.
But for now you’ll have to excuse me, I need to go update my status with something car related… and I should probably tweet some inane moment of driving I just saw.
And one of you people will probably click “Like”.