Upfront disclosure: I have a Facebook account. And I once spent copious, embarrassingly copious, chunks of irreplaceable life time having comment wars, trying to outwit (overwit? superwit?) the smartasses in my circle. Posting notes (read: rants) and statuses – great weeping gods of thunder and sleet, the statuses. Morning coffee spent trying to compose some pithy snippet of cleverness to garner the approbation of as many friends, family and coworkers as possible. It all seems sad in hindsight.
Certainly, it’s not all bad. I got this gig because one of the Indy’s editors is in my friends list and thought I ought take this snarky circus on the road – it’s for you to decide whether this counts in or against Facebook’s favour. As well, one of my best friends began as a Facebook correspondence, although I did not count her a friend until we began interacting face to face. I have near and dear who are scattered far and wide, and it’s nice to be able to quickly share notes and photos with them. For promotion and communication, when used properly and wisely, well, like any tool, Facebook and Twitter can be useful.
This is where the ‘however’ part starts.
Facebook and Twitter appear to be helping breed a generation of narcissists incapable of real communication; an Eden for the self-absorbed that too often transforms perfectly nice people into attention-seeking, illiterate imbeciles (well, something has to be responsible). Facebook is where the English language receives its mortal wounding, and Twitter where it drags itself to die. If my bank balance reflected the collective IQ of your average Facebook wall or Tweets compilation I’d be in perpetual overdraft.
Can anyone believe it is a positive that we have an entire generation (perhaps several) turning into voyeuristic stalkers accumulating useless social capital? And while not at all entirely responsible, the vacuity of Facebook and the fatuous burbling that is your average Tweet are purveying and reinforcing the near encyclopedic ignorance of our society. Especially pernicious is that they delude users into thinking they are experiencing and managing real relationships.
Perhaps we have always been a culture pathetically tuned into the quicksand of vicarious experience that is ‘celebrity’, but there is something about several million people ‘following’ the insipid Tweeting utterances of a pop star or actor that is especially disheartening. As though some glistening jewel of insight will suddenly appear compressed into 140 characters and make it all so much clearer. I cannot imagine anyone spending any portion of life following a Twitter account solely to be informed of whatever the suppurating fuck a Kardashian might be, let alone what it might be doing.
Facebook is where the English language receives its mortal wounding, and Twitter where it drags itself to die.
What’s equally gobsmacking is how willing millions are to share private data by the tanker-full with application developers and advertisers. Try this: imagine that a government – any government – started a web site. On this site, you were required to enter personal info, including your education, career, hobbies, interests and relationships. Then, you would inform the government about your day-to-day activities, not to mention where and with whom you were doing them. Then, you would not only upload pictures and video of your activities with family and friends, but efficiently identify them in same. Yes or no: would you sign on to this website?
The Facebook ‘newsfeed’ is a tabloid: Except, instead of vapid celebrities, it features everyone with whom you’ve crossed paths in, well, ever. It’s chocked with scandal, embarrassing pictures and blazingly banal information about people you know, knew, sorta know and how-do-I-know-you-again? Most of it is so ridiculously trivial that you may as well go read People magazine with your grandmother.
Facebook and Twitter as locator beacons: Now, you can inform the world of where you are, what you’re doing and with whom you’re doing it, neatly tagged and mapped and sent scuttling into cyberspace with a megaphone and a spotlight on its arse. ‘Look! I have friends! A boyfriend, even! And we’re out in public! Don’t you wish you were here with us?’ Jesus on the pillory. Let’s all just put GPS trackers around our ankles, so that we don’t have to make the effort of logging in to inform the world that we’re swigging lattes with our insignificant others.
People collecting: How the hell do these hoarders of humans accumulate hundreds, if not thousands, of ‘friends’? I have a limited friends list, comprised of people with whom I genuinely wish to communicate, odd though that might seem. I perform purges of same with some regularity, as folks come into and leave my life. My friends are generally literate and of well-formed opinions, and aren’t squeamish about my lack of decorum and diplomacy. Why in the name of Dagon’s unholy nutsack would I wish to have every bloke and maid with whom I’ve crossed paths watching my every move, and bloody able to comment on same, besides? On what level is this not horrifying?
Obsessive parents: When your precious little DNA spills compose their first sonatas or run marathons, by all means, spread the news far and wide. In the meantime, I don’t give a nutshell full of squirrel shit if they are now making #2 in the big-boy pot or using three-syllable gurgles. I’ve also forgotten what you look like because your profile pic is continuously of an infant and I’ve frankly decided it’s just weird having a two year old for a Facebook friend.
Heartbreak as spectator sport: So, you are facing the great good time that is the end of a relationship, and everybody – your boss, your aunt who moved to Backwater, Alberta a decade ago, your yoga teacher, your ex, the weasel for whom your ex left you – all get to find out about it in real time because it just isn’t legitimate until you change your Facebook conjugal status. And, later, when you shoot yourself in the face, some tasteless twatmonkey will upload a police photo and fucking tag you in it.
Ever sit about wondering whether your friends, coworkers and/or family members were washing dishes, making lunch, watching a movie, playing video games or taking a bath? No, me neither.
On the flipside, at least we got to witness the happy confluence of fates, lives and naughty bits at the beginning of the doomed relationship. Watched it evolve and meld and take shape as every furtive glance and plaintive sigh was documented via your Facebook wall and photo albums. Have we returned to the Victorian age when all courting must be public and remarked upon? ‘Cause I look crap in a corset.
The play-by-play status: Ever sit about wondering whether your friends, coworkers and/or family members were washing dishes, making lunch, watching a movie, playing video games or taking a bath? No, me neither. Dandruff; dust bunnies; diapers; doorknobs: things more interesting than most peoples’ Facebook updates. And that’s just the D’s.
Whiny statuses: Oh, really, you’re hungover? Geez, that’s awful. Thanks for letting everyone know about it, though. Just out of curiosity, what exactly did you think was going to happen while you were hosing vodka crans down your gullet? That you’d wake up with rainbows streaming out of your ass? Aches, pains, oh god I’m so bored, I’m so lonely, I hate this shirt, my phone is dead, I have a sniffle, my balls itch. Suck it up, princesses. Gods, how did sympathy-mongering prats announce their ails and self-inflicted miseries to the world before the frigging internet?
Saving the world, one Facebook post at a time: Hey, I’d tie the ribbons around my dangly bits and run naked down George Street on a Saturday night were I to believe it would cure breast cancer. But the virtual variety do little else but allow the ineffectual to feel less so and bolster their give-a-shit-reps while not having it actually eat into their social lives. By all means, spread awareness, but let’s not pretend that anything close to the majority of those who ‘share’ these wonderful, consciousness raising posts do anything more than that about it. Perhaps sexual assault and hunger and disease will one day fade away because social media made it so. Until then, may the collective social conscience of Facebook get resoundingly stuffed with its own half-sincere inefficacy.
Are you even still reading this?
Social media is somehow accomplishing the opposite of what was intended. It is eroding communication and trivializing language. Because every event, thought and action is now apparently of import, there is no longer any filter, no way to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant and so it all is, somehow, both at once. We have constant peeks into others’ lives and minds and no greater insight into one another. We expose ourselves to all, and have no more understanding of ourselves. When does communication become exhibitionism? When does curiosity become prurience? And how can we have so much communication and so little to say?
This is how the terrorists will finally win: at some point they will develop the capability to unleash nuclear devastation, but by the time we’re all done posting and tweeting and texting about it (‘Samantha G is getting a flash burn at ground zero! – with Steve T’) it will be too late for us to actually do anything about it.
Hopefully, someone will be left to tag the picture of my shadow burned into a wall.