Posts Tagged ‘neil postman’

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Attempted Facebook Suicide: Part Two

May 18, 2010

If you stare into the abyss long enough, teh abyzz stares bk @ u.

It is purely by accident that one of the books I began to read during my Facebook exile is the 20th anniversary edition of Amusing Ourselves to Death.

I’m only halfways through and it has already tied together many of Marshall McLuhan and Noam Chomsky’s ideas together for me, as though part of a missing triptych required to comprehend these counter-intuitive notions about media consumption. Written in 1985 it makes most of its arguments about the decline of informative, necessary public discourse being due to the advent of television. It’s remarkably eerie how prescient these ideas are in the Age of Internet.

To have these ideas bouncing around my mind while waiting for the clock to run down on my Facebook account for good is becoming a bizarre self-exploration to say the least.

What does this have to do with Facebook? Well, for one, I’m currently grappling with the admittedly trivial disconnect of not seeing familiar faces and trading witty one-liners on a daily basis. In a certain respect, Facebook has transcended being a social network and become the method by which we communicate, pushing other formats to the side. It has annexed email, photo sharing, online gaming and chat from the Internet; introduced a new platform for targeted advertising and helped organize partygoers and activists. Facebook is also in most pockets now that the smart phone revolution is in full swing. Data plans are quietly overtaking voice plans. Facebook wants to encompass everything and in many ways, it’s succeeding.

In a sense, this is what people without an account turn their backs on.

Tamagotchi Takeover

I remember when the Tamagotchis took over my summer camp. I was 11. To this day I can’t believe how many kids had one. For anyone who successfully repressed this bit of pop culture, Tamagotchis are little handheld sized, electronic pets that were huge in early 90s. The idea was you pressed a button to feed it a certain times throughout the day and it would smile; or you’d forget and it would die. The way I remember it, more tears were shed over these dead keychains than because of fights, heartbreak, camp-related injuries and homesickness combined. Even at 11, I thought it was absurd. (That didn’t stop me from trying to kill as many of them as I could by keeping their owners distracted).

This is the metaphor I’ve chosen for the Facebook profile page. Looking at mine for the last time, I couldn’t help but reflect on all the efforts I’d put into it over three years. I maintained it; put only the best pictures up, only the wittiest updates, de-tagged myself when necessary, posted only the funniest or most informative links, and joined only the best causes or trendiest groups. I put forward the best digital avatar I could and what kind of return did I get for all the Dennis Ryan personality-advertising?

Very, very little.

As a result of signing up for Twitter to fill the void, I’ve realized just how much narcissism drives me to use social media (I suspect must of us are driven similarly). I’m usually much more interested in seeing how many reactions my posts, pictures and updates are getting than in most things posted or expressed by my friends. I thrive on the little red notification icons at the top of the page. That’s not to say I’m above anything my friends’ put out there; only that Facebook has become my Tamagotchi. It exists primarily for me to post and get a reaction.

Post a picture. Tag friends. Wait for comments.

Update status. Wait for comments.

Post a link. Count how many likes.

See new comments. Start trolling to get more.

Even worse is now when I travel, I’m Facebook-conscious. That is, I plan and look forward to the comments I’ll generate. I either update-on-the-go or daydream about the day I get home and can post.  I should add that the nature of the reactions is almost always secondary, at best. Why is this? Because Facebook is not a venue for discussing anything of even remote substance. It’s a place for high fives. Who remembers high fives? I don’t, but I am addicted to them. Thanks Facebook!

What’s even more interesting is how many of my friendships seem to hinge on this scintilla of interaction. And yet, it may be this very form of connection to certain people that makes me log in and negate my suicide. I do like people after all.

To strengthen my resolve, I look to friends who have never signed up for Facebook. For three years I couldn’t imagine how they got by without it. The surprising part was whenever I confronted one of them about it; they always seemed completely unfazed, as if I’d been chiding them for not seeing a movie. Now I know it’s because they’re pure; untainted by Facebook’s promises of connectedness. They make it look easy because they don’t know otherwise. The new media hasn’t reformed their lifestyle…yet.

Odds of beating Facebook: Gonna give myself a solid 70% today. Miss the high fives. Like having extra time to cook and read and think. Oh, and there’s still the privacy issues that have gone unanswered despite some “emergency meetings.”

Speaking of which, anyone who wants to learn more about their privacy or just jump on the bandwagon, here’s a few sites:

See ya in a few days…



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