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I just skimmed an article from the “Australian Humanities Review” (don’t ask me how I found it, the Internet is a strange tool indeed) by one Meaghan Morris. She treats the subject of Facebook and one part of her article notes the phenomenon of “instrumental or desperate friend-accumulation” and the existence of ”Addicted to Facebook” groups on the site itself. Apparently, one member of such a group penned this poem, what Morris generously called a “well-turned, 14 stanza ballad.” I just had to post this poem, sweetly entitled ‘Can I be your Facebook Friend?’:
“Can I be your Facebook Friend?
Friendship’s new reality
And we’ll celebrate our union
For all cyberspace to see
Can I be your Facebook Friend?
Cause this friendship is unique
We can hold a conversation
And we never have to speak
If you add me as your friend
I’ll accept of course, and then
I will sit here on your profile
You won’t hear from me again”
You have to love the irony of it. Morris says: “This poem nicely catches the nuances of the ‘Facebook addict’ type: an anti-social, agoraphobic, ‘low maintenance’ lurker who is also a passive-aggressive and voyeuristic stalker accumulating useless social capital.” Ha, ha. A fun sentence which just might make my list of favorite anti-Facebook quotes. Two final words. One, do not bother reading Morris’ article. She is a Facebooker herself and, on the whole, she irked me. Second, I realize that not everyone who uses Facebook is an addict. But I do think that most individuals who claim that “I really don’t spend much time on Facebook!” would have a hard time quitting it for good.
Good readers beware! I have a feeling that the above poem will tempt me to try my own hand at AntiFacebook verse in the near future!
As you may have noted, I am adding a page entitled “100 Household Items With More Value Than Facebook.” Today I am thrilled to introduce the first item on my list…
#1: The Toothpick. It struck me last week that the toothpick is a most ingenious household item. Generally found in the kitchen, the toothpick has such a vast number of uses that it is impossible to count them all. A few of these uses are particularly notable. For example, the toothpick has been used for over three million years for pricking cakes, muffins, breads, and unruly bananas. Scientists disagree as to the reasoning behind this use. One group says that the puncture is supposed to remind the food item that “flour it was, and to flour it shall return.” This seems improbable because it does not explain the bananas. Another interesting toothpick use is that of the dueling toothpick. They stopped putting this in the history books, but toothpicks were universally used for all forms of personal warfare before swords were invented. You have probably heard, but rumor has it that the Prince of Sweden has a morbid fear of toothpicks. I can present no solid evidence for this, but I have a great deal of faith that, were someone to run wildly towards him with a toothpick, he would be afeared. Unusually enough, toothpicks can also be glued on construction paper in the shape of alphabet letters. This was used as an exercise for children in kindergarten until the 1960s, when the children inexplicably stopped figuring out how to make the ”C” and “S”. Moreover, if you so desire, you can put a toothpick halfway into your mouth and gnaw your teeth up and down. If you add a hat and mud, you may make a pretty convincing Iowa farmer impersonation. But no guarantees, for even toothpicks are not without imperfections. There are so many toothpick uses that I could go on for days, but all things must stop somewhere. So, log off Facebook today and spend some time pondering the toothpick. These little guys have a lot of wisdom packed into their skinny wooden frames.
<img src=”http://www.weblogcartoons.com/cartoons/facebook.gif” alt=”cartoon from http://www.weblogcartoons.com”; />
<p>Cartoon by <a href=”http://www.cartoonchurch.com/blog/”>Dave Walker</a>. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at <a href=”http://www.weblogcartoons.com/”>We Blog Cartoons</a>.</p>
<img src=”http://www.weblogcartoons.com/cartoons/google.gif” alt=”cartoon from http://www.weblogcartoons.com”; />
<p>Cartoon by <a href=”http://www.cartoonchurch.com/blog/”>Dave Walker</a>. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at <a href=”http://www.weblogcartoons.com/”>We Blog Cartoons</a>.</p>
Ha, ha! Not that I desire this to happen. I just find the thought somewhat amusing.
Today a shiny new book came in the mail, entitled The Wisdom of Mr. Chesterton: The Very Best Quotes, Quips, and Cracks from the Pen of G.K.Chesterton. I certainly qualify as an enthusiast of quote-compilations, so I practically fell in love at first sight. Undeniably at first page, at least. My mom says I have to share it with everyone in the family, but don’t you think that sounds a tad bit Communistic? I’m a fan of private property myself. Anyway, be sure to act surprised if the book and I disappear for a while.
Here are some beauties from Chesterton, on those subjects dear to AFLI’s heart:
”Civilisation is not to be judged by the rapidity of communication, but by the value of what is communicated. ” (Isn’t this what I’m always saying? Having a technology does not mean it is a good technology, nor does it oblige us to use it.)
“People talking in twos talk gently, because they feel emphatically: people talking in tens or twenties talk emphatically because they do not care a dump about anything.” (Quantity versus quality is best in friendship. Facebook does not promote this. On the contrary, it generally breeds competition and concern as to how many “friends” one has.)
“And never before, I should imagine, in the intellectual history of the world have words been used with so idiotic an indifference to their actual meaning.” (Facebook thrives on people who bang and batter the English language to bits.)
And finally: ”There are a hundred means of communication, and there is nothing to communicate.” (Tis indeed the sad state of affairs.)
Well, here is another I just found. “What I lament is the importance of head-lines and the unimportance of headwork; the eagerness to state a man’s views, compared with the carelessness about whether his views are really stated, let along whether they are really sound.” (Probably couldn’t have said it better myself. Ha, ha.)
Hope you enjoyed these Chestertonian insights! I did!
You can say that you have Facebook to stay in touch with your friends. But like it or not, you won’t be able to have a private conversation. Facebook is public. Even if you don’t mean it to happen, your personal information will be used by marketers, researchers, and government agencies. Is it worth it? Why shout out to the whole world what you want to say to one person? Wouldn’t a letter be more efficient?
Following are parts of an article written in 2006 and entitled The Privacy Paradox: Social Networking in the United States. The author is Susan B. Barnes, a Professor in the Department of Communication at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).
Last September, Rupert Murdoch purchased MySpace from Intermix for a reported $580 million cash buyout. Currently, “Murdoch is getting: a gold mine of market research, a microscope into the content habits and brand choices of America’s capricious youth market — not to mention millions of potential new customers for News Corp.’s Fox subsidiaries.” Similarly, Christine Rosen, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, observed that some of the discussion groups on Facebook look like mailing lists. The same names of discussion groups are also the names used in marketing directories. The commercial aspect of the site is quite apparent.
In America, we live in a paradoxical world of privacy. On one hand, teenagers reveal their intimate thoughts and behaviors online and, on the other hand, government agencies and marketers are collecting personal data about us.
Internet software can be used as parasocietal mechanisms for the observation of online interactions. Online social networks allow for high levels of surveillance.
Social networking sites create a central repository of personal information. These archives are persistent and cumulative . Instead of replacing old information with new materials, online journals are archive–oriented compilations of entries that can be searched.
Tracy Mitrano (2006), Director of IT Policy and Computer Policy and Law Program at Cornell University, created an introduction to Facebook for college students. She warns “on Facebook, you have absolutely no expectation of privacy.”
You Can’t Get There from Here
It is not possible to get to where you intend to go from where you are now, so don’t even try.
The above is from Dr. Boli’s Celebrated Magazine. My twist on it relates to Facebook. “It is not possible to get to where you intend to go from Facebook, so don’t even try.” Wherever it is you want to get in life, Facebook won’t help you much. Overdosing your imagination is not the route to happiness.
Are you aware that 20% of our high school graduates can be classified as functionally illiterate?
Does this perhaps have something to do with the fact that boys and girls read, on average, a mere 30-40 minutes a day?
Compare this with the fact that American children ages 8-18 devote about 8 hours a day to entertainment media (television, computers, smart phones, etc.) Keep in mind that this does not take texting and talking on the phone into consideration.
You just can’t have it all. If it’s true that you don’t have to burn the books to destroy a culture, you just have to stop people from reading them, then we’re not looking at a pleasant future. And really, if you are spending eight hours a day on “entertainment media”, when are you engaging your mind in real learning? I think this helps to explain the quality (well, lack thereof) of the kind of conversation that takes place on Facebook.
Here is most of an article that appeared on the First Things website last month, edited a little for brevity’s sake. Here is a summary for those who cannot afford the time to read it through (or for those whose attention spans have been unfortunately deadened by Facebook):
The ME-culture (evidenced by Facebook, YouTube, the inflated grade system, etc.) is a recent development sickening society (especially American society) which can be traced back largely to the self-esteem movement. Narcissism is much more than vanity, it is materialistic, sometimes aggressive, and always uninterested in emotional closeness. Narcissistic personality traits have been on the rise since the 1980s, according to much data. Humility is the only real antidote for Narcissism, and humility is a specifically Christian virtue. Therefore, if we hope to purge the culture of Narcissism, we must revive the virtues of Christianity.
Now here is the real thing, which is actually somewhat of a book review, by the way:
“Of all the astonishing features of the medieval cathedrals, one feature must stand out as particularly surprising to the modern mind: We have no idea who designed and built them. In a fashion quite foreign to contemporary practice, the architects and builders did not bother to sign their names on the cornerstones. The anonymity of the great souls responsible surely seems strange to our age. Why build the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Chartres if you can’t take credit for it? No lasting fame? No immortalized human glory? We are, if not scandalized, at the very least perplexed by the humility of these forgotten artists who labored in obscurity. Do and disappear? This is not how we roll in the America of the twenty-first century.
The artistic and cultural norm of the anonymous artist or craftsman began to change during the so-called Enlightenment. Witness Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions, a book he dedicated “to me, with the admiration I owe myself.” The book opens with these lines: “I have entered upon a performance which is without example, whose accomplishment will have no imitator. I mean to present my fellow-mortals with a man in all the integrity of nature; and this man shall be myself.” Rousseau deliberately chose his title as a response to Augustine’s work by the same name. In contrast to Rousseau’s vain self-aggrandizement, Augustine gives all glory to God, as in his opening quotation from the Book of Psalms: “Great thou art, and greatly to be praised.” One has to add, however, that even if we admire Augustine’s humility, Rousseau’s language strikes us as more familiar. “To me, with the admiration I owe myself” is a dedication that would look right at home today on a Facebook or MySpace page.
In the eighteenth century, Rousseau’s narcissism, although fashionable among the philosophes, was still something of an anomaly in the wider culture. Indeed, if you believe the statistics in the book under review, such self-conscious narcissism remained an anomaly until roughly forty years ago. Not so today, argue authors Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell. The Narcissism Epidemic opens with this claim: “We didn’t have to look very hard to find it. It was everywhere.” Indeed. As the reader sifts through the evidence the authors have gathered, it becomes apparent that this is a book that could have written itself. And yet this is the first popular book on the topic since Christopher Lasch’s 1979 bestseller, The Culture of Narcissism (a book still very much worth reading, in spite of its somewhat anachronistic theoretical framework, which draws heavily on Freudian psychoanalysis). We should be grateful to Twenge and Campbell for bringing us up to date, carefully collecting and collating the evidence at hand.
…..But what is dealt with here is, in fact, more a cultural phenomenon than a clinical one. The book could be classified as sociology rather than as clinical psychology or medicine. One wonders whether the authors’ use of language derived from a medical model is the wrong approach to the sort of narcissism they describe. The individuals profiled in the book are not the wounded souls who typically visit a psychiatrist’s office in search of succor and healing. They are, instead, the student denizens of UCLA and Texas Tech and the parents who formed them—individuals supposedly healthy and well adjusted, even flourishing, by contemporary standards. And yet, when one looks beneath the surface, these are sick souls. Medicine, then, is perhaps the apt descriptive metaphor. (“Narcissism is a psychocultural affliction rather than a physical disease,” as the authors put it.)
…..The research that undergirds the book’s central thesis consists of survey data from 37,000 college students. In this sample population, narcissistic personality traits rose dramatically from the 1980s to the present, and the shift was especially pronounced in women. The rise in narcissistic traits has accelerated with each decade since the data began to be collected. The authors assemble evidence to show that these trends are generalizable to other age groups, not simply confined to the sample’s college students. The symptoms of narcissism are vanity; materialism; an inflated sense of one’s own specialness or importance; antisocial behavior; little interest in emotionally close or unselfish relationships, along with a lack of empathy; exaggerated overconfidence; and a strong sense of entitlement. Sound like anyone you know?
Twenge and Campbell correctly lay much of the blame for the epidemic at the feet of the self-esteem movement, which has been enormously influential, not only in the spheres of popular psychology and education, but also as a central tenet of the “gospel of success” message heard in many evangelical megachurches….. This Trojan horse, the authors argue, has led not to health but to rampant self-centeredness. “Narcissism causes almost all of the things that Americans hoped high self-esteem would prevent, including aggression, materialism, lack of caring for others, and shallow values,” they write. “In trying to build a society that celebrates high self-esteem, self-expression, and ‘loving yourself,’ Americans have inadvertently created more narcissists—and a culture that brings out the narcissistic behavior in all of us.” The self-esteem fad apparently has backfired, but the folks at your local public or parochial grade school don’t seem to have noticed.
…..As for the claim that some narcissism is healthy in a competitive society, the authors argue that “it would be better for everyone not to concentrate on self-feelings—positive or negative—quite so much.” The book’s language here runs against the grain of much conventional wisdom in modern psychology. The authors put the case this way: “Think about the deepest joy you experience in life—it doesn’t typically come from thinking about how great you are. Instead, it comes from connecting with the world and getting away from yourself, as when you enjoy time with friends, family, and children, are engaged at work, or do all-absorbing tasks such as art, writing, crafts, athletics, or helping others.” Twenge and Campbell are drawing here on research from the so-called positive psychology movement, which recently has attempted to shift the focus of psychological research away from disease and disorder to a study of the character strengths that make for happiness and human flourishing. In the process, this research program seems to have rediscovered the list of classical (and even Christian) virtues. Yes, forgetting about myself and giving myself generously to others is a prescription for happiness.
The final misconception, that narcissism is just another word for vanity, is incomplete: “Narcissists are also materialistic, entitled, aggressive when insulted, and uninterested in emotional closeness.” A psychiatric study found that the biggest consequence of narcissism was suffering endured by people close to the narcissist.
…..The Narcissism Epidemic traces the root causes of narcissism to the triumph of the therapeutic mentality, beginning in the 1970s; to changes in parenting styles (parents wanting their kids’ approval rather than children striving for parental approval); to celebrities who are “famous for being famous” and the media that transmit their endless, self-absorbed chatter; to the MySpace/Facebook/YouTube phenomenon (dubbed Web 2.0); and to easy consumer credit (which recently came crashing down). One could add to the authors’ list, the capitulation of schools, churches, and other mediating institutions of society to these trends and fads.
“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity,” saith the preacher. “Hell, yeah, I’m hot!” saith the Facebook home page. This is vanity on steroids, and it is becoming the norm. From whence will we find the cure for this disease? As the authors argue, we need to implement reforms in parenting styles, the media, education, economic policy, and the tone of political and social life. No one who reads this book can reasonably disagree with these prescriptions. But we need more. The virtue of humility is the real antidote, and Twenge and Campbell endorse this. But even among the noblest pagans such as Aristotle, humility was not included among the list of virtues. Humility is a distinctively Christian virtue, grounded in the doctrine of Christ’s kenosis. It is not triumphalism, but simply a fact of history: Christianity was the leaven that shaped a more humble and humane culture; gave rise to America’s founding values; and, ultimately, prevented us from worshipping ourselves. The cure? Either we will become the salt and light that purge and dispel the insipid narcissism that surrounds us, or our culture will continue to descend deeper into the loud, crass, and aggressive cult of self-worship.”
Aaron Kheriaty, M.D., is director of residency training and medical education and founding director of the Psychiatry and Spirituality Forum at the department of psychiatry at the University of California, Irvine.