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Hope you enjoy this lyrical reflection on Facebook by Mark Gallagher as much as I did…
Scottish Poem Against Facebook. (a la Robert Burns)
Am a cyber-geek at Facebook High,
Maist friend requests get nae reply,
The in-crowd still ignore me noo,
Their pages ah cannae even view,
It’s so like school it’s beyond a joke,
The braw birds ah still dinnae get tae poke,
Am unpopular, never understood it fully,
Get called a twat fae the cyber-bully,
At Facebook High jist want tae fit-in,
But at virtual lunch, it’s still alone am sittin’;
Ah’d be a great friend tae the in-crowd,
Ayeways Rollin On Floor, or Laughin Out Loud,
Ah could like the same stuff that they dae,
‘Cos ah wid gie it the thumbs up tae,
Ah wis never invited fer a virtual pint,
Ah thought peer pressure wis left ahint,
Ah’ve tried fake photaes an’ lies aboot lifestyle
Tae get their respect wi ma false profile,
An’ ah’ve never been that gid at games,
So fitbaw or Farmville, ah’d still get caw’d names;
Ah wis once invited tae a secret group,
Ah clique had let me in their loop,
Here they were, the cream ay the school,
The Kings an’ Queens, the folk who’re cool,
Ah wis there wi aw the popular folk,
But it turned oot tae be a great, big joke,
The first ‘hing asked wis who ye hated
The maist at the school, an’ ah wis top-rated,
But as soon as ah gave ma input,
They deleted me an’ kicked me oot;
Ah gave up tryin’ tae be their friends,
The High School bullshit never ends,
It’s still aw aboot popularity, status,
An’ how ither folk hate us or rate us,
“Are they fatter noo? Dae they hae kids?
Happily mairried or oan the skids?
Fancy joab an’ a big flash car,
Aye, we kennt that swot wid aye go far,
Such an’ such has let theirsel’ go,
An’ thing-mi-jig is bald is he no’?”
It’s jist a massive gossip site,
Reflect oan that as ye log in the night,
Am noo an ex-pupil ay Facebook High,
Ah expelled masel’ tae gie the real world a try.
Sherman Alexie’s The Facebook Sonnet
Welcome to the endless high-school
Reunion. Welcome to past friends
And lovers, however kind or cruel.
Let’s undervalue and unmend
The present. Why can’t we pretend
Every stage of life is the same?
Let’s exhume, resume, and extend
Childhood. Let’s play all the games
That occupy the young. Let fame
And shame intertwine. Let one’s search
For God become public domain.
Let church.com become our church
Let’s sign up, sign in, and confess
Here at the altar of loneliness.
Thank you to Carolyn MacKinnon for sharing this!
“Northern Wasteland of Unread Updates,” “Bay of Drama,” and “Plains of Awkwardly Public Family Interactions…” I am quite pleased with this map I found online; it is a creative interpretation of the web revolution we are experiencing. I hope you enjoy it! (The map, that is, and not the revolution.)
Here is a post where you can actually read the map: Online Communities. And, this post shows the forerunner to this map, created in 2007, for a neat compare and contrast.
Although I don’t believe the eHow post on fighting Facebook addiction intended itself to be sarcastic, I found the tone hysterical. Perhaps it is my sense of humor, but see if you find these eHow recommendations amusing (italics added for effect):
“Actually call up a friend you want to reconnect with.”
“Select and print out your favorite pictures of you and your friends from the past few months. Spend an afternoon creating an album–a real one…”
“Start a real game of scrabble with your roommate.”
“Buy a crossword puzzle book. When you are bored, work on a puzzle. This is more fun and better for your brain than movie quizzes.”(Source: How to Fight Your Facebook Addiction | eHow.comhttp://www.ehow.com/how_2192540_fight-facebook-addiction.html#ixzz1OSJLlhVt)
Think about the implications of those statements. eHow is saying that online scrabble is somehow NOT REAL SCRABBLE. And I like the fact that eHow just asserts the fact that crossword puzzles are more fun than movie quizzes. Ha! I think that is a tad bit extreme. We need some sort of clarification. Perhaps that crossword puzzles are generally more fun than movie quizzes to those whose lives are properly ordered? I don’t know, but eHow is funnily drastic.
Signing off, let me end with a quote:
“There will still be things that machines cannot do. They will not produce great art or great literature or great philosophy; they will not be able to discover the secret springs of happiness in the human heart; they will know nothing of love and friendship.” (Bertrand Russell, 1872-1970)
A little while back at Text Patterns, Alan Jacobs responded to the claim that opting out of technology like Facebook is no longer possible. His reply was very commonsensical:
“I love this almost-always-on connected life, Lord knows I do, but of course opting out is an option even for those who want to be “informed,” at least for now. I could subscribe to and read only print magazines — even just monthly and quarterly magazines — and be fully informed about everything I need to be informed about.
We tell ourselves, by way of self-justification, that we need Twitter, need our RSS feeds, need Facebook. But no, we don’t. We just like them very much. And as far as I’m concerned that’s good enough. It’s just necessary always to remember that we’re making choices and could, if we wished, make different ones about how we’re informed and what we’re informed about.”
And, here is an older quote from James Bowman that I just stumbled upon. Honor is a topic dear to Mr. Bowman’s heart, but this is the first time I noticed him relating social networking to it:
“That may be one reason why so many young people are eager to escape that world for the different sort of friendship offered by Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites. Those friends don’t have their eyes on you all the time, and their access to you may be controlled. Also…they make only trivial and mostly painless demands upon you. Friendship, in being extended so widely is cheapened, and its hold upon us — which is the power of honor and shame — is accordingly loosened. Like those comforting abstract concepts of our ethical world, mankind, humanity, or Planet Earth, our virtual friendships eventually reach a point where they are too large in number and too remote to care very much what any individual does.”
(The above comic found here: http://itmanagement.earthweb.com/cnews/article.php/3715291)
By the way, Mark Zuckerberg being named Time’s 2010 Person of the Year is a joke. Be assured that insightful criticism (not to be mistaken as futile ranting, mind you) is forthcoming.
Finally, here is the Part II promised long, long ago… hope you enjoy!
Is there any defense for social networking under democracy’s banner? After all, Zuckerberg seems to think so. Zuckerberg says that the power of democracy is at work in Facebook and that, by giving everyone a voice and “power,” the system will end up in a really good place. Well, Facebook does reinforce interest-group politics. But it does not serve democracy— at least, not deliberative democracy— because a) it does not encourage people to have their opinions challenged, and b) it thwarts delving deeply into issues. So, though social networking strengthens interest groups, it does not benefit deliberative democracy.
The web as we know it is a sort of mathematical tool; Zuckerberg would like it to be a kind of omniscient god. For Zuckerberg’s open web wish to come true, everything will have to be owned, in a sense, by one potent force. If lots of power corrupts a lot, this only spells trouble. But could this ever even happen? This is where the present tension between Facebook and Google comes into play. Less than a year ago, Facebook made it so that users could access Facebook relationships, without logging in, on over 10,000 independent sites. In April, Facebook rolled out an array of developments, specifically the Open Graph and Social Plugins, aimed at increasing Facebook’s capacity for power. In October, Facebook entered into a search engine partnership with Microsoft. This friction between search engines underscores the real battle, one over the future of the web. Facebook contends for a social web, Google primarily for a content web. Through Facebook, Zuckerberg is daily prying information out of the hands of Google, broadening Google’s “blind spot” as its servers receive data which Google cannot reach. It is certainly not implausible that Zuckerberg’s social web revolution will succeed.
Zuckerberg’s vision also lends itself toward a social stigma around those who have privacy concerns. In Zuckerberg’s eyes, exposing your life online somehow endorses integrity. This has raised some sparks from Alan Jacobs, that loveable blogger for The New Atlantis. “So I have some sort of obligation to make it easier for people to get in touch with me?—to match my life to the ‘expected way to make connections’? That seems like a philosophically suspect claim to me,” he said. It is indeed an unsound claim, but it is the claim that will possibly be at the heart of Web 3.0. Jacobs’ offers two further complaints worthy of note. First, he hints that Zuckerberg’s ambitions are just another instance of American culture’s unceasing war against introverts. Second, he notices that no one seems to be able to provide a decent response to those who share his own reason for not using Facebook: “I’m not freaking interested.” Problem is, if Zuckerberg’s social web comes to be, it’s doubtful that one will be able to opt out of surrendering one’s personal information, whether he’s interested or not.
“On Facebook I know who you are because I know who the people are who you know,” said Zuckerberg. This sounds like nonsense because it is. But this much is true: whoever is in charge of this one, huge web family Zuckerberg envisions will have access to an unprecedented amount of information. Amusingly, Zuckerberg critiqued Google by saying that no one wants to be part of a surveillance society. He assures that in his social graph, users will be allowed to decide which information they make public and private. Unfortunately, it is just the case that whatever information one puts on Facebook is effectively public, regardless of privacy settings, because it’s officially owned by Facebook. Not to mention that Facebook’s record of abiding by its own terms of contract has been, well, far from sterling. Let’s not even bring the government into this. Do people really want the web to be one extension of Facebook? Centralizing power on the web will only lead to the abuse of information, as web history has proven time and again.
“Up until now all the advancements in technology have said that information and data are the most important thing. The most important thing to us is that there is a person sitting behind that keyboard. We think the Internet is about people.” These are the interesting words of Facebook’s senior platform manager, words which fall short in so many ways. The Internet is in its element when it deals with data and information; it is not in its element when it deals, in a much removed way, with human beings. Computers are for information, not for meaning and purpose in one’s life. Overemphasizing linking us to who we know, ZuckerWeb would separate us from the strangers surrounding us in the real world. This is precisely why Zuckerberg’s vision of web future is disordered: it wishes to revolutionize the web’s role from tool to society. The web can serve man well as an instrument; it does not, however, make for a wholesome and meaningful place in which to live.
 Alan Jacobs, “Against Facebook Fascism,” Text Patterns, January 15, 2009. http://text-patterns.thenewatlantis.com/2009/01/against-facebook-fascism.html. 10/22/2010.
 Carlson, 10/22/2010.
 Fred Vogelstein, “Great Wall of Facebook: The Social Network’s Plan to Dominate the Internet— And Keep Google Out,” June 22, 2009. http://www.wired.com/techbiz/it/magazine/17-07/ff_facebookwall?currentPage=2. 10/22/2010.
(This is the unedited version of an article I wrote for my college newspaper, The Rambler. It was published earlier this month on nice glossy paper. It is rather lengthy so I think I will just post part of it for now. In this article I tried to tackle some of Facebook’s problems from a different, rather philosophical, angle. Tell me what you think! Part 2 will be coming soon.)
The Disconcerting Dreams of Mark Zuckerberg
by Savvy J. Buckner
“But civilization is to be tested not so much by the dexterity of inventions as by the worth of what is invented.” –G.K. Chesterton
Twenty-six year old Mark Zuckerberg, the youngest billionaire in our cosmos, has fathered a philosophy that is this very moment redefining the web and our understanding of human relations. He is honest about the novelty of his experiment, but what end-product we should expect has been a little murky. In fact, it is only by studying Zuckerberg’s past words and actions together that a blueprint of his dream emerges. The Web 3.0 envisioned by Zuckerberg parts ways with the traditional Internet; it is grounded in different, and worrisome, first principles. The key to understanding Zuckerberg lies in his concept of the social graph. Zuckerberg calls this graph the core of his work, adding that his philosophy of the world and the inter-connection of things are embedded in it. Basically, the graph refers to a global digital mapping of both humans and objects, defined exclusively by their connections. The web Zuckerberg looks forward to is one in which the default is social and everyone is known by their real identity. One vast, united front that is “smarter” and more “personable.” On every page you click on you receive advertisements and recommendations tailored specifically to you, based on your web history as well as the history of your friends. Everything, yes everything, is inter-connected in Zuckerberg’s dream world.
And Zuckerberg’s philosophy, incarnate in Facebook, has been eaten up. Lauded as an advanced method of communication and sharing, Facebook’s climb to superstructure status has been more of an elevator ride than an upward haul. Over five million online users have adopted Facebook, and the number continues to rise. Zuckerberg’s philosophy is evidently invigorating, but not necessarily healthy. There has been an appalling silence in the space where a natural question should have been raised. Why? Why build our entire web structure on this idea of social sharing? Zuckerberg’s own answers are inadequate, even humorous: “Ultimately, just being able to map out all these things in one graph is just going to be really valuable for understanding what all these people and things are and what they’re doing.” “The idea is that people don’t exist in isolation. You are the set of things that you are connected with. It’s your real identity, and these are real connections that you have.”
Zuckerberg’s plan is paradoxical; his gentle words about community and sharing and social are misleading in the case of the virtual network. While Zuckerberg would have us believe that it is possible to foster true friendship via social networking, he fails to see that there is something fundamentally withheld in such a relationship. Zuckerberg wants the web to be used more personally. But social networking is depersonalized by nature, the most frequent messages are ones broadcast to the public, and screen communication is ever in competition with everything else that can, and does, pop up. On the web, relationships are less people and more objects you can choose to click on and play with when you like. Relationships on the web simply are not real; they are removed and only receive “life” from the user’s interest in them. Most people still agree that it is unhealthy to use the screen as the primary sphere of one’s relationships. Yet this is exactly what Zuckerberg’s philosophy encourages: the pouring of one’s whole life into an avatar. This is a disquieting thought, especially considering that these online communications cannot occur without abandonment, to some degree, of real-world relationships.
Zuckerberg’s words also falls short when we analyze how social networking functions, or fails to function, as a community. Social networking does indeed aid the flow of the web. But it clearly does not refine the quality of information that people share. Unlike a real and healthy community, Facebook demands neither service or sacrifice for the greater good, nor preparation for it. Technologies like Facebook center on self-interest, not genuine cooperation. In the context of community, Zuckerberg’s hope for more openness again falters. The true communal instinct fostered by social networking is found in the abnormal curiosity of users. As Sebastian Waisman noted, the whole success of online networking is due to one feature: “the ability to look at other users’ information without their knowledge— in other words, to spy. ” It is also troubling to compare social networking to a community because social networks contain practically none of the repercussions that offline life does. Meanwhile, Zuckerberg says that Facebook always tries to emphasize the utility component. Reasonable enough. The ease of having all one’s contacts in a big lump is undeniably attractive. But there is a grave discrepancy in Zuckerberg’s words. On one hand, he wants to build one big social community online, based on utility. On the other, he wants us all to have a more “meaningful” web experience. How does utility correlate with meaning? It seems more likely that, if Zuckerberg’s web comes around, both real life and the web will suffer as their roles become increasingly confused.
(To be continued…)
 Nicholas Carlson, “Zuck: Facebook’s Future is Not As a Web Site,” Business Insider, June 13, 2009. http://www.businessinsider.com/zuck-facebooks-future-is-not-as-a-web-site-2009-6. 10/22/2010.
 Sebastian Waisman, “The True Face of Digital Democracy,” The New Atlantis, Number 24, Spring 2009, pp. 89-93. http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-true-face-of-digital-democracy. 10/22/2010.
“Facebook is like a refrigerator. You get bored and keep checking, but nothing ever changes.”(Well, except your privacy settings.)
Dear honorable members of the AFLI,
I would like to issue an apology for my apparent laziness of late as to the upkeep of this site. Be assured that it is not truly laziness that is keeping me from my duty to the AFLI. On the contrary, it is my business in that wondrous place known only to people like us. Yes, I refer to the REAL WORLD. Because I assume my readers have lives worth living, I hope they will have a little sympathy for my difficulty in finding time for matters of the web. As pressing matters in the R.W. lessen, I hope to find more time to post relevant updates as to Facebook’s rising assault on civilized folk. So be on the lookout; the AFLI is very much alive! Indeed, the AFLI celebrates its one year anniversary this very month!!! Long live the AFLI and its dedicated members!
Savanna J. Buckner, President
I know you will enjoy this guest post by a certain K.R. Guilford…I’m debating whether to include it in the 100 Household Items With More Value Than Facebook section… sea monkeys as household items… hmmm… what say you, dear readers?
Chicken Soup for the Facebook Addict: An Essay Consisting of Forty Percent Sarcasm and Sixty Percent Proposal
By K. R. Guilford
“That’s it,” you cry, for some reason or another, “I’m quitting Facebook!” And with that, you swear away that wretched compulsion. However, an addiction is, well, an addiction; a ravening obsession. Going cold turkey is, to say the least, difficult. As you sit down in front of the computer the next day, you find your mouse straying towards the bookmark on your browser window, and a little voice says in your head, “Your spirit is willing, my friend, but your pink flesh is weak. Join my league,” (the former, of course, being said by the cryptic Zen master in all of us, the latter by that certain exuberant someone who never thought Facebook was a good idea, anyway).
“What must I do?” you cry, in the depths of exasperation. “I must have my mindless entertainment and impersonal drama to survive!” The first reaction is to grab the remote and click on the television, but again the little voices rail against you. Is this not as bad as that entity which you have just relinquished? The obsession and sedation? The instant gratification, the lack of self-control? Ah, away with TV, that cultural forbearer. It carries the same message as Facebook though not so obviously. Your hand reluctantly pushes the remote control into a drawer as a gusty sigh escapes your lips. You, a broken person, turn sadly back to your computer and begin checking your notifications, wondering if you will ever be free from that vicious cycle.
Can there be no transitional step? Is the only way to cure this craving to push away untimely impulses and force oneself to begin thinking deeply and rationally right off the bat? How can this be? Addictions can hardly be beaten through will-power alone, as they are often intrinsically chemical. Ah, if only there were Facebook rehabilitation centers! However, possibly there is an alternate solution, for quitting smokers often use the help of nicotine patches to wean themselves, as it were, from the influences of their dependence. Can there possibly be something similar for those withdrawing themselves from the drama and unwholesome pleasure of these social networking sites? I say, “yes,” fortunately, there is such a thing.
That’s right, you heard me, (or rather, read me.) The amazing little creatures are more commonly known as brine shrimp, and more scientifically known as Artemia Salina. To get the logistics down, all you need to keep them is a small container, the brine shrimp (which can be bought at the local bait and tackle shop), water, and some food. In fact, some stores sell all these things together and market them off as “Sea Monkeys.” Yes, yes, you cry impatiently, but how will this save me from my dreadful dependence? Ah, my dear reader, but let me finish, and all will become clear.
Suppose you did go out and buy yourself a sweet little package of sea monkey cysts and threw them into their stylish case of water. You watch in utter amazement as they hatch from their eggs and start moseying about in their enclosure. For a little under five dollars, voila, instant soap-opera conditions. These svelte animals will interact with one another in a way that would put many script-writers to shame while remaining nearly oblivious to your presence. You can even give them odd names like “Magda” or “Neveah,” so that you may more easily keep track of all their hilarious antics. Some monkeys will become more popular than others, love triangles will soon form, and the more athletic ones will flip and loop for the attention of their peers. The little puffs of personality will keep you entertained for hours. For those more strongly addicted to Facebook, you can even train the shrimps to respond to certain stimuli. For example, you can “poke” the shrimp by jabbing an extended finger into the water of the sea monkey’s habitat, and watch as they either ignore you or come rushing to investigate and retaliate (much like your friends would on Facebook, no?) You can also give them “gifts” such as little Sea Monkey Surfing Crystals. These pea-sized, clear crystals can be placed into the water for your little friends to play with and be fascinated by before they grow bored and ignore the present for the rest of their short lives.
Imagine it. Instead of coming home and rushing in to your computer to check your Facebook account, you instead plop down in front of your sea monkeys and watch the drama unfold. Oh, look! Robert and Maria (pronounced, mar-EYE-ah) have coupled up, leaving poor Cyril feeling lost and abandoned. The poor thing. Give him a poke to let him know you care. Off in the corner Luke is stealthily treading water, staring at you. What a stalker. And over here Rachel is showing off again, turning all kinds of crazy loop-de-loops. She obviously just wants attention. Block her (this can be done by placing a book, a shirt, a piggy bank, a baby monitor, or some other such opaque object in front of the offending shrimp). See? I have offered the perfect substitute to help you draw away from your unnatural habituation.
“Now wait just a minute,” you cry in indignation, “how is this any better than Facebook? I’m still hooked upon the same habits and social performances if my ‘friends’!” Ah, but you see, my dear reader, a brine shrimp community holds some key differences from social networking. Firstly, sea monkeys are not human beings, and therefore it is impossible to minimize the human person’s dignity by feeding off of their personal lives for entertainment. Secondly, the idea of instant, painless gratification is greatly reduced, for the shrimp must have time to grow and mature, all the while being carefully fed and attended to. Thirdly, there are no flickering screens present to chemically numb and distract the user’s mind from reality, and it is tricky indeed to become so completely absorbed into a society of shrimp that one cannot hear the call of duty, whatever that duty may be. Lastly, though certainly not leastly, all the tiny animals will die within the space of a year or two, leaving you mildly saddened but free.
Now, imagine yourself completely liberated from those abject Facebook chains. No more hours wasted in front of the computer monitor, no more untimely procrastination, and no more annoying Farmville requests. You keep in contact with your true friends through email, letters, or phone conversations, and your false friends disappear in a haze of severely awkward exchanges. Who do you have to thank for this newfound self-determination (not counting the little voices)? Why, the sea monkeys, of course. After their deaths and flushing ceremony, you undoubtedly felt their loss, but the desire for their company or the company of That Dreaded Faceboook waned and dwindled with every passing moment. Sure, it took some willpower, but what’s a little loss when it comes to the reclaiming of freedom?
“… a spiritual dope for deadening the pain of modern living… all the characteristics of a powerful narcotic, but it works on the spirit of man rather than on his body… the general effect of narctoics is in the brain area. They induce a stupor, a sort of sleep, a dulling of the brain, which prevents pain from registering… It does not make the unhappy marriage happy, or the job creative; it does not give hope, but it does give forgetfulness. This it does through its tremendous, almost hypnotic power of centering the attention of a person on a screen. It is like a huge distraction. It keeps pictures racing through the mind so fast that the power of thinking, the contact of the mind with reality, is virtually suspended through not being able to intrude on the person’s attention…” (My Life With Thomas Aquinas: Common Sense from St. Thomas Aquinas For Your Family)
Carol Robinson was speaking particularly about television. Yet, she was also pointing out the general problem of overusing technology. So often we use our advanced technology for the wrong reasons. It is dreadfully harmful when we allow addictive things like Facebook to deaden our ability to to live. Instead of acting, speaking, and moving in the physical world, we choose… a virtual world. And thus we remove ourselves one sphere farther from the supernatural world, which is reality. I don’t think there can be too much caution in this matter. More often than not, Facebook lends a hand in drowning the spiritual element in a person by disconnecting him from or deadening his free will, sense of value, compassion, ability to contemplate, appreciation of true friendship, and, to put it bluntly, brain cells.
→ Also, be sure to check out this story, “A Death on Facebook” by Kate Bolick, which appeared in The Atlantic the other day. It’s very interesting…..http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/09/a-death-on-facebook/8177/