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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.
(The above comic found here:
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.
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?
“I like my new telephone,
my computer works just fine,
my calculator is perfect,
but Lord, I miss my mind!”
- Author Unknown
Investigate this little four minute interview with Nicholas Carr about his new book:
The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains looks like a well-researched and certainly relevant read. I haven’t read it personally but I hope to soon.
And, a timely reminder that there is hope for the world while the AFLI is alive!
A few days ago over at Text Patterns, Alan Jacobs offered this interesting excerpt from an article by Jed Perl:
“Writing, before it is anything else, is a way of clarifying one’s thoughts. This is obviously true of forms such as the diary, which are inherently solitary. But even those of us who write for publication can conclude, once we have clarified certain thoughts, that these thoughts are not especially valuable, or are not entirely convincing, or perhaps are simply not thoughts we want to share with others, at least not now. For many of us who love the act of writing — even when we are writing against a deadline with an editor waiting for the copy — there is something monastic about the process, a confrontation with one’s thoughts that has a value apart from the proximity or even perhaps the desirability of any other reader. I believe that most writing worth reading is the product, at least to some degree, of this extraordinarily intimate confrontation between the disorderly impressions in the writer’s mind and the more or less orderly procession of words that the writer manages to produce on the page. . . .
I am not saying that writers need to be or ought to be isolated, either from other writers or from the reading public at large. But writers must to some degree believe that they are alone with their own words. And writers who are alone with their words will quite naturally, from time to time, conclude that some of those words should remain private. This needs to be emphasized right now, when so few people in the publishing industry understand why anything that has been written, and especially written by a well-known author, should not be published, and not published with the widest possible readership in mind.
. . . What I fear is that many readers are coming to believe that a writer who holds something back from publication is somehow acting unnaturally. Nobody understands the extent to which, even for the widely acclaimed author with ready access to publication, the process of writing can sometimes necessitate a rejection or at least an avoidance of one’s own readers. That silence is a part of writing — that the work of this day or this week or even this year might for good reason be withheld — is becoming harder and harder to comprehend.”
Mr. Jacobs added: “The dominance in our culture of social networking, especially but not only Facebook, intensifies this problematic situation. Shyness and introversion, as a search for either of those words on Amazon.com will show you, are regularly seen as pathologies; Eric Schmidt thinks that if you don’t want Google to know everything about you you must have something discreditable to hide; Mark Zuckerberg believes, or says he believes, that the exposure of your life on Facebook promotes honesty and integrity. Clearly there are people who would like to see a social stigma attached to a concern for privacy: will they succeed in making it happen?”
The times, they are a’ changin’, as Mr. Dylan noted not so very long ago. Speaking of Dylan, I simply must share with you a portion of a May article by Nicholas Carr. You may think his example a stretch of the imagination, but I am not so sure. It’s a strange world I was born into. First Mr. Carr quotes a Dylan lyric: “You’re invisible now, you’ve got no secrets to conceal.” Then he quotes a particularly stupid remark of Mark Zuckerberg: “You have one identity … Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.” Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! I cackle like the Wicked Witch of the West at that gem of a remark from the founder of Facebook, that social networking site where everyone’s online profile is a sterling replica of their dear true self… NOT. Anyhow, I will let Mr. Carr speak for himself about that quote:
This is, at the obvious level, a clever and cynical ploy to recast the debate about Facebook’s ongoing efforts to chip away at its members’ privacy safeguards. Facebook, Zuckerberg implies, isn’t compromising your privacy by selling personal data to corporations; it is making you a better person. By forcing you, through its imposition of what it calls “radical transparency,” to have “one identity,” it is also imposing integrity on you. We should all be grateful that we have Zuck to act as our personal character trainer, I guess.
Zuckerberg’s self-servingly cavalier attitude toward other people’s privacy has provoked a firestorm of criticism over the last couple of weeks. Whether or not a critical mass of Facebook members actually care enough about online privacy to force Facebook to fundamentally shift its policies remains to be seen. Up to now, as I’ve pointed out in the past, Facebook’s strategy for turning identity into a commodity has consisted of taking two steps forward and then, when confronted with public resistance, apologizing profusely before taking one step back. I suspect that’s what will happen again – and again, and again.
But that’s not the subject of this post. Zuckerberg’s “one identity” proclamation reminded me of something I heard Jaron Lanier say in a recent lecture. He was talking about the way that Facebook, and other social networking sites, serves as a permanent public record of our lives. That’s great in a lot of ways – it gives us new ways to express ourselves, socialize, cement and maintain friendships. But there’s a dark side, too. Lanier pointed to the example of Bob Dylan. After growing up, as Robert Zimmerman, in Hibbing, Minnesota, Dylan shucked off his youthful identity, like a caterpillar in a chrysalis, and turned himself into the mysterious young troubador Bob Dylan in New York City. It was a great act of self-reinvention, a necessary first step in a career of enormous artistic achievement. Indeed, it’s impossible to imagine the kid Zimmerman becoming the artist Dylan without that clean break from the past, without, as Zuckerberg would see it, the exercise of a profound lack of “integrity.”
Imagine, Lanier said, a young Zimmerman trying to turn himself into Dylan today. Forget it. He would be trailing his online identity – his “one identity” – all the way from Hibbing to Manhattan. “There’s that goofy Zimmerman kid from Minnesota,” would be the recurring word on the street in Greenwich Village. The caterpillar Zimmerman, locked into his early identity by myriad indelible photos, messages, profiles, friends, and “likes” plastered across the Web, would remain the caterpillar Zimmerman. Forever.
More insidious than Facebook’s data lock-in is its identity lock-in. The invisibility that Dylan describes at the end of “Like a Rolling Stone,” where you’re free of your secrets, of your past life, is a necessary precondition for personal reinvention. As Robert Zimmerman traveled from Hibbing to New York, he first became invisible – and then he became Bob Dylan. In the future, such acts of transformation may well become impossible. Facebook saddles the young with what Zuckerberg calls “one identity.” You can never escape your past. The frontier of invisibility is replaced by the cage of transparency.
Today, Facebook has over 500 million users. Not having it is compared to not having Microsoft Word. You Radical, you! This is what Facebookers cry about us. They think we are Radicals, with a big R. But we are not. We are not phony self-named Reformers, pointing fingers at a particular thing because we want attention. Nay, we are sane individuals who hate oppression and love the beauty of living. We are the sane ones, and we shall remain sane if the rest of the world falls off the edge or not. No matter how many or few of us there are, we will be the sane ones who have kept our heads. Far be it from me to say “ah shucks, might as well ditch my principles too and enjoy the flow of the current.” Nay indeed. I think of that significant man, Winston Churchill, and one of the many memorable things he said:
“Never give in. Never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
I, S. J. Buckner, concur. And I will continue concurring and persist in my refusal to succumb to Facebook and other oppressive things as long as I keep my head. Which I hope will be for a long time. And if we don’t have any Bob Dylans in the future, we can attribute the fact to Facebook.
Compliments of Unhappy Hipsters: It’s Lonely in the Modern World. This interesting site thrives on pictures like the one below, with often amusing captions.
“It was hard to tell if social networking had instilled an instinct to compulsively pose, or if there was actually a photographer at the end of the living room.”
(Photo: Mark Steinmertz; Dwell, September 2003)
So Dr. Boli [
] is at it again with his sometimes bizarre, sometimes comic, and sometimes delightfully pointed sense of fun. Are the following advertisements from his Celebrated Magazine poking fun at our pretty much illiterate generation? Just maybe.
- “The Blandville Branch Library will offer a one-hour talk entitled “What Is a Book?” on Saturday, May 2, at 1 p.m. The audience will have the opportunity to see and handle several books after the talk.”
- “THE BLANDVILLE BRANCH Library will be having a Giant Book Sale beginning Monday and continuing until all the books are gone. The Library staff have decided that the Library can no longer afford to maintain a collection of books when computer workstations are so expensive.”
- “The Community Television Viewers’ Association will be offering a free workshop all day Tuesday. With the Internet rapidly overtaking television in popularity, we are concerned that the skills required to absorb purely passive entertainment are being lost. Third-generation television viewers will be on hand to teach you the secrets to a rewardingly inert television-viewing experience. “
One reader funnily commented about the last two announcements, ”I fear that you may have inadvertently posted real news in the [above] paragraphs. Please try harder at parody and satire in the future.”
The Bottom Line: People do not read anymore; instead, they spend time on distracting social networking sites like Facebook. This has disastrous effects on personal lives. This will have a disastrous effect on culture at large. If reading continues to decrease and writing to deteriorate, we shall all soon be certifiable barbarians. Which somehow doesn’t appeal to me.
Conversation (and here I mean real, live, face-to-face conversation) is officially a Lost Art. Facebook deserves at least an honorable mention in the subtle slaughter of true conversation. For the record, I loathe (yes, loathe) the modern habit of ignoring the person right next to oneself while texting rapidly, playing an inane game on the phone, or skimming Facebook.
“Without the habit of conversation in homes, schools, and social occasions, the memorable reality of people, the sheer enjoyment of the play of speech, the liveliness of the truth, and the medicine of common sense leave the realm of ordinary experience and become the vestiges of an ancient past, and the whole quality of life becomes reduced to the banal and pathetic.” -The Lost Arts of Modern Civilization, by Mitchell Kalpakgian