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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.
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/
Hello everyone! My sincere apologies that I have not been posting of late. I like to think that it just goes to show that I have a life in that novel place known as the real world. However, as I’ve been traveling around the world the last four weeks, I have been doing a lot of thinking about the AFLI. Some of your comments have been thought-provoking, and I welcome your input. Inspired partially by all of you, there are a few changes I plan to make in the near future which will hopefully make the AFLI a more effective organization. Keep your fingers crossed that I can finish thinking the issues through and bring the AFLI up a notch real soon. In the meantime, there is much to say. Here is some tasty stuff to think about…
Dr. Boli, that favorite fellow of mine, has this to say about the net:
2. Alan Jacobs says this, which applies well to Facebook, I think:
“I don’t think that Tolstoy vs. lolcats is just a matter of taste. To be sure, not everyone needs to read Tolstoy; most people don’t need to read Tolstoy. It would be nice if more people did, but it’s not socially or personally necessary.
What is necessary, I think, is for all of us to be engaged in some activity that challenges us, that tests our intellectual limits. For some people that might be reading Tolstoy, while for others it might involve writing code or learning Klingon. But as Lanier says, “You have to be somebody before you can share yourself,” and being somebody is an achievement. It requires intentional labor, and a degree of personal ambition — and anyone can work and strive, though some have farther to go than others. But a lot of fooling around on the internet is just that, fooling around: it doesn’t test our resources or stretch our capacities. In many cases that’s fine, because we shouldn’t be working all the time: but even if fooling around on the internet really does somehow increase social creative capital — which I have no reason to believe — it doesn’t achieve a damned thing for the person doing it.”
I concur with Jacobs. Exactly. You have to be somebody before you can share yourself. One of my pet peeves about Facebook. Pointlessness, unnatural gossip, and fake identities. It’s Narcissism Central. Literally.
3. This is also interesting:
“Children growing up in homes with many books get 3 years more schooling than children from bookless homes, independent of their parents’ education, occupation, and class. This is as great an advantage as having university educated rather than unschooled parents, and twice the advantage of having a professional rather than an unskilled father. It holds equally in rich nations and in poor; in the past and in the present; under Communism, capitalism, and Apartheid; and most strongly in China. Data are from representative national samples in 27 nations, with over 70,000 cases, analyzed using multi-level linear and probit models with multiple imputation of missing data.”
So this talk about books being in a state of demise… well, I sincerely hope it is phony. I doubt having Kindles in the home is going to help make kids smarter.
(Source: First Things Online)
4. Last thing. Here is a lovable pic from Unhappy Hipsters which sums up modern man pretty neatly:
Without the daily self-portraits, he feared he might disappear completely.
(Photo: Kent Dayton; Dwell, Jan/Feb 2004)
Seriously. This reminds me of when (after an hour long class) I watched a girl check her phone and exclaim: “Nobody loves me! I don’t have any texts!” People need to reclaim their ability to be free and independent thinkers and not merely fish in the current. People looking for love need to depend on something much sturdier than technology. People need to quit Facebook. JUST QUIT THE THE DEMONIC THING! PLEASE! By the way, that pic is going in my dorm room. Ha, ha. As always, I am grateful for your comments and insight. I promise that I do take your thoughts into consideration, even if I am too busy to respond promptly. Long live the glorious AFLI!
Savvy J. Buckner
“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: http://www.roughtype.com/archives/2010/06/the_shallows_on_1.php
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!
Please read the following fantastic article by one Travis Lambert. The cartoon he cites at the end is one that I have pointed out before, but it is still great to go back to…
What is Facebook Doing to Our Brains?
“I see that we are now able to “Like” not only Facebook statuses but also the comments on them. This begs the question, Will we soon be able to Like our friends’ Likes, who would in turn be able to Like our Liking their Likes, producing a potential infinite loop of mutual approbation? This problem can be best expressed by an infinite series of indirect statements:
I like that you like that I like that you like that I like that you like that I like….
I like your liking my liking your liking my liking your liking my liking your liking my liking your liking….
One disturbing thing about this potential public health crisis is that whatever object first started a hysteria of self-congratulation is easily lost from view. Will either party remember what it was that first evoked their hard-won esteem? Doubtful. Moreover, it is easy to imagine people posting simply for the sake of beginning such a circuit of reciprocal approval, the psychological payoff of the latter being a far more pleasing thing than posting a meaningful thought.
All this of course is partly in jest, but when you consider other factors, it is hard not to see that social media produces a general stupidity and a trivializing of our culture such as Neil Postman prophesied. There is of course no Dislike button, suggesting and in fact imposing on us a mind-rotting and vainglorious atmosphere of universal affirmation. The brevity of our comments (often only a simple “Bob likes this”) often precludes any rational support for our opinions, and the ease of commenting makes us insolent and opinionated, making us talk when we should rather listen and unable to hear something without offering a comment on it.
This is not a petition to stop using Facebook, just a warning. Let us be aware of the effects that all time-consuming occupations have on us. I think this cartoon says it best.”
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.
The Facebook Warning Label:
Caution! Side effects of this drug WILL include: narcissistic tendencies, sluggishness, loss of tangible relationships, watery eyes, insecurity in the sense that people now know more about you than you could imagine, headaches, a decrease of common sense, an inability to write full sentences with capitalized letters and correct punctuation, loss of time, an incapacity to act in real-world situations and to respond to real live people, split-personality syndrome, and gradual loss of brain cells. Use at your own risk.