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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.
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.”
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)
Christine Rosen makes a good point here in an article entitled “Awe and the Machine.” I do find it lamentable that most of us understand very, very little about the science at work behind our technological innovations. More significantly, it is regrettable that people are so ready to sacrifice direct experience for virtual reality. At the end of the day, virtual experience is only so fulfilling to the human soul. It is real people, places, and experiences that affect on a much more profound level. Emphasis is my own:
“In the early age of machines, they inspired awe by proving capable of doing what man could never do alone (such as power an entire factory), or what we once believed only man could do (play chess). Now we expect our machines to do just about everything for us, from organizing our finances to writing our grocery lists. Our machines not only ease the mundane burdens of daily life (cooking, cleaning, working), but also serve, increasingly, as both our primary source of entertainment and the means for maintaining intimate relationships with others. Henry Adams’s dynamo has been replaced by Everyman’s iPod, and awe has given way to complacence and dependence. Your computer’s e-mail program doesn’t inspire awe; it is more like a dishwasher than a dynamo. Nineteenth-century rhapsodies to the machines that tamed nature, such as the steam engine, have given way to impatience with the machines that don’t immediately indulge our whims. The decline in humility toward our machines comes at a time when we know almost nothing about how or why they work. Although overwhelmed by its power, Henry Adams nevertheless had a basic understanding of how the dynamo operated. Most of us know very little about how our laptop computers run or how to repair our washing machines. Today we are less likely to feel awe in the presence of our machines than we are to experience what historian Jacques Barzun called “machine-made helplessness.” This, too, is a form of blind faith, like the people who, devotedly following the instructions of their car’s GPS device, drive right off a hill, all the while certain that this must be impossible — how could their perfectly calibrated machine be wrong? The awe experienced by earlier generations was part of a different worldview, one that demonstrated greater humility about many things, not least of which concerned their own human limits and frailties. Today we believe our machines allow us to know a lot more, and in many ways they do. What we don’t want to admit — but should — is that they also ensure that we directly experience less. Updating your Facebook page is a lot easier than venturing out into the world to confront a dynamo, as Adams did. But it is also, in the end, likely to be a lot less awe-inspiring.”
So Dr. Boli [http://drboli.wordpress.com] 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
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.”
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.
“…a healthy civilization is led by a creative minority, setting society’s behavioral standards…”
Here is a link to an article on The American Spectator about Facebook and narcissism: http://spectator.org/archives/2009/07/06/the-land-of-narcissus