In the 1960’s, the French social critic Guy Debord inscribed his magnum opus The Society of the Spectacle, Continue reading “On the Violence of Social Media “
For the tenth day in a row I woke up in a pool of my own sweat, semen and drool— and now I must, yet again, drag and slosh through my day in a daze. I slithered out of my bed into the pile of unfashionable fashion that has accumulated on my floor— their cleanliness was indiscernible. I flat foot stumbled to the bathroom and fell intently into my own reflection, although it took several moments for my reflection to become aware of the immediacy of my meditation. Once my reflected self became aware and focused back at me— we locked eyes. His eyes were squinted and bloodshot, like he had had been crying. His complexion was splotchy and distant and it became apparent that he was in a deep state of despair. I wanted to comfort this man in the mirror, I wanted to reach out and tell him it is ok and that things will get better. But, even though my rational voice wanted to resolve this mans conflict, the only thing I could do was become weary and cry. Why is this man so upset? I have known him my entire life and he has always been in sync with me, but now, out of the blue, he falls away and retracts. I want to be strong and keep a stiff upper lip and all, but I am barely strong for myself— I cannot be strong for him as well. He looked back at me and, as it seems, the sight of me brought him to tears. I watched him cry harder and harder— as if the tears became the element that created more tears— a feedback loop of sorrow. I told him, “please stop— PLEASE!” He ignored me. I repeated again, “ please! I cant do this!” Again and again, and yet he no yield. My tears and despair quickly and capriciously acquiesced into fear and rage. This stupid fucker does this to me every single day— he stands there alone in a flat world and cries at my tears. Mocking me with every emotion. I can feel my pulse rise, my lungs and fists tighten and I get a strange, and yet satisfying, feeling that begins in my toes and rises through my existence with the effervescence and persistence of rising smoke. The sense burns through my chest and through my spine and stops at my mouth. There is a twitching deep within my neck that wants me to take my fists and smash the face of this stupid crying fucker, and even as satisfying as that sounds, I am still scared. I am afraid if I hit him he will hit me back. I am afraid to be seen with bloody cut-up hands— the Others will see my hands and know what happened. Secretly mocking me in the shadows. I look down at my toes and watch them squiggle about and then draw my gaze back to the man in the mirror. “Fuck you” I tell him,— yeah, fuck him! And, in that instant. He was gone.
Once he departed the only thing I was left with was my pathetic reflection — standing before me with idle apprehension like a bunny rabbit that is moments away from being consumed alive and whole. The only life lesson I have learned is that life is less depressing in motion than in pause, so for that, I break my gaze and strip away my two-size too small boxer briefs and hop in the shower. As a child hot water was a scarce luxury and, for that, I have become accustomed to taking cold to lukewarm showers. I washed myself three times over with a bar of soap and washed my hair, or at least what is left of it. I, annoyingly so, failed at the final act of my shower ritual, otherwise known as masturbation, because I was unable to maintain an erotic thought for longer than ten seconds. At that moment I wondered if real memories hold more staying power than virtual memories— in other words, if my erotic arsenal was created from actual experience, as opposed to internet porn, would I be able to maintain the thought and, subsequently, an erection long enough to climax? Nonetheless, the mood has been spoiled. I blindly reached for my towel and quickly patted myself down and then scurried out of the bathroom with the urgency and trepidation of a scared little bunny.
As a programmer for Facebook I get to work from home 80% of the time and that means 80% of my life, if not more, is decorated with sweat pants and t-shirts from Walmart. I could, if I wanted to, live more luxuriously but the austerity of my thriftiness as become the fuel behind my thriftiness. In other words, I completely and utterly despise my job but it seems to be one of the only high paying job that allows me to avoid all contact with the outside world and I figure if I do this long enough I could retire early and actualize my inner hermit, but in the process of doing this I have found solace in my thrifty dogma and, money aside, I do it just to bask in the semblance of functionality. After scavenging though my pile of clothes for an outfit that is, odorously speaking, adequately un-repulsive, I traversed down the hall and flipped on my coffee maker— also from Walmart.
I preciously carried my mug of watered down french roast to the living room, threw my feet on my ottoman, opened up my laptop and proceeded to fabricate motivation to sit on my couch and etch code into the chasm of the inter-web. My motivation to work does not come from actual drive to work, but more from a deeper drive to refrain from the pain of doing nothing-at-all. I suppose, when I try to look at myself objectively it is reasonable to think that my future may only have two possible outcomes, either: I get laid-off at some point and drain my savings in pursuance of enabling my will to avoid people until the recession subsides and I get another programming gig and then it repeats and I retire poor and lonely; or, option two: I remain at Facebook until I have saved enough to retire and on my first day of retirement I die of a heart-attack caused by all of my thrifty food exploits. I know that there are many other possible outcomes to my life and some of them may even yield a happy endings, but I have this dark feeling that grows and speaks to me from within and it exudes and preaches the aforementioned pessimism like a stink that I cant seem to shake. And even though my foresight seems dismal and heart wrenching, it is better to work towards that, than to work towards nothing at all. If my life came down to merely me frantically running blindfolded along side a cliff with the faint possibility that I survive long enough to see what awaits me on the other side of the horizon— that is what I will do, forever. If not that then what? Sit in the dirt and heckle as everybody keeps running by and, now and then, watch somebody fall to their death— what kind of life is that?
I sip my coffee.
Maybe it was the man in the mirror or maybe it is because my shower ritual was incomplete but, for whatever reason, I was feeling less motivated to sit and write code. I do not recall stopping work on purpose, but, nonetheless, I suddenly became aware of my idleness: my elbow was perched on the couch armrest, resting my chin in the palm of my hand, while the rest of my hand gently cups my gristly cheekbone. My eyes slowly scanned all the objects in the room— inadvertently vacillating between things in the foreground and things in the background, as if I was an injured cyborg that was clinging to life in search of the tool that can be used to save me and the rest of my cyborg race. My autonomously functioning cyborg eyes ended on the image of Adder, my cat, who was curled up in a ball next to the glass door that leads to the patio. The gentle and sine-wave like motion of Adder’s tale snapped me out of my cyborg fantasy and while under seduction of my cats peaceful disposition I got up and crawled across the floor — slowly becoming lower and closer to the ground as I approached my Adder, my cat, my distraction, my objet petit a.
I, mimicking Adder, curled up into a little ball and laid next to him and stared into the rain. The rain, for some reason is not something I can see when I look up, or even straight, but I can only witness its effect— the droplets as they splash upon my wooden deck. Almost, as if they weren’t actually falling but merely jumping in place on the ground, over and over. My double-pane glass filters out all the sounds of the rain and, for that matter, society. So, I sat curled in silence and watched the jumping rain. I started to wonder what Adder thinks of me and what he must be thinking as I laid there— he probably thought I was a mother fucker for taking his idea and creating the awkward and unnecessary pretense that we need to acknowledge each others company. Adder, would never get into a fight with the mirror, or fall into a fit of depression for that matter. At least, that is what I like to think. Some people think that we, as in humans, try to anthropomorphize animals, but I do not believe this to be true; conversely, I think it is rather the case that we fantasize about becoming them. We want to live a life of a minimal existence, a life without language and the petulance of objectification that follows the burden of humanity. We want to eat, sleep, shit and be frisky now and then, and most importantly, stare at the rain. I quickly fell asleep with images of being a cat dancing in my head….and a big smile on my face.
At some point I awoke, however, it was only the sensation of being awake, without the appearance of being awake: I could not see, or hear, or feel anything with my sense. But, I felt agency and alertness to the moment. I wondered if Adder was still next to me and in that moment an image came to the forefront of my thoughts, without me asking or prompting it. It was an image of Adder, but rather it was an image I posted of Adder from my Facebook page. A candid image of him playing in the trash. This image warmed my spirits a bit and I thought about how cute and carefree he was, and in that instant I saw the words I was thinking flash in images in front of me.
I started to wonder if I was sleeping or dreaming or what was going on. I felt completely lucid, but this was a rather odd experience to not have any sense data. Usually people, at least in the movies, pinch themselves to ensure they are not dreaming, although I do not know how that works— couldn’t you dream being pinched? Anyway, I thought about pinching myself and suddenly I saw the words flash before me, I wanna pinch myself. Then within mere seconds after that I saw the words, David says: LOL, pinch yourself then dude. I responded:
Me: wait, does pinching yourself work
David: work for what?
Me: confirming you’re awake when you think you might be asleep?
David: uh, are you sleeping now?
Me: I don’t know, thats the point.
David: uhm, dude, its wayyyyyyyy too earlier to be drinking— lay off it.
I stopped a minute, wait— am I drunk? I tried to recall if I had been drinking this morning and for some reason the only things I could see were images of me drinking at a holiday party last year, images of me drinking at a friends wedding and images from my college graduation party…all of which, are images on Facebook. I tried to think of drinking experiences outside of that and the only thing I saw was the same images repeat over and over— every image on Facebook that includes me drinking is playing in my head over and over. To stop the madness, I begin thinking of Adder again and that silly little trash photo. Suddenly I saw the smiley face appear 🙂 and I thought how much I wanted to just be able to wake up and cuddle with Adder. Then I suddenly I see David’s name blinking in blue and curious to what that means….then suddenly the image of a chat dialogue appears in my head:
David: Did you seriously get drunk at 10am on a Tuesday only to go on Facebook and comment on photos of your cat?
Me: Wait, what? I did what?
David: You posted this. “ 🙂 I wish I was cuddling with Adder right now”
Me: Posted? What are you talking about…I didn’t post that, I just thought that.
David: Uhm. well i cant confirm nor deny your thoughts, but I am here at my laptop at work and I can see what you posted on Facebook. And its about your fucking cat.
Me: uhm, maybe I am drunk. gtg ttyl
As a test I decided to begin thinking of things to see what happens. I thought of my job and I instantly saw the Facebook posts posted by Facebook on their Facebook fan page. And, then I decided to think of specific co-workers and I then saw their personal pages and a rotating slide show of the pictures they’re tagged in. I decided to think of something that is not on Facebook to see what would appear and I thought of my father, who does not have a Facebook page, in fact, I don’t think he’s heard of it. And, a blank. No thoughts or images. I know I have a dad, but for the life of me I can’t recall the image of what he looks like— my memory is ONLY Facebook. I begin to think of my father in the more general sense of the word and I begin seeing Facebook fan pages dedicated to paternal parenting and even the fan page for The Shit My Father Says, but nothing about my specific father. I continued to test my memory and tried to recall other things and the more I did this, the more I learned first and foremost, that I was unable to recall anything that was NOT on Facebook— like my father, but more odd was that I was able to recall things that I did not know— insofar as it is something on Facebook. Like I can think of baseball and see the latest news and updates for MLB that are dated today and within the last hour. So either, my conscious mind is situated in Facebook, or I am dreaming and I am purely making all of this up. I really wished I could just wake up play with my cat….and voila and entire Facebook page dedicated to silly photos and videos of people playing with their cats— I decided to stay with this thought for a while.
I had no absolute clue if I was awake or not, but I did know that time has at least passed in my virtual Facebook world. I can recall, by merely thinking of, my original thought about wanting to be pinched and I can see the time stamp, and although I do not know what time it is, I can think a smiley face, or wonder what my friends are up to and see the news feed, and from that I can see a new timestamp and that is my only way of telling time. So, as it appeared to me— I had been stuck in Facebook for four hours. And, I was not sure how to get out. I decided to take advantage of this and I began looking at the news feed and commenting on many posts, while chatting with many friends at once. Since I could just think my comments/posts— I was able to operate significantly faster, as I could think faster than I could type. Although, my friends thought my Facebook page had been hijacked by a spam-bot because the speed at which I was typing seemed impossible. I began to find amusement in reinforcing the notion that I was not real and just a bot.
I suddenly got a message from my co-worker Brian and he starts asking what I am doing all day and how come I haven’t turned in my revised code? From that timestamp I know that it is around 5pm and I guess it would make sense that if I had been not dreaming and this was real then it would be reasonable that they would start asking for my revised files. Brian, said he had been calling, texting me and emailing me all morning with absolutely no response and he just noticed how active on Facebook I was and decided to reach out to me that way. I responded and he asked if I was ok or if I had really been drinking, as David asked earlier I told him that I did not feel drunk, although, I did not really feel anything at all. I told him not to worry about it and that everything was going to be fine. I had to assume that this craziness was all just a dream and that there is no possible way that i have been asleep while curled up in the fetal position next to my cat for 9 hours. Any moment now I am bound to wake up and realize this was all a dream and then get back to work. But, how can I wake myself up? If my existence is within Facebook then perhaps I need to remove that existence altogether. Perhaps I need to kill my Facebook self.
I rollover to my account and profile information and find the delete account link and I proceed to delete my account. It asks me several times to confirm that I want to do this and although I was absolutely sure that I needed to do this, as if I was dreaming then its just a dream, and if it is real, well, then I will know when i wake up and my account is deactivated. But, even though I know this is the smart move to make, I am rather hesitant and I am starting to feel remorseful and a sense of loss washes over me. Like I am in the process of committing suicide— as if that is something I would or feel or even be able to describe. Knowing that this is the right move, I push forward and click yes and yes and yes…holy crap they want you to confirm and reconfirm over and over. And finally, done. Then this appears:
We are sorry that you deactivated your account, we hope you come back soon.
As soon as I finished reading that prompt, it vanished. And, so did I.
Time from that moment forward seemed completely non-existent and I no longer had any sense of self…I could not tell if I was alive or dead, or anything. After an indiscernible amount of time— which for all I know could have been a millisecond or a millennium— I became washed over with a bright omnipotent light that flooded my consciousness. All I could see, hear, think and feel was pure bright light. I tried to resist the light and pull away, but I had nowhere to go— pushed into a corner, or so I felt. The light quickly began to dim and as it dimmed I began to see shapes appear and the light source radiated in on itself into a small blotch in the middle of my field of vision. And, then I realized I was awake, and truly awake this time. I was in my bathroom and the bright light was merely the sun piercing through my bathroom window and focused directly on me. I started to move my head a bit and realized that I was sprawled out on the floor and when I looked around the bathroom I realized I was laying in a pile of glass; which was scattered all over the bathroom — the floor, counter, shower, sink and even on me. I noticed some of the glass shards were dripping blood and then I realized my arms and hands were drenched in blood— with various puncture wounds scattered across my arms, some still contained broken pieces of mirror wedged into my skin.
In an attempt to recall how this happened, I conjured images in a third-person perspective of me pounding the mirror with my fists and forearms over and over while I screamed and yelled at the man in the mirror. Although I do not remember falling to the floor or anything else. After I fully came to the reality that I attacked my mirror and passed out and spent hours dreaming of living in Facebook I began to relax and realize all of that was a dream and I am not going to lose my job or be trapped in Facebook. I suddenly felt rather relaxed and indifferent to the present predicament I was in and this allowed me to situate myself within the absolute pain of my wounds. The wounds felt deep and all encompassing, like a giant glass wedge was pounded into my soul— my ego, engorged and exposed to the open air of reality, began to bubble and shrivel like a snail doused with salt.
I reached down and padded around my pants in search of my pocket and I took out my cell phone and while holding it over my head and while struggling to keep the image of my phone in focus, I navigated my way to Facebook and deleted my account. I held the phone high and basked in the pleasure of seeing those words: your account has been deleted. I lowered the phone back down to my side and even though I destroyed my mirror while trying to kill an imaginary antagonist in a rage of pure psychosis, I felt better now. I felt that somehow I have won over the man in the mirror and whatever power he had over me before, is now mine. I felt, for the first time, happy and, more importantly, whole.
If Facebook was marketed as a church, would you have joined? Does Facebook give you a sense of community— does it help create a feeling of connection? Does it give you an outlet to express the trials and tribulations of your life and are these expressions met with positive and helpful reinforcements? Is there an ideology attached to it, or rather, is there a belief system? And, moreover, does it give us an answer for mans biggest burden— death? Religions throughout history have gone through various evolutions and modern religious practice tends to be more connected to doctrine, rather than rituals. Maybe this evolution can continue and maybe Facebook will fill the religious void of future generations, but how?
Emile Durkheim posited that religious experiences after the industrial revolution became structured differently and relied on notions of “organic solidarity” and that people become connected by their commonalities and create a feeling of “oneness” from connecting to their social network organically. Community churches of the past (and present) allow people to organically connect on commonalities that are connected to their close proximity to each other- local issues, school, etc and, to some extent, ideology is crafted thereof. It is not a hard stretch to assert that Facebook could fill this role, as it allows people to organically connect on likeminded ideology, beliefs and issues related to proximity- schools and community issues. For example, my sister home schools her children and belongs to a ‘home school Facebook group’ in her community, that allows her to electronically connect to people in her community on likeminded belief structures, in regard to education, at least. Facebook gives us a sense of community that becomes more directly tied to commonalities of belief, more than commonalities of proximity, as Facebook connections transcend space. In other words, I can connect on political issues with people in any country in the world, and from that, my church is built without land or cultural borders. But even within that transcended connectedness I can subdivide and create sects within my social community built on commonalities of proximity — serving the needs of churches of the past in addition to a a church of the future- transcended globally.
In many religious institutions there is a hierarchy of religious authority to help guide people in times of need— ethical and moral dilemmas, issues of practicalities or just general affirmations and parables about life. As I have experienced for myself and as I have observed for other people as well, people commonly reach out to their social network on Facebook to get help and feedback about similar personal moral conflicts and help regarding problems of everyday life. And its common for people to post things that are life affirming, such as parables. However, most people do not have a friend in their Facebook friend list who they’d consider to be a Moral Authority of any sort, therefor this guidance is crowd sourced from their network— which allows people to get a diverse balance of feedback, which can help drive a broader and deeper understanding of the conflicts at hand. In this sense the priesthood of Facebook becomes the collective — a religion for the people and by the people.
How does Facebook deal with the metaphysical qualities of religion, namely, reconciling the perpetual burden of humanity— death, and, its eternal counterpart, giving life Meaning? Humans are social creatures and just the sense of community and global connectedness alone could, in a sense, create meaning to life— as it connects you to the human organism that transcends both time and space. All human experience is a perpetual story that builds in every direction and we are all part of that story. Facebook helps directly connect us to this process, in real time. Additionally, every post, photo, article and link— in other words, everything you have ever done on Facebook is enterally engrained on some storage device at Facebook HQ, with most likely various forms of redundancy. So, your self-curated digital life will live on forever: therefore, every photo, whim, post, random meal photo et al, will transcend time and space as part of the perpetual human story— as your life becomes another chapter in the epoch story of our species. In short, electronically speaking, you become immortal. This notion may seem unhumanistic or shallow, but look at it this way: most religious traditions see the afterlife as transcendence of your essence and not your body, so its not a far stretch to posit that your electronic impression will be a reflection of your essence— hence, they transcend together.
Lastly, and oddly, is the idea of Facebook as ideology. Facebook and their crafty algorithms automatically change your newsfeed and advertising and pretty much everything you do based on everything you click, say, like, comment and follow, in addition to the city you live in, age gender, web browser, computer brand, occupation, marital status, religion and so on. This may not seem like ideology on the surface, but I will explain how it can be argued as such. Ideology is a collection of beliefs that reside deep within yourself that you perceive as true and act, as if they’re true. In other words, its like wearing a pair of glasses that create a false reality that you unconsciously reinforce, perhaps as a defense-mechanism to feel connected to a group— or to feel an identity. On Facebook the ideology is not explicitly chosen, like in real life. In real life I can choose to register for the democratic party and volunteer for them, and then get a bombardment of their propaganda in my email inbox. As can I do that with any religious, political or social group. We choose our affiliations. Facebook creates a custom ideology based on everything you do, in other words, it creates your false reality, based on what you do, rather than what you choose. And, it perpetually adjusts with you. If you ‘like’ posts that are propaganda for the democratic party, then Facebook will alter your reality and create a higher likelihood of you seeing similar posts, reinforcing the ideology you are self-creating through action.
You may or may not be happy with being part of a Facebook religion, but there is a reason why religions have been a core part of the human experience for multiple millennia’s and moreover, there is also a reason why Facebook is so popular— they are, perhaps, both born from the same innate human desire: connection.
1. Edles, Laura Desfor, and Scott Appelrouth. Sociological Theory in the Classical Era: Text and Readings. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Pine Forge, 2005. Print.
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