Tuesday, June 22, 2010

abdicate


\AB-dih-kayt\

verb

1 : to cast off : discard
2 : to relinquish (as sovereign power) formally
3 : to renounce a throne, high office, dignity, or function

Today I want to talk about Facebook. Some months ago I quit Facebook because the experience began to feel like attending my own funeral—a hearty selection from everyone I have known, a series of pasts in my present. I didn't like the idea of mixing everyone and everything together. I like to compartmentalize. I like to shut doors. I like to move on. There seemed to be something incredibly unnatural about reconnecting with people from my past. Let sleeping dogs lie, I suppose.

A couple months ago I was doing some research for an article I was writing, and I found that one of my sources could only be reached through Facebook. A dilemma. In order to contact this person, I needed a Facebook account. I actually considered going through a friend, but how childish would it have been to begin a message having to explain I'm using a friend's account because I don't have my own account because I find it to be antagonistic to the natural progression of the social psyche. So, I started a new account under the name "Copper Archives," after my ancient email address only used with old friends and family, simply for the purpose of being able to contact those otherwise unreachable. Four or five welcomed friends discovered me, and I begged them to keep my secret. I logged in once about every two weeks, and logged right back out. Never posted anything on a wall or, forbid, plastered a picture of my face on the home page.

This morning I read a interview on Salon.com with David Kirkpatrick, author of "The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That is Connecting the World," which details Facebook's beginnings and development as an international cultural phenomenon. I was immediately attracted to the subject matter—I find myself to be perversely interested in articles about Facebook because of our (mine and Facebook's) rather tumultuous relationship.

At one point in the interview, writer Emma Silvers asks Kirkpatrick if he thinks Facebook is a force of good. Here is his answer:

On balance, I have to say my view of Facebook is as a positive force in modern life. I think it's a new form of communication, of exchanging information, and that leads to good stuff. It certainly has allowed people to organize politically more efficiently, and I think over time Facebook and other similar tools will change the nature of politics and democracy.

I think we're just seeing the beginning stages of that. If you are upset about something anywhere in the world today and you want to protest it Facebook is likely the first place you're going to go, because it lets you aggregate a bunch of people who agree with you faster than any other means -- and that's whether you're protesting a new parking lot in a small town in New Zealand, or the government repression of election results in Iran. Or showing your support for Sarah Palin -- who's the second most popular politician on Facebook after Barack Obama, and a master user of Facebook. I think it's a tool that helps people connect with other people, and that is almost inevitably a good thing. To that degree, I'm a believer.

I read this and I thought—what is the point? What am I fighting? Five hundred fucking million people are on Facebook. I had the same issue with cell phones. I waited SO LONG to get a cell phone, protesting a movement of technology I thought was totally unnecessary. Of course, one can live without a cell phone, but now that I've had one for four or five years, I find it difficult to imagine having only a land line. Sometimes I think about ABDICATING my cell phone and hooking up a landline. But all I foresee is myself sitting around in my house waiting for phone calls like a bored fifteen year old.

I've been without Facebook for about six months. I don't miss it nor do I long for it, but I'm trying to reevaluate my reasons for not having it. Five hundred million people enjoy this social network. And Kirkpatrick is right—people connecting with other people is almost inevitably a good thing. Why can't I appreciate this notion? Why am I so repulsed by the idea of staying connected?

Sometimes I think Facebook represents a fear of death—the desire to hold onto everyone you have ever known must be some sort of inability to accept the natural passing of time or changing of circumstances—normal events that reveal the movement of life, the advancement toward one's own ultimate expiration. I rationalize my ABDICATION of Facebook by doing so in the name of a realism. C'est la vie, I think to myself. That is life.

But perhaps I am afraid of life. Perhaps connectivity is the natural order of things, and the world's expanse has abnormally separated all of us, only to be reunited through the intangible web of the internet. Maybe I am running from something, fleeing the reality that a collection of "everyone I have known" is somewhat a mirror of my self, a reflection of my experiences. I move a lot, I make a lot of changes, I leave a lot of things behind, scarcely looking back. This is a whole other fear—a fear of a self that is inevitably going to catch up with me.

This morning I ABDICATED my battle. I closed my "Copper Archives" account and subsequently logged into my old "Candace Opper" account, all the while thinking about Thom Yorke singing, I wanna be part of the human race...

I don't know if it'll last. It still makes me cringe, but maybe it's good for me to push my boundaries a bit.


...where do we go from here? The words are coming out all weird. Where are you now that I need you?


2 comments:

  1. when is LUDDITE going to be the word of the day? zing!

    ReplyDelete