Monday, February 11, 2008

Approximately seven days ago, I committed Facebook suicide. Honestly, it wasn't a decision I had considered lightly because it really wasn't a decision I hadn't considered at all. It was only until I was wandering through the Frequently Asked Questions section of the website that I discovered that if I were to delete myself, I could undelete myself just as easily. If the withdrawals became so bad, I could just log in – and all my profile would be there. My goofy stencil profile picture, my stupidly long list of incongruent musical artists, my LOLCAT application – all waiting for my return. So with that in mind, I clicked on the "deactivate" option and opted for a spell of anonymity.


I'll do graffiti if you'll sing to me in French...

While I've been away, I've been contemplating why this site has become so attractive and addictive for so many. I've been contemplating how I became caught up in it all.. and more to the point, why I felt it appropriate to cut off contact to 200 friends. I've recognised the appeal of Facebook had shifted significantly from the ye olde Geocities personal web page model. Our antiquated Digital Media Cultures class taught us that the aesthetics of a personal web page were intended to visually consolidate our personal identity. A recognisable example such as the treatment of an eye-burning fuchsia background and irritating Curlz MT typography would adequately reflect the identity (and inept webdesigning skills) of a young teenybopper. Following on from the personal web page model, the highly-customised Myspace profile perpetuates this idea that the underlying attraction of these sites is our ability to develop a highly-visual cohesive identity.

Moving away from the personal webpage model, the attraction of Facebook is its ability to affirm and constantly reaffirm ideas of mutual friendship. The fact that the logged-in home page of Facebook is an RSS feed of your friends' feelings and off-and-online activities clearly indicates that the site is centred upon an exaggerated sense of close friendship. My feeling is that this feature draws upon the ever-existing adolescent anxiety that we're not "in the loop" as such, but we are truly outsiders, excluded from the social circle.

In a superficial sense, the existence of variety of applications act as social proof that we really do mean something to our friends. The existence of an application such as the "Friend Wheel" allow us to create a colourful friendship wheel, illustrating how you and all your friends are connected. Other applications are slightly more blatant in the manner in which an individual is situated among their friends. The "Compare People" application allows an individual to find out how their friends rank their appearance, intelligence, sex appeal, fashion sense, popularity and laugh. All these things highlight an underlying desire to figure out where we honestly stand with the 200 people who claim to be our friends.

Applications aside, I feel that the true addictive nature of Facebook lies in the glorification of friendship. As much as it lies in the affectionate private joke on your friend's wall, it also lies in the envious review of the glamourous lives and photographs of your scenester acquaintances. So in response to those who ask why I decided to delete my account so suddenly and without explanation, I'm sorry I cannot afford you a more coherent response. But I know that I am now at the stage where I don't have the energy to glorify past friendships anymore.. and in the light of everything, it seems hopelessly inappropriate to assume that there was as great a kinship as I thought there was. I was just reading too much into it.

10 comments:

Urban Gypsy said...

dude, how come you don't allow mp3 downloads anymore?

El said...

I wasn't aware it had cut out - sorry.

I'll see if I can upload stuff somewhere else from now on.

Anonymous said...

Quality over quantity.

El said...

You know there are link farms you can go to if you just want MP3s.

Effort goes into making shows and writing commentary so it'd be great if someone would say something about that.

Anonymous said...

That was about quality of friends over quantity, in response to the Facebook conundrum.

El said...

Well yes. In that context it is very appropriate...

Crash Calloway said...

I like the fact that facebook has but me back in touch with people I probably never would have spoken to again but really all it is in that sense is friends' reunited without having to pay up front (and wasn't that the great last gasp of an antiquated economic model - getting your customers to pay for content and functionality! the very thought).
What I don't like about facebook is that it's so dumb - yeah, you can write to these friends but that's just email, and you can wall message but that just, well, kind of email, and you can (to all intents and purposes) blog but hardly anyone does, and when it comes down to it Facebook is a paradigm of soundbite culture, having to sum everything up in ten words or less, playing silly little games (I do it too, obviously, I'm allowed to say this)and generally being a kidult, instead of doing what blogs are so very very good at (when the right people are writing them - and *ahem* writing them regularly Miss Ellie - I know, I know, quality over quantity)) is not being about soundbites and not being about only acting things out in a carefully delineated way but just being yourself and giving of yourself and Taking Part!

So yeah, I agree, generally :)
x

El said...

Haha, Crash! I think we should switch my post for your comment!

You've basically got it right, it's so rewarding in that we can get in contact with all these people from our past.. and play Scrabulous with them and whatnot. But it is very much symptomatic of sound-byte culture. Everything is brief yet somehow in excess.. and it was beginning to feel like I needed a "hit" of Facebook, which is ridiculous. I wonder if I can do anything without getting addicted to it.

Needless to say, I'm back on there - BUT ONLY BRIEFLY! It's only until I get some credit for my phone. I'm pretty hopeless at the anonymity game.

And don't worry, I'm currently producing a series of podcasts for C&CM, it should be launched shortly.

Drew said...

you always write such long posts.. im too tired to read it all.. i saw facebook though... haha i own you on facebook!

"You purchased Eleanor Gray as a pet for $1,771. 1 hour ago"

El said...

Dude! Drastically altering my credibility here! GAH.