Just over a month ago, a friend on Facebook posted a picture, tagging a few other friends & labeling the picture 'Our friends who aren't on Facebook...' (or something very close to that). The picture was, actually, a very sweet moment of two (also very sweet) guys attempting to read a book by the light of a bonfire.
But something about that extremely sweet picture/homage, in fact, triggered something quite different in my mind. I began to think about another very sweet guy who I know who doesn't 'do' Facebook. And another. And another. So I asked myself to catalogue, as honestly as I could, all the friends/acquaintances I have who've made a point of NOT social networking. At the back of my mind, the catalogue began.
And then, yesterday, two things happened in rather quick succession. I saw a brief piece by Jennifer Weiner over at the New Republic, responding to comments made by Jonathan Franzen about "...'Jennifer Weiner-ish' self-promotion." I also took a quick walk to my studio, through clusters of smoking co-workers in the middle of the brightly sunny day, with a package whose contents felt intensely—almost radiantly—private.
As I cut across a field, walking behind a church & a row of large sugar maples, thinking of Weiner's response & my own disgrunt about certain folks & social media, I also noticed the construction crew at the auto repair shop across the way stopping their own ladder climbing & toolbox searching to ogle in my general direction.
And, finally, I got why the hell all of this matters to me: It's about being seen, feeling seen and controlling/participating in the making of what gets scene.
From my cataloguing, I'd begun to suspect that all of my friends who didn't 'do' Facebook shared really only one other characteristic: being middle-class/upper-middle class/educated white men.
BINGO, I'd been thinking. I'd stumbled right into the middle of Mindless Facebook Users of the World vs. Enlightened Members of the Good Old Boy Network .
If the network that's been seizing continents, establishing borders, authoring & enforcing holy texts and rules of thumb, and keeping devastatingly unequal economic systems fresh & relevant through the millennia tends to push you to the top of the heap through nothing more than sheer inertia, perhaps those amazing 'What Everybody Thinks I Do/What I Really Do' memes do begin to lose just a touch of their sparkle.
Or, alternatively, if you consider social media/Facebook as primarily a feeding frenzy of superficial unhappiness/self-promotion/trickle-down from the heaving, sweaty pits of Empire, then why would any thinking person choose to participate? Unless, perhaps, you might be someone whom the heaving, sweaty pits of Empire operating beyond social media wish to deny, mute, boss around, speak for, shun and/or annihilate?
Hence the slight tone I usually detect in the voices of my friends who don't 'do' Facebook, et al.
However, if social media is, as Jennifer Weiner would have us consider, not just a massive gyre of self-promotional/buy-this-and-that spewing bullshit, but also a place to connect with people/things that make you feel part of a community, or maybe even just silly things (which might, indeed, have the disastrous side effect of making you feel less poetically alone), maybe there's a bit more to why one might choose to be social on a virtual network. And, as Louis C.K. does point out, it's a good thing to check in with your own human capacities. But I don't think that losing touch of humanity is a side effect of social media. I very much think that opinions about social media (just like opinions about genre, art, etc.) serve to reveal more about the speaker than the media.