Posts Tagged 'new media'

Facebook’s codependent relationship with me

you, facebook.

Apart from being scary and all-poweful and mercilessly flip with my privacy, Facebook has taken to suggesting I make the site better for someone who doesn’t have a lot of friends by writing on his wall. Aw, sad.

Ok. Folks who know me (/read my status updates) know how I feel about this “suggestion” widget, and know that I have taken steps on my home computer and the multitude of work computers I use to make it go the hell away. But every time I see it (before immediately disabling it), I can’t help but think about the deeper implications of a tool that suggests active participation within a tool that is inherently socially passive. You know, because I’m like that.

Facebook started as an experiment among elitist colleges to see just how elitist we could be allow us to rediscover friends from home we’d otherwise relegate to the 10-year-reunion, is she preggers? did he die? corner of our brains. It came at an interesting time for me and my class: Spring semester freshman year, word of this “thefacebook.com” spread around. Not an actual facebook (which evidently existed, although I didn’t buy one), but rather an online website you could join and poke people. Maybe the experience of meeting people in college would have been better the traditional way (which is not to say there weren’t plenty of keggers and “who the hell is this entry in my phone book?”s). Maybe “thefacebook.com” augmented the freshmen meet market by allowing us to catalog our acquaintances, instead of letting them disappear forever once Intro to Ethics ended.

Facebook evolved from an opportunity to find out the name of that guy you made out with last night those early years with limited information to share and find, where your home page was just your picture and tally of friends and you had to dig for updates, to its current form as a constant stream of information, musings, relationship news, shout-outs, and parties that 20 of your friends are invited to but you aren’t. The poke is a thing of the past, and so is your privacy (but that’s another post altogether).

Because facebook now does all the work for you, even adding a “Live Feed” in its most recent update, this social network–in itself a supremely passive form of social interaction–has turned us into self-interested idle sponges of human beings. (To be fair, an effect of the internet as a whole, not exclusive to facebook. Case in point.) Self interested because the majority of posts are about #1–what I’m doing and thinking, this party I’m having that you’re not invited to, and this blog I think you should read. Idle because one needs not contribute a single thing to facebook for it to work for them; if even a small percent of your long-lost friends take facebook up on its suggestion to write on your wall or add you as a friend, you are instantly popular.

At 14:42 today, I got a banner that suggested I add an Automatic Friend Finder feature. Here’s a quagmire: facebook wants you to be more active in certain friends’ online lives, but it’s perfectly willing make friends, for you, automatically. I’m left scratching my head.

But I will say this: I AM NOT GOING TO SUGGEST FACEBOOK FRIENDS FOR A DOG. I shouldn’t even BE facebook friends with a dog. Even though he’s cute. Come to think of it, I know a lot of people who might think he’s cute too. Maybe they’d like to be friends…

The opposite of “weblog” is “log”

The Oxford American Dictionary has given us the latest incarnation of what happens when the real world tries to grapple with online phenomena.

According to the Oxford University Press blog (which in itself is a quagmire), “unfriend” is the 2009 Word of the Year. Stiff competition? “teabagger.” I can’t wait until 2010 when “rimjob” might be in contention…

Anyway, the trouble here is, have you ever heard anyone use the term “unfriend?” I would think that word would be a derivation of the adverb, “unfriendly,” which is, afterall, a real word. eg: “The Id can be very unfriendly when she’s in a bad mood. She unfriended me last week by farting on my bed, although I’m not sure that was the result of a bad mood.” If her unfriendliness ever gets so bad that I want to cut all ties with her, I will “defriend” her from my facebook, and “stop being roommates with” her in real life.

Negative prefixes aren’t always perfect, but it makes more sense to think of “defriend” like “deactivate” (as if I would “deactivate” my facebook account) than “unfriend” like “undo” (as if I would Ctrl + Z our friendship).

UPDATE: Luke Russert agrees.

But the root of the matter, beyond the fact that Brits shouldn’t worry their pretty little heads about how badly Americans bastardise [sic] the English language, is that when the real world tries to make sense of and codify the random and natural evolution of the internet, something’s bound to miss its mark.

When you have the world at your fingertips, it doesn’t make sense to go to a dusty library, sort through shelves of books, and then put as much of the world as can be contained by 1,000 abridged pages at your fingertips. When there’s a .com version of a real-life thing, the online thing wins.

Dictionary.com > Dictionary.
Google Translate > Merriam-Webster’s Spanish/English dictionary. (For that matter, Google > Human brain)
Thesaurus.com>  Shift F7  > Thesaurus.

The one notable exception to this rule is virtual pets (and materialistic teenage girls, and farms). FooPets is on the list of websites I should not have access to. Because, on a Wednesday night with a little shiraz in my blood and an intense desire to play tug of war with my actual dog, a cute furry animated Shiba Inu who barks and sneezes and lets you rub his tummy (with your cursor) is a very reasonable alternative. Until, of course, these clever webmasters get you hooked and con you into paying electronic funds transfers real money for pet food, shampoo, and facebook birthday gift doodads that you can never actually touch. When the time comes that you actually consider PayPal-ing your money away for a jpeg birthday cake, you should probably just go to the library.

The flying squirrel

I just came back inside from a building-wide fire alarm that evidently my office caused. Unlike in middle school–when you’d pray for a fire alarm to get you out of taking a test that you will invariably go back and finish taking in ten minutes after the poor custodian finds and flushes the stink bomb that prompted the alarm, which anyway is not enough time to study the notes that you forgot to smuggle outside (which is probably the reason why teachers ingrain in us that we are not to take ANYTHING with us during a fire drill)–fire alarms during live television are incredibly inconvenient. But not for me, because I have no clearly defined role to fill today, so I’m starting a blog!

Trouble is, I’m not especially clever. I like to think I am, but enough tortured souls have poured their hearts and clever, clever minds out into blogs in the past decade that I feel as though I am in saturated company. So this is what I would write if I were actually clever. And, revisionist history aside, what I should have retorted in so many situations but was too paralyzed by fear of confrontation to actually say.

So without further ado…

I saw this dress. I try to look impeccable every time I step foot out the door, when I’m not trudging into work on weekends at least. A constant paranoia that others are harshly judging me, combined with an inability to leave for work without checking myself in the mirror forty-seven times, sees to that. So I figured, I’m dripping with disposable income like everyone else in this country right now, so why not order it online and try to make it work.

Beyond the excitement of seeing that little “YOU’VE GOT A PACKAGE!!!!” key in my mailbox, getting things from Banana Republic has become such a ritualistic joy in my life. Because I don’t see the point in paying $7 for shipping without buying several unnecessary articles of clothing and accessories, I had a few other garments to try on to build up suspense before the piece de resistance. Normally this is done in private (see “Judgmentphobia,” above), but roommate #1 was home–tough but fair and rational, we’ll call her the Ego–so I decided to model for her the lovely things I purchased.

Until we got to the Flying Squirrel dress. So named because, unlike the chic voluminous silhouette and flattering banded bottom you see on the model (who is admittedly the size of my pinkie finger), this sack looked like a cashmere cross between a 1987-era sweatshirt–exposed shoulder seams and all–and a marshmallow. “Dolman sleeve” is an outright lie, and Banana Republic should be ashamed… is what I would have said had I not wanted to make it work SO BADLY.

The biggest mistake was letting roommate #2–we’ll call her the Id… or, just for today, Snidely Whiplash–try the dress on, which proved that even 5’11” skinny pretty blonde girls couldn’t make it work and that, given the opportunity, good friends will sooner tie you to a railroad track themselves than let you commit fashion suicide. Despite my protestations and assertions that the dress is no longer in my possession, and I’m $65 richer because of it, the Flying Squirrel dress is enduring proof that the risk one takes in fashion is not that people won’t understand your style goals, but rather that you won’t be able to win a battle when your indefensible position is made of marshmallows.

Chew on that, psyche.


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