We had a great discussion in both Berkeley classes Monday about the far-reaching implications of a Facebook world.
– Virtual Crack Addicts. What makes the Facebook a compulsion for college kids, checked many times in a day? The ever-updating News Feed. Oooh. New photos. Werewolf-Zombie beatdowns. Did he really post that comment knowing that everyone would see it? The hot girl from high school wants, at long last, to be your friend.
– Performance and Creation of Self. There are intriguing limits on what you say you are, and those limits are entirely friend-generated. You can falsify relationships, join bogus groups, apply ironic images of Yoda as your profile picture, but the moment you claim to have been to a party you weren’t at (or worse, claim to have been tending to family emergencies during your trip to Cabo) you get called out publicly with Wall comments. Snap.
– Death & Rebirth. What happens when you delete your virtual profile and create a new one? Can it be a spiritual cleansing? Will your friends still try to tag you with embarrassing photos at the Tau Delta beer-pong kegger?
– Big Brother Lovefest. This notion comes from the essay they were reading, written by NYU student Jim Kuerschner last year, which essentially wonders why we’re so eager as a society to be seen, tracked, monitored. What does it say about us that we’re so interested in the minutiae not only of those we know well, but by the tangential friends three degrees removed? Do we voluntarily enter Bentham’s pantopticon determined to ignore the walls in favor of the familiar reality-show cameras and the waiver we’ve signed?
– Big Mother Lovefest. More pressing a concern for collegiates, of course, is not the abstract curtailing of their civil rights but the lack of peer-privacy now that Facebook’s been opened to everyone. Potential employers. Creepy dudes. Parents checking up on you stealthily. The existential but familiar dilemma of whether or not to accept your mom’s request to be your friend.
After Thanksgiving, they’ll read Michelle Slatalla’s hilarious, slightly troubling take from the New York Times.
I HAVE reached a curious point in life. Although I feel like the same precocious know-it-all cynic I always was, I suddenly am surrounded by younger precocious know-it-all cynics whose main purpose appears to be to remind me that I’ve lost my edge.
Many of these people are teenagers.
Some of them I gave birth to.
One was in a breech position.
And the other day, as I drove home with one of my tormenters in the passenger seat, she started laughing at the way I pronounced “Henri Cartier-Bresson.”
“Ha ha ha, is that how you think his name sounds?” my daughter said. “Oh, my God. Who told you that?”
It was my college photography professor. Twenty-six years ago.
Rather than draw attention to my age, I tried to trick her into thinking of me as someone cool, as we said 26 years ago. “I hope you don’t think this gives you the right to make fun of me on your Facebook page,” I said.
“My Facebook page?” this person asked incredulously. “My page? Is that what you think Facebook is?”
Suddenly a vague memory from my childhood — the time someone else’s mother left her family, wrote a few young adult novels and ended up in a sad apartment complex on the edge of town — welled up, unbidden.
I needed to banish it, along with all evidence of this humiliating conversation. But how?
I vowed to fight on her turf.
My students feel strongly that opening Facebook to all is a violation of all things sane. Because if there’s anything worse than outsiders snooping, it’s those wannabe high-schoolers.