I was wandering around the house the other day, trying to remember why I was wandering around the house, when I was startled by a voice rising from the bedroom—a voice rich with righteous indignation, almost thespian in its vigorous projection.
It was my partner's voice, and the sequence of her exclamations played out along these lines: "Whaaat? You gotta be kidding! WTF?!?" I rushed to the bedroom, pleased to be presented with a momentary sense of purpose. Did the cat puke on the bed (again)? Did she discover a stain on the $5 top she bought at Savers?? High-maintenance-mother trouble???
None of the above. She had been betrayed by Facebook.
As she explained it to me, they had taken her profile and melted it down in a crucible of marketing alchemy to produce a series of links and blank spaces where her unique array of preferences and self-descriptors used to be. Granted, my partner's profile does not fit easily into marketing categories, which makes for a lot of blank spaces and some very misleading links. Nevertheless, my initial reaction was sympathy and affirmation. (Learned that strategy in Cosmopolitan.) I shared her outrage at being pigeonholed in such a way (bless her counter-cultural little heart), but it wasn't long before I carefully navigated toward, "What did you expect?"
Let it be known (if it isn't obvious already) that I don't do Facebook, despite countless invitations to join. Every time I read one of those stupid e-mails that say, "So-and-so has invited you to be their friend," I think one of two things: Isn't that person already my friend? Or, that person is not my friend!
Massive trends in popular culture make me nervous, per se—especially when driven by technology—but something about Facebook seems particularly pernicious. It brings to mind an image of hordes of cyber-lemmings happily toppling off some psychological cliff into a deep sea of banal anonymity disguised by a shiny, reflective surface of relevance and fulfillment.
Not only was I not surprised that Facebook had done this; I must confess to feeling a twinge of vindication upon learning that Facebook had, in fact, become Facelessbook.
I asked around among other users in an effort to contextualize my partner's disaffection. Some concurred on the "It's all about money" angle and threatened to cancel their accounts. Some shrugged (but I noted that their lives tended to fit more easily into links). Some launched into breathless testimony on the dangers posed by Facebook's privacy policies, which made me wonder why in the heck they were still using it.
Intrigued, I began to research this confusing "privacy" thing. I had been operating under the impression that there was no longer any such thing in our garishly lit, compulsively modulated, techno-capitalist world.
Our mass culture subordinates everything—and I mean everything—to the rule of capital. In our culture, it is perfectly fine to shit where you eat, as long as you generate sufficient revenue in the process. How, then, do you disparage a company that censors what you can say or show to your "friends," while turning over everything that you are permitted to divulge about yourself to any shill with a pitch? Seems rather innocuous compared to that ever-growing black blob in the Gulf of Mexico.
But there you have it: Nothing has to make sense anymore. All it has to do is fit neatly into the paradigm of quantity over quality, and it becomes the accepted norm, with few questions asked.
So, go ahead and keep up (if you can) with thousands of photos, statuses, profiles, news feeds, likes, tags and endless snippets of other people's lives, while projecting the details of your own life through the commodifying and censoring lens of Facelessbook. I won't judge you, but don't complain to me when you are betrayed. I'll be sitting on the porch with my (real) friends, watching their faces and listening to their voices while we cackle over scatological jokes about John McCain, concoct fantastic plots and hoot at embarrassing pictures of ourselves skinny-dipping in a mountain stream.