An Elegy for Facebook

I remember the first days of facebook. We uploaded pictures; we poured our notes and pokes into it; we started chain letters, invited each other just to access countless useless applications. In short, we were introduced to this Brave New World of our lives. For an increasingly needy and attention-seeking society, Facebook provide a life where you can have friends (or their pale virtual selves) around you 24/7.

This Brave New World added a new flavor and a new layer to our lives. Universities and employers are checking their applicants’ facebook profiles. Someone was sacked because she candidly wrote she was bored at work on her facebook status. We post arrays of compromising pictures online, taking pride in those virtual Scarlet Letters. Yet, behind the facade of vicarious empathy or shallow outrage, our increasingly Schadenfreude society smiles at our collective ‘brainless’ acts and laughs at those misfortunes.

Then only last month, we realized our privacy was robbed away. Actually, more appropriate phrase will be that privacy withered—much like our money and 401(k)s. Facebook’s new terms of use is the wake-up call for many of us although many of us blithely ignored the warning signs. (I can draw endless but painful analogies to the financial crisis here, but I will spare you).

Web 2.0 sundered barriers. Instead of being six degrees away from someone, we are less than a mouseclick away. Yet, we don’t want to know about them. I don’t want to know what my less-than-popular nerdy friend from six grade math class is playing. You won’t probably want to know what your banker who is probably responsible for your toxic assets is having for lunch. But that is exactly what facebook’s latest trend, “25 things you don’t (want to) know about me” is conveying. [A friend of mine is declaring his Presidential ambitions on facebook, even naming the exact year when he will throw his hat into the ring. (If Ron Paul is dead by then, he will probably get a following over the webfolk–or as I like to call them “The Lost Generation”). But I digress.] And that is why we are immigrating to Twitter.

Yes, Twitter is ugly, and not user-friendly. It is a relic of a time where we had no iPhones and our investment portfolios looked good (oh, it seems such a long time ago). But we (I speak for myself while shamelessly invoking 2nd person again and again) like it—its minimalist approach appeals to Luddites and nerds alike. A 140-letter status bar plus a snippet of a profile picture is a synecdoche of facebook, and may even be the latter’s demise.

Just because we don’t want to know about what brand of toothpaste you use.

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