My Facebook Profile Has a Drinking Problem (Not Me)
...stuff on social media and stuff...
Putting Ourselves On Sale (June 14,2019 CE)
"We are who we pretend to be, so we must be very careful with who we pretend to be." - Vonnegut
Who are you IRL? ('in real life')
In the West the socio-corporate panopticon beat the police-state panopticon to the punch. For years websites have taken the data of its users, which we have passively and ignorantly accepted with the click of a button (how dare something so insidious and nosy get their name from something as delicious as 'cookies').
Whistleblowers like Edward Snowden offered proof that intelligence agencies not only had the technology to snoop on you, but were actively doing so and not really waiting for proper warrants (plus there were occasions were employees completely blew off protocol to find and share at nude photos anyone and everyone that was sending across the great wide online world). What a great way to trust your government even less, disenfranchising people even more, and creating the paranoia and fear that makes people trust it even less, etc.
Are they listening to you through your phone? Do you have a piece of tape over your laptop's camera yet? Do you get a 1984-ish vibe whenever you hear some intelligence official say, 'if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear'?
Too bad! It doesn't even matter, because so many of us are happily and willingly giving everything we are and everything we want to the internet because every like we get and every Amazon package on our doorsteps gives us a rush of endorphins.
The old adage, 'those who exchange liberty for security deserve neither' is being rebranded. Now it's 'help us help you... by sharing your life with people and corporations' (and corporations are people, actually. Sociopathic, resources sucking, unkillable people, but In the eyes of the law, people nonetheless).
The Chinese government's social credit score was widely criticized in the west (in a nutshell: 'if a camera catches you jaywalking, you lose points and can't buy a train ticket'), even though we're just going towards it from the other way. Instead of losing points for doing something bad, now you can present yourself to the world for 'fun' and 'profit'. Become popular and followed, and then you can have ads on your vids, sponsored posts, and branded content. The selling never ends because you've been selling the idea of yourself as a fun place to be.
YouTube creators are waking up to the reality that there is more than one way to glue an eyeball, and the three main ones are common interest, relatability, and whatever is popular at the moment shoved in your face over and over again.
They are like the Facebook and Instagram friends (freaky reminder: Zuckerberg owns both) that make posts and videos of what interests them, and that you might actually want to watch.
Whatever sort of emotional connections people make with these videos - or the people they follow on Twitter - turns into a financial reward. More eyes equal more money. Now this is nothing new, as every possible product or service (whether it's for a can of soup or a car pick up/hook up/food delivery app) would love to have people think about them that way. It gets weirder when the product is a person, though. Cans of soup don't have feelings or the sense of awareness that they have to balance many aspects of their lives while still uploading a video by this afternoon even though there's this one cut where you aren't smiling as much as you now wish you were.
Tired of being 'yourself' all the time?
For awhile the Internet was your escape from who you are everyday, but now that the Internet is 'everyday', where can you be someone else?
The physical world? Has everything flipped?
There have always been people wary of putting a lot of their lives online, and there are plenty of stories of someone who shared or said something that completely blew up in their face and they've gotten fired, shamed, or mocked. But now people who are navigating the Internet 'me' business with mad skills and success are growing frustrated and fatigued (it should be known that this level of fame doesn't come with A-lister (or B-lister) actor pay).
The 'burnout' is coming from trying to be your online persona. Even if it came easy early on because it was more or less you, you 'finesse' yourself into a performance, especially if you find some level of social/financial success. But then the tail starts to wag the dog, where you're trying to figure out exactly what of your natural behaviours got more likes and 'subscribes with bells'.
[It of course doesn't help that if you try to take a break or vacation, there are tons of other very similar options that can snatch up your fanbase in an instant. The Internet has promised everything immediately, and a lot of that is: the exact same thing, right now]
Suddenly the 'being yourself'-angle doesn't cut it six months later, because people have gotten too familiar and bored with the shtick that is simply 'you'. Which is a horrifying punch to the ego. Thousands of people nonchalantly dumping you as a virtual friend. It's the unintended consequence of putting yourself out there in the first place.
Everyone who uses social media creates an altered version of themselves, but if that's become your job, you've painted yourself into a corner. Now you want to be popular not for the high school reason of 'cool', but because it pays your bills. If the natural or 'only slightly different' you worked for six months or even a year or two, what do you do when likes and views start to sag? How do you change yourself to be the next, next big thing?
Which is a horrifying situation. Marxist theory always held that one of the worst aspects of capitalism was alienation, which is the divide between the creation of a product and its consumption (i.e., how you don't know (or have to care) about the difficulty in the assembly of an iPhone before you start to use it, in terms of the amount of effort finding and preparing the basic materials, and how it is put together in a factory by a underpaid workers). When we only see the product and not the work of the people who made it, we ‘alienate’ these other people from our life experience. It's problematic enough when the item in question is an inanimate object, but it's so much worse when the product is a person, and when they begin to 'break down' (burnout) we just shrug and go to another Twitter feed or video channel.
We have (inadvertently) monetized emotion.
First it was memories. Marketing perfected this over the decades though magazines, TV, and radio. Cleaning products don't just give your counter a nice shine, they keep your kids healthy. Cars commercials now focus just as much on the importance of driving to a beach to have a party with your friends as it does on a rearview camera and zero percent financing.
Now the Internet is profiting by making you feel a certain way, and research companies can find out exactly how you react based on how much of an ad you watch, and what you click on next. Clicks mean your time and attention, and that means value.
Not a surprise in terms of selling a product or service, but this has spilled into how everything on the internet works, including journalism and culture.
Shock has always sold newspapers, magazines, and led TV news programs, and has now became a cornerstone in making money on the Internet. And just like all the various mediums, whether there is actual (or a considerable amount of) outrage is irrelevant. It will be manufactured thanks to the simple existence of the initial piece of culture or information.
Regardless of whether the article writer genuinely cares about what they are writing, it is meant to elicit a response from the reader (or, as it is increasingly becoming, a video that elicits a response from the viewer). People are mad and mean, especially on the Internet, but not as mad and mean as they seem to be. But it's become damn easy to let your first terrible take to slither out of your mouth or fingers and be set in digital stone forever.
But this isn't how people act, this is how people think, and while those are clearly correlated, they aren't in a strict causal relationship. And on the Internet, 'thinking' and writing exactly what you think of at that exact moment, without any reflection, is mistaken for talking. A text or tweet or post usually comes in the appearance of a cartoon word bubble, with the attribution pointer to the speaker/thinker. The term is even 'so-and-so said on their tweeter feed', even though there might not nearly be the same amount of reflection before saying something here as in front of a group of a large and random people. Because we still haven't wrapped out heads around the idea that everything which is said online is rarely said to just one other person or a small group of known or likeminded people. It is ultimately said to everyone. Every time you tweet/post, imagine you are about to speak into several microphones in front of a football stadium with dozens of cameras about to broadcast your speech live around the world. That's tweeting/posting is in 2019.
But that's just this very moment, this very date that was posted (June 14, 2019 CE). But when someone reads this, or reads anything online, or watches any video, they are bringing the context of their own time and place (it may be six days, six months or even six years from the posting date). Everything is kind of now, and there is only a vague sense of past.
Something that was posted years ago but read at the current moment can seem woefully out of date or shortsighted, etc., and it's the responsibility of the viewer/reader to properly contextualize the material, not the creator.
A creator shouldn't be forced to apologize for anything that has 'aged badly', because most things age badly (including ourselves, when you get far enough along), and growing and progressing is part of the human and social experience. The permanence of the internet erases time, so we should all be more careful about how our changing selves interact with it.
After all, the Internet's format and occasional anonymity allows you to essentially act like a psycho or sociopath. It's said the unfiltered, unguarded a person is, the more honest they are, but that omits the fact that people will spew random shit they don't even believe, just because they can. To test the waters, to see if they amuse or offend. You might have thought the game of thrones episode was okay, but you'll yell in 'worst episode ever' in capital letters in a thread. You might advocate a celebrity or athlete to kill themselves when you would be horrified if that actually happened.
The Internet doesn't provide access to a more authentic, honest side of a person. It just shows another side of a person that is no more real than how they act in public, or even among close friends and family. All these modes of people are as real and manufactured as the concept of self can ever be.
Perhaps the self is becoming more malleable than ever before. Gender fluidity is simply the most recent and well-known example of how the future is not binary, but an ability to move from one state to another. This is the rise of the quantum era, superseding the digital era (which was based on everything being a one or zero).
What this means for people is that we are becoming less individuals, and more societies.
We have trouble catching up with inventions, with incorporating it into our concept of self. We can learn how to use a cell phone pretty quick (how to access certain features, how to dim or brighten the screen), but understanding how it will affect our outlook on life and everyone around us is much, much harder.
Technology brings together many components (living and non-living) and makes them work more efficiently. Societies have done the same with people for centuries. Today, that an AI or a robot does your job, that something on social media upsets you, or that you begin to feel creeping isolation in a technocratic police state doesn't matter to society at large. It just needs to continue functioning.
As our body is a series of cells (and bacteria and foreign objects that can be broken down into energy or removed, etc.) that work together, society is a series of not just human beings, but all the things human beings use and interact with.
Certain cells or other parts of the body that harms the body are removed or destroyed (or at least, are attempted to be removed or destroyed). Certain individuals and items that harm society are removed or destroyed (or at least, are attempted to be removed or destroyed).
The internet has connected computers and humans in ways that were not even considered just thirty years ago. What the rise of AI might mean is an even more efficient utilization of a society, or what might be called a societal organism.
The future might not be about the individual, and that is both horrifying and depressing. We want to keep our individualism, the belief that our collection of cells deserve a certain range of freedom and self-determination.
But what we want might no longer be relevant. 'Want' for a human might become as ridiculous as considering what a cell 'wants'.
A cell has no concept of what it is part of, and we might have the same, hazy understanding of what billions of ourselves are doing. Maybe we are the cusp of truly connecting with each other that is comparable to ants in a colony, and then cells in a body. For now it's the jittery chaos of 'Twitch Plays Pokemon', but perhaps the future might be all of us working together harmoniously, although without a sense of greater awareness of how or what we are. If individuals are turning into an 'us', maybe individuality is just an evolutionary stepping stone, something to be shed like the skin of a snake.
More and more, any form of information on the Internet (whether it be a headline, a video, a meme, a personal anecdote, a podcast, etc) is being considered and critiqued in extremely similar ways. This is because it all 'looks' the same, in the sense that this information is checked over at a rapid pace and in largely in piecemeal form.
So the important takeaway is not the content of this information, but how it is (and isn't) being consumed by the individual.
Our toolset is blurring. Ways of thinking critically about an important news article might now be applied to a meme or tweet, in part because that's the next thing we read or consume on our newsfeed or through page scrolling.
The content of stimulus has become less important than the stimulus itself.
The biological change is moving from properly addressing the content of infrequent stimulus to simply quickly addressing the volley of frequent stimulus.
Quantity over quality.
Which is fine for right now, because what percentage of the Internet is a giant, abandoned trash heap of data, and what percentage of it is fake (in the sense of astroturfing)?
Probably too, too much.
In this way, the digital world accurately represents the physical one, which we are quickly (and inadvertently/ignorantly) filling with garbage and poison.
So we retreat to the 'fake' world, which is becoming more complex and essential everyday, where there are debates over what is a public square and whether free speech is being curtailed and monetized. But if everyone is there, that makes it public. It's Facebook nation and it's not a democracy. If everyone's online self is just as essential as their real biological self, then both are real, because we make the active/passive decision at every moment at every day that they are real. Despite the temptation to flee from responsibility and leap from one world to the other, saying you didn't mean that here, and that it doesn't represent you, the truth is that both represent you, because we are blurring the binaries.
Today, on June 14th, 2019 and forever, you are always IRL.
Veritasium, How My Video Went Viral:
Lindsay Ellis, Manufacturing Authenticity (for Fun and profit):
My Facebook Profile Has a Drinking Problem (Not Me) - (Original Article from a while back)
Debates have sprung up in the last year or two over the right to privacy when it comes to the internet. Facebook – by far the world’s most popular social networking site – has been at the centre of this issue. Supposedly who you are can now be discerned not by meeting you, but by visiting a webpage that is intended to be you in a nutshell. The problem stems from the wrong people – prospective/current employers, certain friends/relatives – discovering pictures, videos or comments added by you for all (or some) of the world to see.
In the United States there have been instances of recently hired teachers being fired because someone from the school board found the person’s facebook page, which had pictures of them drinking – just drinking, not puking their guts out in an alley – in Acapulco. It was argued that this is not an appropriate image for a teacher, as they are expected to be a role model not only for their students, but ideally, all youth and the community. While this makes sense, it should also be pointed that out that no one is ‘just’ their job, and a ‘personal’ not ‘professional’ webpage could reasonably be expected to reflect the rest of someone’s life, not just their career. In Germany, there are already laws in place barring companies from making any hiring/firing decisions based on pictures or comments found on employee’s social networking pages.
But this a boring non-issue to me. If you don’t want certain people to see you at your most embarrassing or bitchy, don’t post it on the internet. Before the rise of social networking sites, you only told embarrassing (or amazing) stories to the small circle of people you trusted, not your seven hundred and forty six internet ‘friends’. If you confuse Facebook with your diary, regardless of the privacy settings you have, you deserve everything that’s coming to you.
No, my interest is in what I believe will be the next phase in the disassembly of the human individual thanks to ever-advancing communications technology (if the world doesn’t got too belly up in whatever catastrophe befalls it after the economy bottoms out). With personal information becoming less and less personal everyday, those trying to manage what is essentially dueling identities are going to come to a rather damning crossroads. Regression to a more private and exclusive form of sharing – say, quitting Facebook or whatever new fad replaces it in two years – which would resemble a time before the pervasiveness internet, does not seem possible, unless you go the full monty and live in a electricity-free shack in the woods. On the other hand, if you have trouble juggling the images of your own self but can’t give up looking at your friends party pictures and playing Angry Birds, how about adding a second self to the mix? Or a third?
One of the most popular New Yorker cartoons of all time depicts a dog sitting in front of a computer, saying to a fellow canine beside him, “on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog”. We could choose worse memes to base the future of human interaction on. And considering the cartoon was published in the mid-nineties – a decade before Facebook debuted – it comes off as incredibly prophetic. Anonymity has seemingly become an impossibility in cyberspace, but perhaps we are looking at it from the wrong end.
After all, this was the allure of early online chat rooms. Awkward conversations between silly screen names with lengthy pauses that depended on the strength of your modem. No one knew who you were. A twelve year old boy could claim to be a twice married heart surgeon (admittedly, the charade wouldn’t last too long without a bit of research), a Star Wars fan could ‘pretend’ to like Star Trek, and a hacker could pretend to be from AOL Customer Service and ask for gullible people’s account information.
This has evolved, of course. Second Life and other avatar based virtual realities are glorified chat rooms, but haven’t yet developed to the point where it mimics life accurately enough to have an entire persona that is believably built out of pixilated images with little to no bearing on real life. On a very basic level, at least all the photos in your Facebook profile look like you, lending credit to your actual existence. The future of Second Life is an effortless merging of its current state and Facebook. The easy access of information – think how simplistic your profile page is – with an extremely detailed graphic interface. Soon you won’t click on icons and links to get from one page or picture to another. Instead you’ll do so in a completely virtual world, visiting people “door to door” and looking at pictures of them in virtual scrapbooks. The only hurdle is bandwidth.
Until then, a second identity can exist in a fragmented form on Facebook alone, and to start it up is stupidly easy. When you’re in city A, you’re Jacob Phelps, early-to-bed, boring IT analyst. But when you’re in city B (or suburb C), you become Frank Boswell, hard-partying, lady-killing extraordinaire. A double life is only unseemly if you truly have something to hide. Beyond that, it will probably become a social lifeboat of sorts.
The internet is either extremely confining or extremely liberating, the difference being the effort you put into constructing your online persona. The more it dovetails with who you are, the harder it is to ‘be’ anyone else. Obviously this is common sense in the real world (no one will believe your claim that you can handle your liquor if you always puke after your second tequila shot), but we’ve applied these rule sets to cyberspace when we really do not have to. As living in the virtual world of text messages and status updates becomes a larger and larger part of how we conduct ourselves, new rules sets will emerge, and eventually break out of the digital world and enter the real one. Using the names in the paragraph above, no one at Jacob’s place of employment will care if Frank vomited on a stranger’s kitchen table over the weekend. Two worlds, no collisions as of yet.
At this stage, we return to the trust and secrecy issue of only telling certain people that you are both Jacob and Frank. Who would you tell? Pretty much the close circle of friends that you would have told before the internet allowed you to have hundreds of them. And if you’ve never really lived in the pre-internet period, the people you can trust are the ones you see face-to-face and don’t think are complete assholes (this is perhaps the lowest definition of friendship I can think of that still works).
Not that the doppelganger solution is a perfect one. The most basic problem is this: Overlap.
In the world of arts and entertainment, this is a classic device that either invites howl of laughter or tears of anguish. Juggling two identities is the premise for Wilde’s Importance of Being Earnest and practically every Shakespearean comedy. In more modern terms, it would be Seinfeld’s “worlds collide” theory, where the friend-persona of George Costanza was getting intertwined with his fiancée-persona, the result being he had to be two ‘different’ people at the same time.
What happens when Jacob is in a restaurant with a work friend when a person who knows him as Frank walks up to him?
You know what’s going to happen?
(and here’s the kicker)
Jacob is going to be able to tell this person: “I’m not being Frank right now, sorry.”
And the person who thought it was Frank will chuckle and smile and say, “okay, see you later when you’re Frank”. And then leave Jacob with his work friend, who will eagerly ask about ‘Frank’ and his possibly wild adventures.
That’s right. It’s going to be okay. No hint of shame in admitting that to someone you’re sometimes someone else. It’s going to be accepted that to other people, you are someone else.
After all, it’s existed on some level for as long as social interaction has. It’s expected that you change your behaviour – even if it’s only slightly – depending on which groups of people you are currently socializing with. Drinks with some co-workers after work might have a more restrained and formal atmosphere than smoking joints and talking shit with your university buddies. Almost certainly both of those situations will offer a different ‘you’ than when you are having Christmas dinner with your relatives.
Why not name these different ‘yous’, and give them room to breath. It doesn’t have to be a total overhaul where you speak in a different voice or wear different clothes, and it’s not like you have to bring out your doppelganger on a regular basis, but I believe it would be a relief from time to time to step out of yourself from time to time and try someone else on. Even if it’s just you…but slightly more opinionated thanks to an extra drink or two. Why not differentiate your old self from your suddenly new self? Your facebook profiles can be, ‘Bob Jacobs’ and ‘Whisky Bob Jacobs’, if you want to keep it that simple.
There’s a party you and work you, and anyone who has walked into their workplace at eight thirty in the morning with a monster hangover knows that keeping them separate in reality is sometimes hard enough. There’s no reason why – with the expanse and possibilities of the internet – that we should have to bring this juggling act to our cyber identities.
As mentioned before, this is not a new concept, as separate social personalities is a basic quality of human interaction, but even wholly alternate names and identities have existed, for better or worse. Strippers have fake names, writers use pseudonyms, and the James Bonds of the intelligence community have a drawer full of passports. All of these examples are people adapting a secondary persona for very good reasons, and while it doesn’t mean these professions have had a head start or the gift of forethought, it shows that on some level we as a society can accept and appreciate such dualities. Granted, creating a doppelganger for the purpose of hiding your ribald side isn’t the same as doing so for the sake of national security, but Facebook and other social networking sites have changed social discourse to such a point that the distinction has become moot. If we are able to create multiple identities (all you need for a facebook profile is an email address), it seems inevitable that we will.
If everyone is breaking social rules, then it’s no longer a social rule.
Critics might claim that this process will be incredibly confusing and complicated, but that’s an accusation that has been levied against a wealth of social advancements that have been made possible through technology, from the spread of information thanks to the printing press (a bishop famously opined, “the pen is a virgin, the printing press is a whore’) to the expansion of government programs that made health care available to all thanks to medical breakthroughs (‘socialized medicine’ still being a dirty word in some Western countries).
Complexity is part of human progress. It is our ability to navigate through an increasing intricate and interdependent society that we base our belief that advancement in both a social and biological sense is possible. And after a long run of everything around us disseminating and speeding up, it’s time that we do an internal upgrade and diversify ourselves to adapt to this heterogeneous world.
Beyond the first steps, if we take these new possible identities to the (il)logical extremes, some of the avatars can be completely fictional, having nary a single quality that can connect you with whatever new person you just created. In fact, you don’t even have to actually go out in public and act like this new person. It can be a completely virtual identity. Let’s say you never touch alcohol but want to build a reputation as boozehound. Create a facebook profile with some easily doctored pictures of you drinking, or pretending to drink (a lot of beer and whisky looks like apple juice). Log on to some online AA messageboards, apologize to other people on facebook (who can be in on it) for making such an ass of yourself at their house the previous weekend. Everyone has a laugh, no one gets hurt, and someone completely under your control has a kooky reputation on the internet that will never affect you.
Even more interesting is when you change your life in some fashion, which requires you to no longer play the role of, say, Frank, or ‘Whisky Bob Jacobs’. Don’t just delete the account, hold an online funeral (or a real one, invite all his online friends to actual bar for a real piss up, where the deceased attends his own wake). For those who never liked him, it’s a chance to celebrate his passing, and for others who enjoyed his capering, it’s a period of pseudo-mourning, remembering (or trying to remember) all the good times they had.
The death of your alter ego(s) can be a somber or hilarious experience, depending on what you’ve decided to leave behind. ‘Frank’s’ facebook page might be full of condolences or jokes. The act of actually saying goodbye to such a persona can be a spiritual experience or character building exercise. A cheapening of death? Perhaps, but it can also be a way of accepting and understand the temporality of our own lives (and all the identities within our single life).
Why do it, one may ask? Why not? Think how much more creative this is than watching reality TV.
As the internet becomes less personal and free and more corporate and controlled – a rise apps means a decline in typical user generated content – these fake profiles might be one of the successful forms of detournement available to facebook users.
With cyberspace becoming the most popular forum for spending free time – which typically means arguing over the merits of Youtube videos, seeing pictures of celebrities spill ice cream on their clothing, and trying to destroy egg-stealing pigs via bird slingshot – creating an alternate identity can almost be defended as a worthwhile character building exercise.
It’s only a matter of time before a memoir is written by someone who’s been one thousand different people online not for the purposes of conning anyone, but just because it’s a chance to be different whenever you are bored with who you are at that moment. Call it a symptom of ‘channel/internet surfing’ culture. Or it will be looked at as a pure art project (a rather conservative one, compared to some forms of body modification). James Frey and his A Million Little Pieces not-quite-memoir was the last casualty of the old world where fact and fiction aren’t allowed to mingle. Now he could claim his internet self spent all that time in prison, not him.
Postmodernism chewed up and spat out the mashed up remains of truth in a cultural sense, and while it still plays an essential role in such disciplines like science, economics, and politics (well…), culture is permitted to bend the rules slightly. Multiplicity, relativism, and interpretation are the buzzwords for postmodernist theory, and the public’s interaction with the possibilities facebook offers stands on the cusp of embracing these concepts on a personal level.
Reaching your full potential becomes so much easier when there’s more than one of you to play around with and manipulate through an ever-expanding virtual world that is playing a larger and larger role in our society.
The diffusion of your self is the best way to confront a complex system (the internet) that saves everything for all eternity (or as long as the servers don’t crash, which might just be the same thing). Don’t shy from it, hoping those pictures of you on Spring Break are never found, that’s just another you, nothing more. The only thing to remember is, when the time comes, make sure that you kill the right persona. Instead, if it’s the person on your driver’s license, I imagine you might end up with a bureaucratic nightmare on your hands…
|What bothers me the most about the possible fate of our species is that if it all starts to go belly up and the planet becomes less and less hospitable, billions of people will attribute this to some sort of apocalyptic comeuppance for being immoral in the eyes of a spooky space god instead of blaming it on our own ignorant dumbfuckery of not acting upon the dire conclusions reached by basic chemistry and physics|