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Getting Zucked & Waiting on the World (Wide Web) to Change

It’s not often these days I’m ahead of the curve. In fact, info I’m generally well behind it; a passé statistic on the hipness gradient slouching somewhere between the Snuggie infomercial and Jessica Simpson.

Speaking of Jessica and, treat by extension, the infinitely more tolerable Jennifer Aniston: I truly, honestly don’t “get” the John Mayer thing. Could you possibly explain it? While it is true that Mayer’s unfiltered ravings about everything from anal sex to file-sharing make for very good reading, who the fuck in their right mind would go out with this guy? I know I’m 40 and, as aforesaid, unhip, but I am still certainly able to detect the sound of erectile dysfunction.

Anyhoo. It seems that last week, anyone who cared about upholding the myth of digital utopia quit Facebook.

Having departed all social media some time ago, I was delighted. Just when I thought my edge had been altogether blunted by years in the service of Old Media, I find that I am a little more honed.

Of course, my delight was tempered when I found that John Mayer had announced his own semi-retirement from social media to coincide with mine. Mayer, it appears, has transplanted the flowers of his anguish from Twitter to Tumblr where he hopes they will flourish in a garden of “intelligent discourse”. By which we can only presume he means something like: fuller descriptions of Jessica Simpson’s ass.

Again, a little off-topic, but what on earth can Mayer mean by describing Simpson as “sexual napalm”? This scandalously connected man could have easily Googled “napalm” from his iPhone (I just don’t see him as an Android guy) and learned in a matter of seconds that napalm was not, after all, something good, fun or “addictive” but a terrible thermal weapon famously used by US troops to torture and demoralize Vietnamese people.

Which is as good a point as any to segue back into a discussion of Facebook, I suppose.

Minutes ago, Web 2.0 and social media were our salvation. Today, they’re the newest apocalypse. Have you heard the critique of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg? It’s deafening. It’s like the sound of the Son of God being stuffed right back up into the Blessed Virgin.

He’s not the messiah; he’s just a very naughty boy.

In a matter of days, Facebook’s young billionaire founder has turned from an important prophet into a visionary from hell. Like the Ancient Mariner, Zuckerberg played dice with death for our souls as this alleged IM conversation shows.

“Zuck”, still at Harvard, is talking to a friend who asks him how, on earth, he managed to accumulate the email addresses, phone numbers and sundry data of 4,000 Crimsons.

He answers:

Zuck: I don’t know why.

Zuck: They “trust me”

Zuck: Dumb fucks.

Surely, I’m not the only person unsurprised by this approach. Who didn’t think we were always going to get royally Zucked?

Today , I have written something about Facebook and social media generally for Australian newspaper The Age. You can read it here. I tell a little story about my mother to illustrate my lack of shock at Facebook’s privacy violations.

“Years ago, (my mother) entered a competition at a department store. She never did win that bedroom ensemble. She was, however, harassed for years with offers of discounted hard goods by mail and by phone. “You give them your information and they never let up,” she said. That we presumed Facebook did not have the aggressive business reflex of a furniture salesman is probably a little naive. Of course, we knew it all along. My mother knew it, I knew it and any of the bright online commentators currently buoyed by outrage at privacy infractions knew it even better than us.”

I go on to suggest that the anger evinced by many taking part in this newest Facebook Diaspora, “is a case of what a shrink might call ”projection”. The Facebook backlash is an elaborate refusal to acknowledge our own terrible behaviour.”

Let me just give you the rest,

“In 500 billion minutes each month, we kill time and traditional social networks on Facebook. Here our high-speed online reading of social situations has become more cursory and our responses more rushed. All the while, our faculty for snark increases.

“Online at incredible speed, we become less mindful, we become more aggressive and, as my own embarrassing excursions on the social media site Twitter have evinced, we are steeped in regret almost as soon as we hit the ”return” key.

“Without the cues and consequence provided by real life contact, our empathy drains from us like acid from a bad car battery.

“With fewer inhibitions and greater scope for expression, we have become quite unpleasant. It is not uncommon to read terrible, terrible things about oneself and others online. We have lost our civility. The loss of our privacy is the least of our concerns.”

As I’ve written elsewhere, I’ve managed to appall myself with the things I’ve said and done in social media. In an effort to be heard as signal intelligence above the white noise of Twitter et al, I began to carve the worst kind of polemic onto the World Wide Web. I Shock Myself with my etchings, but not, you know, in a cool way.

It’s not so much that I was worried that the second self I formed online had begun to impact the real. Although, of course, I’m sure it had. It was that my writing, informed by the conceited little bursts of status updates, was diminished.

Clearly, I’m yet to work all this shit out. Just like John Mayer, “I got brand new blues that I can’t explain” (SHUT UP JOHN SHUT UP). No doubt, I’ll voyage to the next temptation when it appears on the horizon and, parched, suck blood from my own arm like the Ancient Mariner to scream, “A Sail! A Sail!”

I just do think it’s worth looking at the way in which we use technology; to keep a sort of log of our voyage through hell so that one day when we arise feeling choked, we can remember how the albatross around our necks came to be there.

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20 Responses to “Getting Zucked & Waiting on the World (Wide Web) to Change”

  1. Wyn says:

    Your shameless link from a Fairfax website has brought me to your blog.

    Sexual napalm? Shagging John Mayer would be akin to sexual sarin gas, or sexual H1N1 bird flu, ie enough to make you puke your lower intestine. Call me old fashioned by I prefer my sex “Dy-no-mite”.

    Regarding Facebook refugees and Twitter quitters, you are the online equivalent of the Amish. I salute you… and I know a nice farm near Ballan you could move to.

  2. Helen Razer says:

    It’s true. I am completely old-school with this old-fashioned blogging. Pardon me as I churn the digital butter.

  3. YB says:

    The more time you spend ‘doing it’ the less time you have to ‘write about it’. And online aggression is no more different from offline. Just done with dumb and a keyboard instead of words. And I don’t mind receiving advertising. But I only reward the good stuff with a good product. But then, spend all my discretionary income in INCREDIBLY small, geeky markets that need boutique advertising.

  4. Nick Purtle says:

    a nurse friend posted she was thinking of selling an organ to finance her overseas holiday, others then suggested she sell her body to the night, so i, chortling, suggested she offer handjobs to the old guys on the ward, oncology btw. In banter over a drink i think it wld have gone through to the keeper but on fb i was the next belgian with children in the basement. Im suspecting fb is actually a female restroom, where i cant read the subtleties. Ps. Helen, should i be wary of women not comfortable with the word cunt, i myself feel pussy is a bit lame.

  5. YB says:

    Having a second crack after reading the blog completely – I think we are just loosing the people who had some sort of dream about the ‘promise’ of Facebook, Twitter, etc.. “Facebook will make you thinner, and gorgeous and your friends will love you more and you will have a million fans”. Social media used well can keep you in gentle, general contact with a few more people. Facebooks best use is like a more immediate contacts diary with attached photo album – a digital gossip session.

  6. YB says:

    I don’t know what I’m trying to say here, and I just realised that it could be misread as an atatck. It’s not! I love your writing Helen, and I love the way it makes me think, and think on some common experiences. I’ll shut up now.

  7. Helen Razer says:

    Don’t worry about it, YB. Considered debate, or even partially considered debate, is welcome! I’d just prefer none of that adrenalizing snark that so many of us engage in at Twitter and Facebook. Hence my (probably temporary) retirement from social media.
    I have written a little about this topic in recent days for Fairfax, the ABC and others and it seems my thrust has been received badly or oddly.
    To be very clear (which I think I have been) I believe web 2.0/social media is changing the nature of our interactions.
    I believe this merits some analysis.
    I have, at no point, said that I hold social media responsible for the destruction of the world blah blah. But I do believe that it has had an impact worthy of our interest.
    I believe our interactions have sped up to a critical point. Personally, I’m all for being part of a slow communication movement.
    We have a predisposition to abusing communications. Again, to be clear, I do not think this is the fault of the technology. I think it’s our natural inclination to be fuckwits. One hundred years ago, there were serial postcard senders. In 1906 (see the book the Tyranny of Email) one n every 8 US citizens felt compelled to send a postcard for no good reason every single day. This, as you can imagine, was a topic given some public considerations by the Helen Razers of the late Victorian era.
    I just think we need to ask: what the fuck does this do to us? We need to ask, to use Alexander Graham Bell’s first ever telegram communication, “What hath G-d wrought?”. (And yes, yes of course I don’t believe in G-d.)
    I am quite surprised by the volume of protest and snark directed at anyone who questions the value of social media/web 2.0. Those of us who critique it (with the exception of a quoit like Andrew Keen) are not saying “wikipedia is shit” because it obviously isn’t and “keeping in touch with friends overseas is shit” because it obviously isn’t. What is shit, however, is the speed at which we are now required to move. I really don’t believe we were built for it.

  8. Helen Razer says:

    @Nick Perhaps you have something there, actually. Maybe social media is a more feminized form of communication. Women have always been very good at the delivery of short, cruel bon mots. I have to say, it seemed to be female identities that were the nastiest and most stubborn on Twitter. Dunno.
    As for “cunt”. I dunno. I say it often. Although, less so now Americans find it acceptable. I have taken to inventing new swear words.

  9. Nick Purtle says:

    But Helen, at the risk of going all John Mayer on everyone, is a woman who cant enjoy the word cunt in the sack now and then a bit repressed.

  10. Helen Razer says:

    Oh. In the sack, you’re talking?
    Personally, I’ve always been a big fan of the c-words during the act of congress. I’m a big fan of brutality, lewdness and other consensual (always consensual) play when it comes to sex. But, to paraphrase the great prophet Carrie Bradshaw, that’s me. That’s not “her”. Others may prefer silence. Others may enjoy polite, fairly static sex with no hint of BDSM. There’s no point in judging or in trying to change them. Or, worse, charging them with being “repressed”. These people are not less liberated or more prim. They are simply sexually incompatible with us. Just find someone you enjoy having sex with more.

  11. Helen Razer says:

    Having said this, I do find John Mayer’s pronouncements very amusing. I hope he never straightens up.

  12. Nick Purtle says:

    Cheers Helen, time to sort the wheat from the chaff.

  13. Helen Razer says:

    Well, best luck. In the meantime, I think I will give over the remainder of this blogging year to dispensing responsible sex advice. Questions, please.

  14. jadeosaurusrex says:

    Hi Helen,

    Excellent post. I have to disagree with YB on one point. I don’t believe that online aggression is the same as offline. I think that when people have the safety of anonymity the inner snark comes out a lot more. Its much safer to abuse and insult others when there’s no repercussions. If we met the people who insult us online, they would never say the things they do in forums etc. to our faces.


  15. Helen Razer says:

    Thank you, Jade.
    I’d still like some sex questions, though.

  16. jadeosaurusrex says:

    Damn, I forgot to include a sex question. Ummmmm. Strangulation during sex. Thoughts?

  17. Nick Purtle says:

    Jesus Jade, strangulation in sex is like strychnine laced red bull is to food. Im sure licking a bald mans arse in a public toilet would be safer.

  18. Helen Razer says:

    What a delightful melange of metaphor.
    Seriously, though. I think I may have run out of Weighty Social Issues to write about freely. Let’s hear your sex questions. You may contact anonymously

  19. YB says:

    I’ve got a great girl and it working well. No sex questions come to mind. It can be homework :)

  20. jadeosaurusrex says:

    Hehehe, Nick, Id have to agree. It was the first thing that popped into my head and I thought well, it could get an interesting answer, and it did, from you :)

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