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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