I should start this off with a disclaimer: I am a recovering Facebook addict.
First of all, the beloved social media platform has consumed so much of my time. This is likely a sentiment you can identify with if you’ve ever Facebook-ed. I’ll admit that might be more an issue with our time management than it is directly with Facebook. For evidence, take a look at my college transcript.
That said, I also believe Facebook is designed to consume time. Do you think it’s a bad thing when you have Facebook open in several browser tabs because you can’t help but get trapped in a compulsive loop of check and re-check, terrified by the possibility that you might miss out on some important social event?
It doesn’t matter.
Facebook is designed to be addictive. Its designers want your endless attention, if they can get it. And Facebook’s tendency to consume doesn’t stop there.
Not only is Facebook a time-waster, but it has also mediated my social life, consuming the space between friends and replacing it with its own apparatus. How many of my interactions with friends are dependent on Facebook-based communication in some form or another? I’m concerned by our social lives’ growing dependency on Facebook’s communication tools. It’s even getting to the point where some of my friends with smartphones will prefer a Facebook message instead of a SMS message. This substitution of media isn’t concerning in itself, but the platform’s monopoly over our social lives does concern me.
My media intake receptors are over-sensitized – I over-analyze everything I experience online and offline. Why else do you think I write this column? My cup is overflowing and I don’t know what to do.
Facebook and its other social media family members – like kissing cousin Twitter, hated uncle Google+ and adopted daughter Instagram – even have the tendency to inspire dissociation from everyday life. Sometimes the first thing that pops into my head when a friend in “meatspace” says something funny or does something cool is that Chris Montgomery should put that funny or cool thing into cyberspace to explode it all over the windshield of his social graph and immortalize it in time as I drive my speeding vehicle into a glacier.
Archaeologists might also wonder about Chris Montgomery’s favorite places to check in, and this too concerns me so much that Chris Montgomery splatters that all over his dashboard too. And maybe he’s found some cat meme or political slogan to slap on his bumper alongside all the thousands of likes, comments and tags Chris Montgomery has accrued throughout the years.
I was never mystified by the concept that a photograph can steal a soul. Do you know who David Bowie is? David Bowie is a pseudonym or stage name of a human called David Jones. You might know who Bowie is, but you definitely don’t know who Jones is. Still, even Bowie himself goes by pseudonyms: Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Thin White Duke and Tao Jones to name a few. Bowie, or more realistically, Jones, is well aware of the power images have to fragment and obscure a person’s identity. Jones uses it to his advantage, cloaking himself in a personality for the times. The mass-production media produces thousands of variations on the image of Bowie and distributes them to the public and so we have a diluted representation of a human’s representation of himself, fit for our consumption.
Andy Warhol has been quoted endlessly about each of us getting our 15 minutes of fame. Now, our cyberspace-dwelling Facebook-selves make us all celebrities. Warhol didn’t see Facebook coming. We are celebrities to each other – you can “stalk” a crush on Facebook just like you can read creepy celebrity fan sites and slash fiction. We only choose our idealized versions of ourselves to represent us as profile pictures.
What really makes this whole online persona thing a deal-breaker for me is the platform’s privacy issues and the company’s misuse of information. Facebook is not free. You and I pay a high price for it. Money might not necessarily be invoked, but we quite literally pay with our livelihood. Our interests, our faces, our favorite restaurants, our memories, our conversations and, sometimes, entire relationships are Facebook’s form of payment. Pay your tributes to the agents of the FIA – the Facebook Intelligence Agency.
So I killed Chris Montgomery. My Facebook-self has been deleted. Years of Chris Montgomery life have been archived and finally deleted.
I have a new Facebook account now. Its name is “Mont Xdo.” It is female. I am in a Facebook relationship with an imaginary version of the human I am dating. I have very few posts on my wall. It’s much easier to keep track of Mont Xdo, because it’s easy to see her growth from nothingness.
As Mont Xdo said on March 15, the day after her Facebook birth, “You control everything you are, here.”
Chris Montgomery can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.