Monday, January 27, 2014

Facebook White Noise

Lately I've been struggling with Facebook. I log on and scan it feeling alienated and confused. It's led to a lack of enthusiasm for the whole affair, that I wish to examine now.

At a certain point all the voices turn to static, a hum of a machine engineered to lull one into the illusion that things are actually being said. Never before have the data streams of mankind been so densely saturated, and never before have they been so vacuous. The cacophonous static of pixels is just colorful enough, familiar enough, that it is not rendered by the brain as static, but as a narrative – a veil of illusion that leaves us feeling as if we belong to a community of sorts, and are thus equipped to properly respond to the stimulating static – usually, through digitized banking systems, by buying something with just a few clicks.

For me, Facebook as become a community of static - not of individual voices of friends. And I can’t understand what is going on anymore.

As we paw at our smart-phones, we are only the ghosts in the machine – our true selves lost somewhere behind the chattering output that is fed to others, and then back towards us. Our own lives are a whisper in the babel.

Commercial algorithms, the DNA of social networks, govern our senses – a noisy dream of familiar faces spouting corporate agendas served with innocent naivety  – the specter of free will infecting our judgments and the meanings we assign to the characters strung together (with the help of guiding proprietary tools of 'sharibility') by our friends. As nodes in a web we forget that all we say, and all we can say, is conditioned by that web, and serve only to promote the survival, the nourishment, and ultimately the thriving of that web.

Wiggling our thumbs upon glass screens the actual physical world falls away to a visceral infection of emotional prodding – feelings of acceptance, unity, shared beliefs, and the affirmations of a meaningfulness born of an experience misperceived as being a faithful rendering of reality. Our inboxes are too full to read, so we must be fed a feed. Bobby is at Gold’s Gym. Sally is Jamba Juice. These are the lines for the appetites that are forged for us, whet with the misguided belief that we are smelling what’s really cooking outside the realm of marketing dollars that lubricate the entire chewing and swallowing process. These people were thrust before us, not out of the merit of being our friends, but out of the merit of being our friends with something commercially viable for us to consume. We have too many friends to talk to - so we've been spared having to, the machine will do it for everyone. We can just listen. Listen to what the algorithms spit out this month.

At a certain point everything is so hyper personal, so perfectly crafted for our consumption based upon our 10,000 previous choices, that we forget we are eating it all up, all the time, every time we tune in, thus consequently tuning out all else that might actually be before us.

And suddenly, when one can hear the static, one is no longer hypnotized by the 10,000 story lines – and one can easily change the channel.

Ultimately, from CNN to your Facebook feed, there is one imperative - click here. Thus you're measured and weighed, your impulse tabulated and stored, so your next one can best be fabricated for you in the soundscape of a numbing, commercial static. 

I'm not trying to hate. I'm trying to rationalize a sudden lack of enthusiasm that has left me feeling blessedly lonely online, that more often than not, leads me to venture out into the real world, to strike up a conversation or two.