Two Facebook Essays

In the previous post two links to essays about Facebook were put up. For the record John Lingan's take is preferable to Zadie Smith's New York Review of Books rake-over. Her literate-us-versus-unwashed-them frame is something I keep having projected onto me and that's not how I see it (one can hate the idea of Facebook without being down on all 2.0 media).

Lingan puts it in better perspective:

To a lesser degree, she makes [Malcolm] Gladwell’s mistake of assuming that newfangled social media is designed to be radical or revolutionary. But these things are just platforms. Twitter, MySpace, Tumblr, et al would rust and moss-over if and when the patrons ever go away. People–typically older people–who stare at these odd new tools with bemused skepticism grant them too much power. You might as well look for meaning in a newly designed baseball glove.

But Lingan quotes Smith favorably on this point:

It feels important to remind ourselves, at this point, that Facebook, our new beloved interface with reality, was designed by a Harvard sophomore with a Harvard sophomore’s preoccupations. What is your relationship status? (Choose one. There can be only one answer. People need to know.) Do you have a “life”? (Prove it. Post pictures.) Do you like the right sort of things? (Make a list. Things to like will include: movies, music, books and television, but not architecture, ideas, or plants.)


Finally, it’s the idea of Facebook that disappoints. If it were a genuinely interesting interface, built for these genuinely different 2.0 kids to live in, well, that would be something. It’s not that. It’s the wild west of the Internet tamed to fit the suburban fantasies of a suburban soul.


A few days ago, one of the artists in Carriage Trade gallery's "Social Photography" benefit emailed me a link to the photos in the show--was annoyed to click on it and discover it was a Facebook sign-in.

Then I got a note from Carriage Trade that the photos had been moved from Facebook because Zuckerberg & Co had arbitrarily taken down the entire page one day, claiming one of the photos violated the site's "terms of use." That's an example of why I never want to join.

Since the photos would now be shown on the open web I emailed Carriage Trade's director and said "thank you - now I can see the work!"

In the comments to Marc Weidenbaum's blog disquiet we've been discussing whether a long-established blog particularly needs to join the Zuckerberg empire, with all its negatives. I've asked Marc to let me know, down the road, whether his recently-created disquiet Facebook page gives him anything he's not already getting from being on the Web for years.

In connection with that query, Weidenbaum did some research and found that the following sites have Facebook pages: Electronic Frontier Foundation, Creative Commons, Soft Skull Press, and the Internet Archive. All kind of surprising given their integrity and what we know about Facebook's bald commercialism and non-commitment to privacy.

On his twitter page Marc said he was

Pondering the presence of EFF and Creative Commons pages on Facebook. Are they embassies, shantytowns, protest sites, provocations? AOTA*?

In his blog comments I noted, less diplomatically:

On the plane this weekend American Airlines was showing The Social Network. I sampled a few random minutes with the sound off. Rapidly-edited, choreographed closeups of tense faces shot in half-shadow or by the glow of screen light: it looks like a TV biopic crossed with a horror film. Again, no offense meant, but I kept thinking about Creative Commons, EFF, and Soft Skull Press and wondering what they could possibly find so appealing about a site--nay, a virtual reality cosmos--designed by a maladjusted Harvard undergrad.

Nothing against Harvard undergrads, but as has been noted elsewhere, the site's architecture reflects the brain of the creator in the way it yearns for indiscriminate "connection" and facilitates stalking. To quote a '90s kitsch classic: "Lawnmower Man in your mind now!"

*all of the above, not AOTA