Warning: Contains cynicism, disdain and expletives.
I used to be a member of a website called Facewhore, a social networking website that was aimed at the ‘alternative’ community, in other words, your ‘Goths, Grungers, Emos, Metalheads or whatever you want to call us/them.
As with similar popular websites of today, you had a profile, an ‘about you’ section, your photos and comments, and this particular website also had a feature that allowed you to collect ‘bling’ points from which you could gain ‘pimp status’ – that enabled you to ‘own bitches’ who were members of your ‘friends’ list. It sounds horrendous but I had fun. I spent many hours ‘facewhoring’ and to this day I am still connected with folk that I originally ‘met’ on Facewhore. Those were ‘the good old days’.
Skip forward to 2014. I have been a member of a certain popular social networking website since 2008. I succumbed to its evils, along with other vacuous apps and websites that provide similar ‘service’. Now we (to generalise the populous) have all heard about the evils of such websites and how they use and abuse all our personal information and yet, every day, we log in, we scroll and click away, liking random pictures of random shite, spontaneously commenting with over-zealous use of words such as ‘AWESOME’ in capitals to express how awesome the thing on which we are commenting is. (Guilty!) We add our two cents to online political debates, post our thoughts on various issues and express our disgust at the horrors of the world. It seems so harmless and it sure is easy to kill a couple of hours doing these things.
We post photographs of our personal lives, our friends, family, work, and events we have been to. We tag the other people in the photos so that they, and everyone else, are able to view what we have been up to.
Is it even possible to imagine a day without social media? And on those days when we leave our phone somewhere, the battery died or the internet is down … how do we feel? Are our lives empty and meaningless? We can no longer connect so effortlessly with our friends both at home and overseas. We don’t know what Dave from the place we used to work at is having for lunch today or whether Feruza from somewhere we cannot pronounce bought that outfit she had posted about. What if all our friends went to an event and we were not there … we won’t know if it was “AWESOME’ or not and we can’t inform everyone that the cat just peed in the laundry on a day when the water had been cut off (that was actually one of mine!)
I am a sucker for procrastination, I am the kid that went to tidy her room and ended up finding too many awesome things to play with in the process. I have a zillion ideas every moment and can never figure out which one to focus on, let alone how to go about making them all into realities. Social media fills this void so perfectly, it makes me feel like I am truly connected, like my brain is buzzing because I react with feeling to every picture and post I see. I ‘like’ things because, in that moment, I guess I liked it and I feel like I am busy and keeping up with the world and I know what is going on with everything and everyone. People comment on the things I post and ‘like’ my pictures. I am told that a photo is ‘beautiful’ and I feel happy because that must mean I am not all that bad-looking after all.
At the same time, my multifaceted personality along with my deeply cynical inner self are constantly telling me that this is actually a nasty vacuous hole that feeds on the weaker aspects of my personality while essentially sucking the soul out of my life and the brain out of my ears.
As with everything in life, there are positive and negative sides to social media – I won’t go in to all of that, because I discussed the subject in my previous blog dated June 5th, if you care to know. So today, I was so bored that I keyed in ‘I hate’ and the title of the social media website I was using at the time. Low and behold, a group with that name exists and the double irony there is not lost on me.
I began to read the posts on said group and that inner voice in me began to speak loudly. My inner voice, by the way, is not only deeply cynical but also inherently sarcastic. Not the type of mocking sarcasm often described as the lowest form of wit, no, the other one… the one that comes from having a slightly twisted sense of humour and a relatively well-scored brain.
I digress. This group was mostly as I expected, fairly lame and full of comments. Here is my favourite one ‘If y hate fb why you use it..-.-omg.. ?_?’ and the amusing reply ‘oh the irony!’ However, I found a couple of useful links that lead me to popping over to my ‘profile security’ and ‘privacy’ settings. I highlight the irony of those website functions, given their actual levels of security and privacy. From here, I was led to a site where I was given the option to select, from a massive list of companies, which ones I no longer wish to receive advertisements from (based on what I apparently ‘like’). To prevent these companies from asking me in future if I might want to ‘like this page’ or ‘view this product’ I am required to not delete my browser cookies and if I do so, I will need to repeat the box ticking process on this website.
After choosing the option to tell all of the listed companies to please fuck off (I wonder if it actually works) I then proceeded to request a download of my profile content, which is the entire history since the account was created, including comments, private messages, photos, likes, shits taken and so on.
I am currently waiting for that to appear in my email inbox for further investigation. (Update, I never received that email!) Following that, I ended up in a place (within the website) that I had not seen before. Sadly, it was not a magical place filled with unicorns and bunnies, it was in fact a HUGE f**king list of apps and websites that had for some reason been linked to the social networking website in question.
Now, some of these apps and websites, I can confirm, were indeed linked by me but the other 50+ I can confirm were not, at least not that I was aware of. I proceeded to un-link and delete each of the items listed.
I found myself once again, questioning the true value and the worth of social media. I ask myself, do I really need this – has it served any positive purpose at all?
The answer is that, yes, it has been the source and reason behind many important campaigns and yes, it is a great way to connect with people all over the world but I wonder, is it really worth giving away every piece of information about our personal and professional lives to advertising companies and bob knows who else? Have I really gained anything from being there? I have connected with over 2,000 people around the world, I have found students and fellow dancers to share my love of dance with, I am connected constantly with my friends and family back home in England who in ‘reality’ I would probably hardly ever hear from beyond the odd email, phone call or text.
I am torn between the good and the downright nasty sh*t that exists within social media.
What is the solution? Do I abandon the masses and attempt to ignore its existence? I wish I could leave it all behind and never look back, but the reality is it has me and you hooked and trapped. We need each other, even if we have never met and even if we would have never met and didn’t need each other before.
The truth is, we don’t really know each other, we don’t really care about what each of us is doing each day and we may have opinions about all of these issues that we are talking about, but the minute we log out, roll over and go to sleep, it’s all gone. The bad things aren’t happening on our doorstep… unless they are … no … they actually are! But we don’t need to really care, because we liked the post about the horrible thing that is going on. We sent a donation to that worthy cause that one of our friends is so wonderfully and passionate about … and we feel good because they are doing that and we took part in it via social networking.
It’s so beautifully designed to keep us locked in, logged in and completely tuned out whilst feeling well tuned in.
and my brain hurts because I have all these things reeling around my head and social media seems to have taken over our world to the point where our hands are on the keyboard more often than our feet are on the ground.
Are we doomed to a future where we disconnect from reality in order to connect? Has anyone actually seen Wall-E? #Pixar and are you f**king kidding me? Remember when MTV was threatening to brainwash all our children and dissolve our brains? …. ok so I survived that and my brain is intact. All the advertising I have been subjected to has not, as far as I know, given me any diseases. Maybe it isn’t so bad after all …. No wait… what was is that Bill Hicks once said?
“By the way, if anyone here is in advertising or marketing, kill yourself. Thank you, thank you. Just a little thought. I’m just trying to plant seeds. Maybe one day they’ll take root. I don’t know. You try. You do what you can. Kill yourselves. Seriously though, if you are, do. No really, there’s no rationalisation for what you do, and you are Satan’s little helpers, OK? Kill yourselves, seriously. You’re the destroyer of all things good. Seriously, no, this is not a joke. “There’s going to be a joke coming…” There’s no fucking joke coming, you are Satan’s spawn, filling the world with bile and garbage, you are fucked and you are fucking us, kill yourselves, it’s the only way to save your fucking soul. Kill yourself, kill yourself, kill yourself now. Now, back to the show.” -Bill Hicks
I decided not to censor the Hicks quote because censoring Bill Hicks would probably tear a hole in the time space continuum.
MY LETTER TO THE INTERNET
Dear Mr Web
Please could you turn off facebook, kill twitter, send pants to instagram, f*ck youtube, bring back my snail mail and those beautiful hand written letters with envelopes filled with glitter, crap stickers and friendship bracelets.
Love from Beatrice
x x x
PS. I accept that this is all evidence of my becoming a miserable old sod that just isn’t down with what’s ‘in’ and this is possibly to do with my inability to avoid indulging in pre-internet nostalgia.
PPS. Blogging is acceptable.
Rather than just ranting a lot about the perils of Facebook, I thought I would provide some useful tips on how to make FB a less spam-filled, phishy poo-hole.
DISCLAIMER I have no f**king idea if any of this sh*it actually works or if it’s just nonsense. Despite my desire to officially renounce my species, I am still only human! 😉
Anyway, try this
1) Click on the arrow, top right of your FB page and scroll down to ’SETTINGS’ on the menu on the left side of your page, go to ‘ADVERTS’. Find Website and Mobile App Custom Audiences’ and click on ‘Opt out’ of ads that are selected for you by Facebook based on what you do on a particular company’s websites and apps off Facebook.
Find ‘How can I stop seeing these ads?’ Find ‘If you don’t want Facebook to show you ads based on your activity on an advertiser’s websites or apps, opt-out below’: select ‘OPT OUT’
2) Quit falling for scams by liking and sharing heart-wrenching photos that tell you to ‘Like this and cure cancer’ or ‘Like this and raise money to save this child. Liking a page will NEVER save the sick child, in fact the sick child, most likely has nothing to do with the page you are liking. This is called Farming and you are being suckered. By liking and sharing, you are supporting these creeps and making them money. Pages with lots of likes are worth a lot to advertising companies. These people create fake causes and stories to reel you in so you like their page, and then when they have thousands of likes, they sell the page on to advertising companies. If you want to know more about this Farming thing (which has nothing to do with Farmville although that is equally irritating and only slightly less harmful) Read here: http://www.hoax-slayer.com/facebookrelated.html
3) Don’t make your photos and info public. Please think before you share images of yourself with your friends and family. Change your privacy settings on each album or when you post a photo. Change the setting to ‘friends only’. FB also gives you the option to change the overall settings of future posts so that all your posts are only viewable by friends and if you want to make anything public, you can do so by changing that setting on the individual post.
4) Don’t waste your life scrolling your Facebook newsfeed, liking random stuff, constantly checking messages and posting ‘Wow that’s amazing’ on every god-damn picture your friends post. Yes, Beatrice I am also talking to you here (that was me addressing myself in my own blog)
Remember the good old days when we didn’t spend every hour attached to an electrical communication device? We used to read books, have real conversations, do something arty … or just waste the entire day on Atari/Sega/Nintendo or Yoyo, depending on when you were born
Leave the sodding house, take someone’s dog for a walk, put your feet on the ground … other than the floor in the kitchen and if it is rainin, go out and dance in it!
5) Quit thinking that you absolutely have to know what your friends are doing every minute of the day. It doesn’t hurt to log out, sit in silence for a little while and do some friggin’ meditation … or drinking, if you must!
6) Use your brain! Train your memory, improve your imagination and fill your flipping brain box with useful information and as much knowledge as possible. Read a f**king book!
7) Stay the hell away from 9gag and buzz feed etc. These websites are designed to dissolve your brain, it will slowly leak out of your ears over time!
8) Good luck!
Image Credit: sonofamortician