Why I am not on Facebook

I was going to incorporate this as part of a review of The Social Network, which comes out Friday, but realized that would be both unfair to the film and make for a singularly self-centered review. And as you’ll come to realize throughout this post, my hatred for self-centrism (particularly as it relates to Facebook) runs pretty damn deep. Plus, I get to use a title with a self-aggrandizing classical reference.

Anyway. I have never had a Facebook, and I will never have a Facebook.

I started college in the fall of 2005, which is when Facebook was just starting to take off. It had yet to be incorporated into all schools nationwide, let alone be opened up to the worldwide public at large. I was ambivalent about the whole thing. When people would bring it up to me, asking if I was on it, why not, etc, I would say, “What’s the point?” What I kept coming back to was that as far as I could tell it was just AOL Instant Messenger and MySpace thrown together into one.

Perception, it would seem, really is everything. When the iPad was announced, I looked at it and said, “So what? It’s just a giant iTouch.” And millions of others saw the exact same product and said, “Holy shit! It’s a giant iTouch!” So it was with Facebook – everyone I knew saw the same thing I did, and none of them saw things the way I did.

Me, 2005: “Fine. It’s a derivative, harmless little website where people can comment on the walls and pictures of their friends. Whatever. People’ll get bored of it.”

Me, 2008: “Fuck.”

Or thereabouts, anyway. I’d guesstimate that it was then when I realized that not only was the silly little website not going away, but that things were far worse than I’d ever imagined – communication and social interaction had been changed forever. And in a way that really fucking pissed me off.

Facebook is a doorway to the nether regions of the id, where self-obsession is implicitly expected, encouraged and exalted. It allows its users to create not just their own world, but their own solar system, where they are, quite literally, the star. They exist at the center of it all, orbited by other worlds/Friends that encircle them endlessly. Everything revolves around them.

The above sounds melodramatic, and it is, but it’s also not that far off from the impossibly self-centered personal reality that Facebook allows for. We now live in a world where every aspect of our lives is fodder for public consumption. Between status updates, comments and pictures, as well as the advent of the smartphone that let us ditch the wire restrictions, everyone, everywhere, all the time is up in everyone else’s business at their invitation. And don’t tell me that it isn’t everyone everywhere, “just my Friends”, because the whole point is that everyone you have even the smallest, most insignificant but recurring relationship is on that Friends list, and thus an orbiting satellite in your digital solar system, an audience member in your own little Globe Theatre, where it’s a 24/7 one-man show.

It’s narcissism on a scale unlike anything that has ever existed. It takes all the most base elements of egotism, voyeurism and attention-whoring and combines them into a never-ending state of… love.

You read that right: love. What Facebook symbolizes is nothing less than an entire generation falling in love with itself. We love showing off what we’ve done and seeing what others are doing. We love making our thoughts known and seeing the thoughts of others. We love our history and broadcast it through iPhone and Blackberry photos, and we peruse other people’s pictorial past and present at our leisure. We love to collect things, and we love seeing what others have collected, be it a new Friend, personal icon or Gift. And we love, love the idea that somewhere, some place, someone else has us on their mind.

I don’t love it. I won’t take part in it. And if that makes me sound like a pompous, noble dissenter-wannabe, then whatever, fine. Maybe there’s no nobility in it, but there has to be something to be said for getting the assurance that I matter from somewhere other than a giant fucking reach around.

Although, I gotta be fair – it is kinda cool. 😉