Love in the Time of Facebook
Like most people, I’m on Facebook.
And like most people, I am frustrated by/wary of it, and also immediately suspicious of anyone who’s not on it.
The feature I enjoy most – the constant stream of updates – is also the one that makes me the most paranoid. I hadn’t given a lot of thought to it until I realized I knew a friend of mine had started a new job recently, without having spoken to her for months.
It’s like having a very limited ESP, based entirely on the things other people are willing to tell the massive fog (or series of tubes, if you will) of the internet about themselves.
Now, I have a pathetic memory, so ready access to a large database of basic information about my friends comes in handy. Particularly a database that emails me if I should know or be reminded of any notable changes or events in their lives.
Hell, half the time I know when people get new girlfriends as fast as I learn they’ve broken up with the old one. Without physically talking to anyone involved.
I don’t need to know anyone’s birthday anymore. Facebook texts it to my phone. And thanks to a recent phone upgrade, I’m now networked wherever I go. I send pictures directly from the phone to Facebook. I can use it to update Twitter, too.
The quasi-telepathy even extends to its rings: I know who’s calling before I ever pull the phone from my pocket, because I know what song represents them (for instance, I hear Warren Zevon howl out “Send Lawyers! Guns! And Money!” when Chris calls).
What’s wild: I’m connected via pretty rudimentary equipment (no iPhone just yet). A few years from now, this will all sound pretty antiquated. The next iteration of all of this will be more fluid, immediate, and instinctive. It will be a lot like having a secondary brain online, doing all the pesky data-searching/storage while my “onboard” brain takes care of the important stuff.
So what’s the downside to living with a secondary brain? Well…I am, by most accounts, a reasonably sane human being who can interact with the world online in a reasonable, sane way.
This is not always the case.
A few months back, a woman was arrested for digitally “murdering” her ex-husband on an online RPG, and I thought, “Well that’s what the future looks like, right there.” Our online lives are enough of an extension of our own reality that we can actually murder each other’s avatars – and face legal consequences.
Of course reality, self-loathing bastard that it is, always needs to one-up itself, so eventually I heard about a man who killed his estranged wife when she changed her status to “single” on Facebook.
People – like, oh, say, the pope – decry social networks for limiting real human interaction, and woe is the state of humanity when we isolate ourselves and only socialize via the internet. But these two stories tell you it doesn’t matter how we communicate.
In the end, people are no better or worse than they ever were.
They still feel the same senses of love and need, hate and rejection that they always have and always will. The world around them is just finding new ways to interact with those feelings.
And that’s why the future will never be what you hope for.