Tuesday, March 24, 2009

YOURSPACE IN MYFACE

I must admit I am sick to death of invitations to facebook and myspace. They go directly into the trash, same as most mailed social invitations I receive these days from the few that haven’t realized I’m out of circulation and not worth the stamp.

There are actually middle-aged adults who utilize these sites for whatever reason, God knows, because I am apparently somewhat internet-na├»ve. But catching a whiff of the mindless crosstalk and gossip which my kids indulge in on their computers…it is not only juvenile but somewhat pathetic and self-deceptive to collect ‘friends’ by soliciting and posting absurd little pictorial squares and inane comments like a stamp album.

Although there is something to be said for voiceless internet conversations without phone minutes, whatever happened to privacy, to solitude? Very few riders on the subway and bus now without their fingers texting, their cellphones ringing, earbuds inserted. Is anyone actually listening? Is anyone thinking? Is anyone actually longing for something that can’t be immediately gratified in multiple versions?

We have become a culture of narcissists. Everyone posting their personal advertisement on a website, everyone joining a massive network where non-participation is the exception. ‘It will help your music’ a lawyer-friend of mine suggested. And how will collecting digital postage stamps help my music? Most of the comments and faces belong to people I’d never invite into my home or even telephone. It’s bad enough I receive all-too-many phone solicitations from credit-card companies, auto-insurance salesmen and survey-seekers. Why would I want to collect insincerity on a web address? Fatuous fawning over a lame song I wrote and regret? Or nasty critics telling me to get a job? I value my own ears.

For that matter, why do people post their ridiculous self-promoting book and music reviews on Amazon? Because they care? Because the New York Review of Books didn’t even read their resume when they applied for an editorial job? Most of these reviews are fabricated by the authors anyway. Some of them even have consistent spelling errors. Do people really think a few superlative comments written by their spouse or mother will make them a popstar or win them a National Book award?

The sad fact is, while half of America is busy posting, blogging, commenting, reviewing, gossiping. ….the other half is surfing—looking, reading, leering, peering into what used to be a library book or a listening experience, or someone’s private life. Now it’s all out there, underwear hung on a web-line for nearly anyone to zoom in on. Half of us are stripping and hanging up, and the other half is watching and commenting. Then they switch. Like contestants on a game show who change places with the audience, endlessly. After a while, the same ingredients get stirred around and shaken up into a tasteless soup of facebook blather.

So between the narcissists and the voyeurs…what space is there? The small strata of us who no longer fit, whose picture is not worthy of facebook fame, whose work is small and private and difficult and does not translate well into an Amazon review. The ones who still plant things and wait for them to grow, who maybe develop photographs with chemicals, who read old-fashioned print, who are silent on the subway, remembering things that happened more than a few hours ago, hoping for a future and trying to feel the present. Some of us would still buy the ailing newspapers if we had any money, because the voyeurs and narcissists have been so busy posting and looking that they no longer have time for these small luxuries of the former modern world, the one that was patiently idling like a motor while the criminals of Wall Street pulled the rug out from under us.

Yourspace, Myface, Twitter-dee-dee. A Dr. Seuss-worthy parody just waiting to hatch. I do not like them, Writerless-I-am.

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