Will Baby Boomers kill Facebook? Will Facebook kill them back?

July 16, 2009 at 9:08 pm Leave a comment

Deborah Rogers, professor of English at the University of Maine, shares some provocative thoughts about Facebook in “I poke dead people: The paradox of Facebook”  on The Times (i.e., of London) Higher Education website. One of the things she wonders about is the likelihood that the arrival of droves of overweight bleached blondes in mom jeans and dorky forty-something white guys will devalue the digital real estate. When they start showing up on Facebook, the cool kids say “there goes the neighborhood,” and look for a new place to hang. Even if that doesn’t happen, Rogers is fairly confident that the curious form of interaction on social networks will make us somehow less human. She sees evidence of this in how Facebook deals with, among other things, death. Below are a  few choice quotations to whet your appetite:

Even as it facilitates our ability to connect, the collective social-networking culture changes our way of thinking about everything from friendship to death. And not in a good way. As a technological medium that fetishises individualism, Facebook invites disaster.

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Facebook redefines what it means to connect to each other and provides a huge audience for self-absorption. Nothing is insignificant. Everyone wants to know everything about us, all the time. In the minutiae that mark the triteness of an inherently boring everyday life, we may recognise our own situation. Facebook’s fixation on individualism makes ordinary people feel important enough to warrant such attention – or inconsequential enough to need to document every aspect of their existence. The trope for this exhibitionism may be outing ourselves – and everyone we know.

*      *     *     *     *

…the medium fails to allay our sense of despair and loneliness. For example, several months ago, Paul Zolezzi, an aspiring actor and model, hanged himself on the monkey bars in a Brooklyn playground. He had posted his suicide note on Facebook, where he said that he was “born in San Francisco, became a shooting star over everywhere, and ended his life in Brooklyn … And couldn’t have asked for more.” On Facebook, even suicide notes sound flippant. In fact, apparently assuming Zolezzi was joking, a friend commented on his Facebook page: “Are you dying? Or just staying in Brooklyn?”

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