Information is power, and arguably the greatest conduit for raw information today is Facebook. But conduits are often not neutral, and when inspected Facebook infects raw information with the power of violence.
Yes, this sounds like the next The Avengers movie, with Facebook acting as an evil Tesseract, a cosmic cube with its own nefarious agenda. Yet it was cultural philosopher Marshall McLuhan who coined the term “medium is the message,” meaning that information is already defined by the channel itself. For example, it doesn’t matter what program is on television, you’re going to end up closer to Palin country once you’re done watching it.
Facebook, on the other hand, is at its essence a medium that doesn’t necessarily destroy brain cells but magnifies an already Mad Max culture. Both television and Facebook exist to distract our attention from the techno-plantation we linger in, created by the elite of society (and possibly penguins).
Although not a first in making the internet a Thunderdome, Facebook has perfected it, and here are some illustrations:
--Information is placed on “walls.” That immediately conjures the specter of division and antagonism, like the Berlin Wall or Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Why not a chalkboard or a notepad? Or just something winsome like the pages of the Necronomicon? Unconsciously, the suppression of peace began as soon as the company was founded (this is exposed when one plays The Social Network backwards).
--Friends are gathered like chattel, slaves at best. When their usefulness comes to an end, they are unceremoniously “blocked.” And it’s not like The Bears' offensive line: It’s efficient and perpetual, similar to the permanent death of True Blood! Often people will announce that they are “culling” their friends list, echoing the horror of animal extinction or past genocide. Facebook makes every individual a fascist dictator in their own little realms.
--The “like” feature, with the upraised thumb, invokes the bygone eras of haughty Roman emperors. There are no thumbs-down, as found in other websites or programs; but the image is undeniable. Nobody walks down Wicker Park sticking their thumbs up to each hipster shop or homeless artist, in an arrogant blasphemy to God himself. Being peaceful is keeping everything to oneself (like Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr.). Facebook, in its dark social laboratory, blends the fascist dictator with the haughty Roman emperor. One billion Dr. Evil’s and counting.
--You can always “poke” another person on Facebook. We have come a long way from Anita Hill, and any advances are erased by the sexual-harassing atmosphere of Facebook, all the way back to the Dark Ages (or at least Herman Cain’s office).
--Beyond the news stories or tragic murders or bullying epidemic on Facebook, this social network is rife with stalking, fighting, and all sorts of uncivilized behavior. It’s a universal Lord of the Flies app.
One might counter with the question—what about all the cute dogs and witty cats and the guy drinking Dos XX? Don’t be fooled by that chimera. All of this is no better than a praying mantis cougar offering the goods before decapitating the male’s head, at best; a symbol that Orwell’s Animal Farm has become reality, at worst. Or vice-versa.
Maybe Facebook is a mirror to our Conan civilization, but it all comes down to the same tragedy. The best thing is to renounce Facebook and turn to more peaceful pursuits: strolling through Humboldt Park in your best clothes during a teacher’s strike; a leisurely cab ride down Wacker Drive during rush hour; or practicing your gang signs in public while going on a South Side spiritual walkabout.
The possibilities are endless, but what is important is to abandon the Leonidas wet, web dream called Facebook.
And give life a thumbs-up.