Is there life beyond Facebook?

Is Facebook pulling the wool over users' eyes?

Imagine life without the Facebook. You may not have to imagine it; it could happen. Could you stand it?

Lemme think: I survived for a full and fruitful four decades without it. I do get sick of being digitally poked and prodded lately. We aren’t cattle after all, we’re sheep. (See “Like Facebook sheep to slaughter (LIKE!).) And don’t even get me started on Farmville; I strictly disallow such weed-like apps in my FB experience.

Facebook has its plusses: It has helped me reconnect with mentors whom I thought might have died by now. Funny how, in our teens and 20s, we assume all older people are WAY older; then, a few blinks later, they are our peers.

But be honest: We all have bones to pick with The Social Network. Its annoying layout changes no one requested; those creepy Big Brother ads that prove it does track our clicks and circulate our data; the peer pressure to friend strangers; the injustice of a Harvard dropout with few real-life friends becoming the youngest-ever billionaire with 750 million fake friends, 50% of whom log on every day to drain our nation’s productivity.

People spend more than 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook, according to its FAQ page. Ever more sites are enabling our addiction with automatic sharing buttons and access frames through which other apps peer. Facebook execs also are targeting struggling media companies with tips on piggy-backing hits.

This has gotta be irritating to other geeks. So why wouldn’t sabotage be tempting? Worst of all, Facebook is one of those companies that has exported its headquarters to Ireland to escape twice-as-high corporate U.S. taxes, which means all the income we generate for it is being exported overseas, along with American jobs.

And a personal thorn …

Facebook's sacrificial lamb: She was only exercising her free speech right.

In February 2010, my daughter, a heavy Facebook user, was kicked off because of its self-policing policy that empowers fellow users to report abuse, the equivalent of a citizen’s arrest.

The Dresden Dolls -- shown in proportion to band contribution (to be honest, c'mon, and I love Brian as much as the next fan)

Her crime: sheepishly playing along with one of those viral games — the one where you choose a famous doppelgänger as your profile picture. She identifies with Amanda “the ‘F’ word” Palmer, the better half of the punk-cabaret duo Dresden Dolls (sorry, Brian), and who is all about free speech, file-sharing and uploading video of their concerts. To accompany a solo album, Palmer had collaborated with her husband-to-be, Neil Gaiman, on a lovely coffeetable book, Who Killed Amanda Palmer. My daughter chose, from its array of murder vignettes, an especially edgy shot and, bam, deactivated, no questions asked, no true appeal process. After a month of peaceful protest, we had to pull a few strings to get her account restored.

If Facebook were to be taken down even for a day, I might see it a bit as comeuppance.

License by CreativeCommons

But, really? A self-policing state, Facebook? Is that not socialism? Should we trust fellow users to make such judgments about what’s fair game, fair use, a fair call? Same thing with all these “report” buttons everywhere — “report as spam,” report abuse.” Even “like” and “dislike” have repercussions. Who is marking these things, and who comes along afterward as arbiter? No one. It’s chaos. It gives mere PEOPLE all the power!

License by CreativeCommons

Anonymous, this is the forum you are targeting. Socialist or fascist or cultist (blind leading the blind) … whatever it is, it is populism at play. 

Since its initial threat in July, Anonymous has backpedaled on its spin, saying it isn’t really out to destroy Facebook — that this is merely an awareness campaign; its followers are anti-following prophets. The simple message: Don’t trust Facebook with your private info.

The cornerstone of any civilized society, though, is trust. Although it’s called a “free”way, we trust other drivers not to use the roads as bumper-car courses. We trust, when we type in our credit card number and security code to purchase an Ahh Bra, that we won’t get charged for a Wurlitzer jukebox shipped from Germany to New Zealand. We trust that the man dressed like a security officer is not going to start shooting young children or blow up buildings. Although there are always bad apples, we also trust that there will be someone to protect us, in the end. And sometimes, we err on the side of “benefit of the doubt.”

In Facebook we trust. The omniprescent.

The chosen one: Mark Zuckerberg

Still. Mark Zuckerberg is not my shepherd. And though I walk into the valley of Farmville, I fear Facebook’s evil.

So whose side am I on? It’s complicated, as is my relationship to Facebook.

If it turns out, on Nov. 5, that the new social order we’ve come to know as Facebook — my friends and I even talk about Facebook when we get together face to face! — should bow to anarchy and destruction, maybe I’d have time enough, at last, to read all of those books I never get a chance to read.

Just like the socially disconnected Burgess Meredith, below, in the conclusion of this three-part Twilight Zone episode (have we drained enough of your time yet?):

2 thoughts on “Is there life beyond Facebook?

  1. One inaccuracy: I didn’t make that photo of AFP my default because of the celebrity doppelgänger game (but maybe you were just altering the story in order to provide your readers with some sort of explanation for it?).

    But anyway, my 2¢: If Facebook is destroyed, it would not be the end of social networking. Google+ is already on the rise, and there are plenty of other social networking sites to fall back on (Twitter, Tumblr, &c.). Not to mention the fact that if these sites can rise out of the woodwork from scratch, then there’s no saying that more couldn’t surface in the event that Facebook is lost. Just look at all of our technological advances and innovativeness that dwells in every corner of the World Wide Web! It’s not like, if Facebook disappears, we’ll all stand around, twiddling our thumbs, going, “Uhhh … what do we do now … ?” Social networking is not being threatened by Anonymous, even if Facebook is. Even if the entire Internet was wiped out by some hacker tomorrow — would it not just rise again? I’m very skeptical about this scenario in which we’ll suddenly be devoid of all these first-world conveniences, and suddenly, we’ll have regressed as a society and go back to “walking around with donkeys with pots clanging on the sides,” to quote Louis CK. I’m really not worried.

    But maybe that’s just me. 😛

  2. whoops! sorry. I thought it was the doppelganger game. My bad. Now I can’t fix it … because you commented on it, and people would be confused, haha.

    anyway, I like your (and Louis’) point of view … and, just sayin’, I’m not saying all social networking is at risk — in fact, I’m not even sure Anonymous is gonna do anything “to” Facebook but make a sociopolitical statement, and I’m pretty sure the whizzes at Facebook are prepared. But who knows? It’s an interesting scenario to me, that’s all, this war in cyberspace, and I’m just trying to figure out the impact of Anonymous’ statement, or the motive behind it, in a casual observer kinda way.

    Also, just playing with the idea of Facebook itself being gone, which is the dominant portal for today’s online society — the “face” of social networking, as I said in one of the others — especially given my older generation’s acclimation to it. And, from my perspective, it is a major time suck. Though blogging is proving even more addictive, ha.

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