Michael Gerson writes a very good and thoughtful piece on the "not so new" trend of posting anything and everything on My Space or Facebook. I think he is exactly right in his criticism of the thing. But I also like that he maintains a sense of humor about himself and begins with this great line: Conservatives, ever allergic to fashion, have a habit of encountering social trends long after millions of their fellow citizens, then pronouncing themselves unamused. You have to admit (even if begrudgingly). . . that is SO true! Even so, Gerson does admit that these networking tools can be useful and thus (as in so many things) it’s not so much the technology as it is the users of it that are the problem. As for me, I think this can all be explained by this dreadful lack of reserve in our popular culture and which I noted here. What explains this lack of reserve? That’s too complicated. I’ll leave that for you all to discuss.
Thanks to our friend Priscilla for bringing this article to my attention.
As to lack of reserve, could it be because we are generally lonely? And the Internet provides a screen from which we can hide? As to what explains loneliness, coming from another culture but having embraced everything that is of America, I think it has to do with our sense of community or the lack thereof. And yet that natural longing to belong is forever there. What do you think?
Keying off Priscilla's comment about loneliness ... I'd add that the Internet and things like MySpace and Facebook only compound the loneliness. How many people do you think put up a Facebook profile (or whatever it's called) only to find nobody reponds or comments?
The same with regard to blogs, which nobody reads.
It's like standing in the middle of a crowded room at a party and nobody paying any attention to you ... there's probably no more lonely thing in the world.
Somewhere in that process there's a trigger to get some attention -- any attention. Perhaps that explains the increasingly outrageous things being posted.
In a sense it may be like modern "artists" today. They can't get anyone to pay attention to their bad abstract pictures, so they put a crucifix in a jar of urine and spread elephant dung on a picture of Jesus. The more shocking the better. Because shocking and outrageous gets attention. The quality and nature of the attention is almost secondary.
For an example of this in the comedy world, see "Sarah Silverman."
Or, more sadly, Rosie O'Donnell.
Don, a profile to which no one responds is self-expression in an empty room. There are people in a crowded room, who might turn and look. You cannot make a scene on Facebook or Myspace. If no one is looking, no one is going to be looking. You can be as shocking on those sites as you like and still have no one notice. It is more like sitting wherever you are right now, if alone, and exposing yourself. There is no shock value, because there is no one to be shocked.
TV is different, because someone has be willing to give you screen time. There have to be commercials.
Kate, you make my point. I believe those who sign up for Facebook or MySpace don't see it as an empty room. At least not initially. It soon turns out to be just that, but maybe not before many have resorted to outrageous things to see if anyone is watching.
Just a thought. I'm not deeply invested in the notion of Facebook or MySpace being a generator of loneliness.
John Moser, I am on MySpace. Kids I have taught or who are friends of the family through my kids and even my own kids, sometimes, keep in touch through the website. They move away to go to college, as far as Seattle or one guy was with the Army in Korea, and I agree, this is a great way to keep in touch. They write about things, share pictures and videos. Young mothers put up photos of the kids so we can all watch them growing up. It's a long story as to why I got on in the first place, but that is beside the point.
My badly expressed point to Don was that no one HAS to watch anybody do any bizarre thing on MySpace or Facebook. I'm sure people do, but you can do that for free and no one has to care, or ever know, except someone curious like Gerson, or (I have heard) sometimes a potential employer.