Friday, November 9, 2007


I have been inducted into the virtual world of Facebook. As if obsessing on my (personal and work) mail wasn't enough, there is this blog, and my telephones. I remember when there was neither email nor cellphones. We coped just fine. I wrote letters. Receiving them was lovely-one friend in particular with the initials JJF - wrote the most amazing letters, so detailed, beautifully-written, and to this day he sends postcards! Then I held off on getting a cell phone, until 9/11 when my mom said that my sister and I needed one "in case of emergencies" -but of course, now an "emergency" is my sister and I getting separated at Bloomingdale's "Nena, donde estas, con~o!" "En los better shoes, sube pa'ca."

So this Facebook thing, I see how it's faster than email because it's like chatting, and how it saves you time spent attaching photos or sending them through the mail, now everyone I like can see what I did on my travels. But there is quite a bit of narcissism involved. And why are we so willing to be complicit in our own self-surveillance? There is a benign aspect to sharing where we are and what we are doing at every moment, post photos, disclose what our tastes in books, films etc. are. But there is a positively Big Brotherish aspect as well, or at least a potential. I guess I go there because as a child, I did brielfly live under a fascist dicatorship where books, films and other cultural products were censored and one's moves were under surveillance. Although too young to perceive this myself, I grew up knowing that one half of my family was persecuted for their politics.

On that note, my theory is that "Big Brother" was launched as part of a strategy to de-sensitize us to surveillance. It became titillating, sexy, voyeuristic and sadistic. Watch people make idiots of themselves, learn strategies designed to further brute competitiveness, survival of the fittest, rather than empathy or collaboration. In any event, now there are virtually no private areas left. So it is interesting how willing I am to disclose what I am doing ("trying to wake up"). And how Facebook uses the language of news broadcasts - "feeds." So is this part of a new kind of consciousness? A form of spectatorship based on a 24-hour broadcast news cycle where there is more and more "breaking news" inflation. This is made manifest in the crawl, the "disaster theme music," and the changes to the nomenclature: the "breaking news" became "developing story" then "happening now" etc. etc. etc. This gets us to where there is this alleged idea that you are witnessing something in real time and that you MUST NOT walk away, lest you miss something. One extemely smart friend (who found a way for me to see "Superstar, the Karen Carpenter Story, see below) speculated that this breaking news inflation started with 9/11. So now our lives are a bit like that, aren't they?

But it's fun and I love keeping in touch with my friends. And the whole etiquette of this remains to be discovered - what do I do when the guy I have a crush on asks to be my "friend," for example? Hours of madcap entertainment will surely ensue!!!

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