The Post-Postmodernism Issue

Bleak, Shallow and Repetitive

Virtual life seems increasingly less worth living.
Virtual Suicide

Now that the thrill of our hyper-connected existence is gone, virtual life has become a depressing daily grind. We toil late into the night, unleashing an endless stream of status updates and tweets in a desperate attempt to keep ourselves relevant, desirable and in. There’s an ominous irony in FarmVille, a Facebook application that enables users to build and maintain a virtual farm. It’s more than a game: It’s an allegory. Virtual existence is feudalism for the modern age. Those who hold the information are kings and those of us toiling in the virtual fields are the servile peasantry: selling our souls for the mind-numbing comfort of an online existence.

Social Networking Sites (SNSs) promise limitless, boundless friendship – a phenomenon that should make us happier than ever. But our optimism over connectivity has gradually morphed into cynicism and resentment. It turns out virtual life is less about connectivity than self-branding. SNSs entice us to divulge and update, stroking our fragile egos with filtered ads that utilize our personal information to reap huge profits, as our hundreds of “friends” perpetually rate our online popularity. Paranoid about how we’ll be perceived, we spend hour after hour trying to avoid the virtual consequences of being deemed uncool. We have more to worry about than our online acquaintances deleting us after we’re tagged in an unflattering photo. Sites like Lamebook, devoted to reposting cliché status updates and socially awkward wall exchanges, humiliate those virtual personas who are unfamiliar with the web's mores and codes.

Bleak, shallow and repetitive, virtual life seems increasingly less worth living. Users are beginning to realize that it’s not leisure, it’s work that borders on servitude. But there’s a resistance growing among those tired of their virtual subjugation. In response to the electronic world’s rising indignation, virtual suicide sites like seppukoo.com and suicidemachine.org have started a countermovement, provoking users to kill their online selves and reclaim their real lives. These programs assist our virtual deaths by hacking into our profiles, completely annihilating our online personas and leaving no trace of our former selves behind. It’s social revolt for the online age: a mass uprising that will shatter the virtual hierarchy and restore order to our actual lives.

46 comments on the article “Bleak, Shallow and Repetitive”

Displaying 31 - 40 of 46

Page 4 of 5

Charles F. Moreira

Great article, Adbusters!

I am a writer on information technology of over 16 years and my passing phase of Internet indulgence was when I forwarded articles and comments by e-mail to friends and acquaintances to the point that some complained.

Same attitude here in Malaysiathat if you don't have a Twitter of Facebook account, you are some kind of a "dinosaur."

I never got caught up with the recent social networking craze and only Tweet professionally for my publication, though I also have a personal Twitter account linked to our publication account.

If I had the choice, I wouldn't bother with Twitter or Facebook. These are just passing fads anyway. They will fade away as new ones emerge and the craze cycle repeats.

Charles F. Moreira

Great article, Adbusters!

I am a writer on information technology of over 16 years and my passing phase of Internet indulgence was when I forwarded articles and comments by e-mail to friends and acquaintances to the point that some complained.

Same attitude here in Malaysiathat if you don't have a Twitter of Facebook account, you are some kind of a "dinosaur."

I never got caught up with the recent social networking craze and only Tweet professionally for my publication, though I also have a personal Twitter account linked to our publication account.

If I had the choice, I wouldn't bother with Twitter or Facebook. These are just passing fads anyway. They will fade away as new ones emerge and the craze cycle repeats.

Anonymous

This is ridiculous. You are essentially advocating primitivism. I completely disagree with the thesis that technology enslaves. Technology liberates. The internet is the last bastion of egalitarianism that one can unearth in modern life. You overlook the organizing potential of SNS, all it takes is one look at the effect it had on the Iran election to see the potential creative and subversive power technology it can actualize. Technology is a means to knowledge. And knowledge makes us more God-like. Here, we are all equals. Here, our voices have equal potential to be heard. Here, socio-economic class is bypassed if one chooses to do so. You can return to your meaty existence if you want, but the ripple created by your identity in the nexus of the net remains. Like a spector. Immortal. I refuse to stick my head back into the sand. The sand that is the constraints of space and time, geographic isolation and the same repeated cast of characters that constitutes modern life, modern people. One cannot put the genie back into the bottle. Here, I am someone. Here I can express myself fully. I live here

-Respectfully

Hunter

Anonymous

This is ridiculous. You are essentially advocating primitivism. I completely disagree with the thesis that technology enslaves. Technology liberates. The internet is the last bastion of egalitarianism that one can unearth in modern life. You overlook the organizing potential of SNS, all it takes is one look at the effect it had on the Iran election to see the potential creative and subversive power technology it can actualize. Technology is a means to knowledge. And knowledge makes us more God-like. Here, we are all equals. Here, our voices have equal potential to be heard. Here, socio-economic class is bypassed if one chooses to do so. You can return to your meaty existence if you want, but the ripple created by your identity in the nexus of the net remains. Like a spector. Immortal. I refuse to stick my head back into the sand. The sand that is the constraints of space and time, geographic isolation and the same repeated cast of characters that constitutes modern life, modern people. One cannot put the genie back into the bottle. Here, I am someone. Here I can express myself fully. I live here

-Respectfully

Hunter

Anonymous

I think you are missing the point, friend. The author said nothing of dismantling all technology and returning to the simple life. She is simply considering the full effect of social networking sites on our lives, specifically how they may hinder authentic and meaningful communication and consume our precious time in the name of vanity. At one point does a technology's negative effects outweigh the positive, and how can we re-engineer that technology to better serve people? This is an important question, and I believe humanity is still in its toddler years when it comes to understanding the virtual world's place in our non-virtual lives.

Respectfully yours,
Kyle

Anonymous

I think you are missing the point, friend. The author said nothing of dismantling all technology and returning to the simple life. She is simply considering the full effect of social networking sites on our lives, specifically how they may hinder authentic and meaningful communication and consume our precious time in the name of vanity. At one point does a technology's negative effects outweigh the positive, and how can we re-engineer that technology to better serve people? This is an important question, and I believe humanity is still in its toddler years when it comes to understanding the virtual world's place in our non-virtual lives.

Respectfully yours,
Kyle

Charles F. Moreira

Dear Anonymous,

Technology is a means to an end, an enabler but how it is used or gets to be used is the issue.

There are nuclear reactors which generate electrical power economically without carbon emissions and there are nuclear bombs which kill by the millions.

Addiction to anything is bad and an addiction to social networking with people few of whom one has ever met is definitely not good and worse still if peer pressure is brought to play on people who haven't become "one of the in-crowd" just yet.

I have been using the Internet since 1997 and even for a matured person, I feel that it has dragged me into an online lifestyle which I'm trying to break away from and spend more quality time face-to-face with folk and friends in real-space, not cyberspace.

Sitting on my backside for hours behind a computer screen is doing no good for my health.

Charles F. Moreira

Dear Anonymous,

Technology is a means to an end, an enabler but how it is used or gets to be used is the issue.

There are nuclear reactors which generate electrical power economically without carbon emissions and there are nuclear bombs which kill by the millions.

Addiction to anything is bad and an addiction to social networking with people few of whom one has ever met is definitely not good and worse still if peer pressure is brought to play on people who haven't become "one of the in-crowd" just yet.

I have been using the Internet since 1997 and even for a matured person, I feel that it has dragged me into an online lifestyle which I'm trying to break away from and spend more quality time face-to-face with folk and friends in real-space, not cyberspace.

Sitting on my backside for hours behind a computer screen is doing no good for my health.

RIPOSTE

Does it really make sense to figure virtual existence as feudalism? Aside from the glaringly obvious and extremely tenuous George Orwell analogy of FarmVille, there seems little evidence to support so-and-sos morbid postulation of a perpetually “depressing daily grind.”

------

------
It seems more plausible, and much less eveangelical, to suggest that Social Networking Sites have highlighted (and indeed exacerbated) the monotonous rituals of self branding in which we all, as human beings, engage. There is no point in denying that the key-holders of our online identities have a latent and mysterious power over the user who, toiling in the virtual field, produces more and more bandwidth stats to promote what’s marketed as the Endless Fascination of Social Networking. The industry that is rapidly burgeoning around social media is only a testament to the power that can be wielded through utilising the endless reams of online information for personal, political and capital gain.

------

------

In this sense, perhaps we are selling our souls. We distribute personal details for free. When we have a bad day and update our Facebook status about it, is it a request for information or a cry for help? Or is it neither? A mere way of venting what we think; a public forum on which we feel misguidedly safe in posting our most intimate opinions. The overlords of these virtual peasants are a seemingly faceless conglomerate of corporate officials, who have on record what we thought of the cocktails at last Saturday night’s work do, and are prepared to use this information to facilitate their growing business. So in that sense, I suppose, we do work - but do we really work for free? If there were no incentive for us to use these websites which promote ‘keeping in touch’ with the world and its inhabitants, surely we would abandon them like outmoded systems of government; cover them in the dust of history, file them away under good-idea-at-the-time. But the fact that remains is that we have not. I agree that the social networking overlords like Mark Zuckerberg keep on cracking the figurative whip with witty, eerily targeted advertisements, constant updates and fresh tantalisations, keeping us entertained enough to carry on clicking away and increasing their turnover. However, these SNS barons won’t be found reclining in their manor houses, sipping a gin and tonic whilst calmly and disinterestedly observing us toil. Far from it, they put their sinister creative energy into turning social networking sites into a lucrative industry, one which is dependent upon our constant input and relies altogether on the state of our being entertained.

------

------

We all know the pitfalls of an online existence. The overwhelming lures of Facebook “stalking”, its playfully ominous name tugging at a deeper, more malignant part of our natural curiosity. Various magazines have published warnings: What Your Online Self Says about You. In this pseudo-propaganda, relentless journos catalogue how much they have been able to glean about prospective lovers through a swift poke on Facebook (which has come to be accepted as the equivalent of 30 minutes decent drunken flirting). As any avid stalker will know, once someone pokes you back you can access their full profile and enter in a game of Chinese whispers with their online selves. ‘Interests: Music, Reading, Long walks on the beach. Sorry… wrong website. LOL.’ An immediate turn off. Perhaps their music tastes are ‘just the right side of pretentious’ or perhaps you’ve never been skiing in your life, but your dream date has a cottage in Aspen and goes every year. No problem, you know this now, and you’ve always loved the mountains in winter.

------

------

Do we really use Social Networking Sites to furiously and tenaciously keep ourselves on the cutting-edge of this whirling hyper-connectivity? Whenever we log on to social networking sites are we overwhelmed and consumed with the desire to portray ourselves as ‘in’? Well perhaps. Who among us can truly say that they’ve never clicked ‘attending’ to an event they have had no intention of going to, just so it comes up on their Facebook profile? You can? Well, you’re a better man than I.

------

------

But sites like Facebook have never proffered us “limitless, boundless friendship”. Wheedling, it promises us in simple down-to-earth words that it is a ‘social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them.’ It’s a tool, a social utility, not a way of life. Yet, as social media balloons and dominates the headlines, it becomes increasingly obvious that there are some people out there who have embraced Facebook as a way of life, a means of making their mark on the (albeit virtual) world. I wonder, is this any more subjugation than any other societally imposed means of self-branding? Choosing your status updates is a lot like choosing your clothes – you are projecting something about yourself, something about yourself you hope others will find amusing, attractive, insightful or worthy of commenting on. Like any mode of human interaction, there are always a certain type of people who will inevitably become obsessed with figuring themselves inside the codes and conventions of the virtual world. These people are the same who, two hundred years ago, would have bought themselves a new fan every week to flutter in the face of some eligible young bachelor at the latest Wildean social soiree. Of course, on paper Facebook’s agenda might seem innocuous, but as we know from the flurry of media hype – it doesn’t want to be. Social Networking Sites have struck gold. They thrive on the obsessives who bring out cameras with them for the sole purpose of unleashing the subsequent horrors upon the vast network of the figurative proletariat who care about every single one of the two hundred photos in ‘Anna and Toby’s Day at the Seaside.’

------

------

But, and here’s the clincher, as if 85% of SNS users haven’t wasted precious hours of their increasingly banal life engaged in the equally banal practice of stalking. Just like the journos who’ve been paid to follow the footprints of a prospective lovers’ online self, social networking is beginning to, not supplant but engage with and become an indissoluble part of, our Real Life. And what’s worse is the hypocrisy that SNSs engender. Like the Victorian curtain twitchers who kept their secrets closely guarded yet would perpetually gossip about the latest scandal in the village, many SNS users take on the character of the most rapacious scandalmonger. If Sheridan’s Lady Sneerwell were alive today, there is no doubt she would have her photos set to private, yet spend hours clicking away at her friends’ most gruesome celluloid abominations, reading their wall-to-walls and discovering more about their Real Lives than their offline self would like. There are such strict social imperatives that must be followed to seem acceptably disinterested in the virtual world and yet still conduct your interaction wholly within its bounds. Thou shalt not have too many photos: do you ever go out WITHOUT thinking about Facebook. Thou shalt not de-tag too many photos: do you really care if you look hideous in your first thirty photos? Oh, that’s so LAME. And the most heinous sin of Facebook etiquette, updating your Facebook status more than once a week: neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeedy. The analogy that comes to my mind is more 1984, we doublethink; so much mental effort goes into the illusion of indifference.

------

------

It really is the age of voyeurism, with the savvy Facebook user being able to discern much, much more about their stalkee than perhaps any short real-life chit-chat would ever reveal. But we know this, and we prepare for it. We should not blame this so-called feudalism of social networking sites for slowly turning us into a nation of online curtain-twitchers or self-obsessed internet narcissists attending fake events, collecting Facebook friends, and bringing our cameras to every minor event just to prove we did it, we were there. It is not the interface; it is merely the facilitator, highlighting and making easy the human habits of judgemental social interaction that resonate throughout history. We should not hurl loose unsubstantiated allegories at Facebook and Twitter in the misguided notion that perhaps the virtual population of the world will ‘wake-up’ and unplug themselves from the interface, go outside without a camera, sit on the grass and smell the flowers, because, let’s face it, who was ever going to do that anyway?

RIPOSTE

Does it really make sense to figure virtual existence as feudalism? Aside from the glaringly obvious and extremely tenuous George Orwell analogy of FarmVille, there seems little evidence to support so-and-sos morbid postulation of a perpetually “depressing daily grind.”

------

------
It seems more plausible, and much less eveangelical, to suggest that Social Networking Sites have highlighted (and indeed exacerbated) the monotonous rituals of self branding in which we all, as human beings, engage. There is no point in denying that the key-holders of our online identities have a latent and mysterious power over the user who, toiling in the virtual field, produces more and more bandwidth stats to promote what’s marketed as the Endless Fascination of Social Networking. The industry that is rapidly burgeoning around social media is only a testament to the power that can be wielded through utilising the endless reams of online information for personal, political and capital gain.

------

------

In this sense, perhaps we are selling our souls. We distribute personal details for free. When we have a bad day and update our Facebook status about it, is it a request for information or a cry for help? Or is it neither? A mere way of venting what we think; a public forum on which we feel misguidedly safe in posting our most intimate opinions. The overlords of these virtual peasants are a seemingly faceless conglomerate of corporate officials, who have on record what we thought of the cocktails at last Saturday night’s work do, and are prepared to use this information to facilitate their growing business. So in that sense, I suppose, we do work - but do we really work for free? If there were no incentive for us to use these websites which promote ‘keeping in touch’ with the world and its inhabitants, surely we would abandon them like outmoded systems of government; cover them in the dust of history, file them away under good-idea-at-the-time. But the fact that remains is that we have not. I agree that the social networking overlords like Mark Zuckerberg keep on cracking the figurative whip with witty, eerily targeted advertisements, constant updates and fresh tantalisations, keeping us entertained enough to carry on clicking away and increasing their turnover. However, these SNS barons won’t be found reclining in their manor houses, sipping a gin and tonic whilst calmly and disinterestedly observing us toil. Far from it, they put their sinister creative energy into turning social networking sites into a lucrative industry, one which is dependent upon our constant input and relies altogether on the state of our being entertained.

------

------

We all know the pitfalls of an online existence. The overwhelming lures of Facebook “stalking”, its playfully ominous name tugging at a deeper, more malignant part of our natural curiosity. Various magazines have published warnings: What Your Online Self Says about You. In this pseudo-propaganda, relentless journos catalogue how much they have been able to glean about prospective lovers through a swift poke on Facebook (which has come to be accepted as the equivalent of 30 minutes decent drunken flirting). As any avid stalker will know, once someone pokes you back you can access their full profile and enter in a game of Chinese whispers with their online selves. ‘Interests: Music, Reading, Long walks on the beach. Sorry… wrong website. LOL.’ An immediate turn off. Perhaps their music tastes are ‘just the right side of pretentious’ or perhaps you’ve never been skiing in your life, but your dream date has a cottage in Aspen and goes every year. No problem, you know this now, and you’ve always loved the mountains in winter.

------

------

Do we really use Social Networking Sites to furiously and tenaciously keep ourselves on the cutting-edge of this whirling hyper-connectivity? Whenever we log on to social networking sites are we overwhelmed and consumed with the desire to portray ourselves as ‘in’? Well perhaps. Who among us can truly say that they’ve never clicked ‘attending’ to an event they have had no intention of going to, just so it comes up on their Facebook profile? You can? Well, you’re a better man than I.

------

------

But sites like Facebook have never proffered us “limitless, boundless friendship”. Wheedling, it promises us in simple down-to-earth words that it is a ‘social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them.’ It’s a tool, a social utility, not a way of life. Yet, as social media balloons and dominates the headlines, it becomes increasingly obvious that there are some people out there who have embraced Facebook as a way of life, a means of making their mark on the (albeit virtual) world. I wonder, is this any more subjugation than any other societally imposed means of self-branding? Choosing your status updates is a lot like choosing your clothes – you are projecting something about yourself, something about yourself you hope others will find amusing, attractive, insightful or worthy of commenting on. Like any mode of human interaction, there are always a certain type of people who will inevitably become obsessed with figuring themselves inside the codes and conventions of the virtual world. These people are the same who, two hundred years ago, would have bought themselves a new fan every week to flutter in the face of some eligible young bachelor at the latest Wildean social soiree. Of course, on paper Facebook’s agenda might seem innocuous, but as we know from the flurry of media hype – it doesn’t want to be. Social Networking Sites have struck gold. They thrive on the obsessives who bring out cameras with them for the sole purpose of unleashing the subsequent horrors upon the vast network of the figurative proletariat who care about every single one of the two hundred photos in ‘Anna and Toby’s Day at the Seaside.’

------

------

But, and here’s the clincher, as if 85% of SNS users haven’t wasted precious hours of their increasingly banal life engaged in the equally banal practice of stalking. Just like the journos who’ve been paid to follow the footprints of a prospective lovers’ online self, social networking is beginning to, not supplant but engage with and become an indissoluble part of, our Real Life. And what’s worse is the hypocrisy that SNSs engender. Like the Victorian curtain twitchers who kept their secrets closely guarded yet would perpetually gossip about the latest scandal in the village, many SNS users take on the character of the most rapacious scandalmonger. If Sheridan’s Lady Sneerwell were alive today, there is no doubt she would have her photos set to private, yet spend hours clicking away at her friends’ most gruesome celluloid abominations, reading their wall-to-walls and discovering more about their Real Lives than their offline self would like. There are such strict social imperatives that must be followed to seem acceptably disinterested in the virtual world and yet still conduct your interaction wholly within its bounds. Thou shalt not have too many photos: do you ever go out WITHOUT thinking about Facebook. Thou shalt not de-tag too many photos: do you really care if you look hideous in your first thirty photos? Oh, that’s so LAME. And the most heinous sin of Facebook etiquette, updating your Facebook status more than once a week: neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeedy. The analogy that comes to my mind is more 1984, we doublethink; so much mental effort goes into the illusion of indifference.

------

------

It really is the age of voyeurism, with the savvy Facebook user being able to discern much, much more about their stalkee than perhaps any short real-life chit-chat would ever reveal. But we know this, and we prepare for it. We should not blame this so-called feudalism of social networking sites for slowly turning us into a nation of online curtain-twitchers or self-obsessed internet narcissists attending fake events, collecting Facebook friends, and bringing our cameras to every minor event just to prove we did it, we were there. It is not the interface; it is merely the facilitator, highlighting and making easy the human habits of judgemental social interaction that resonate throughout history. We should not hurl loose unsubstantiated allegories at Facebook and Twitter in the misguided notion that perhaps the virtual population of the world will ‘wake-up’ and unplug themselves from the interface, go outside without a camera, sit on the grass and smell the flowers, because, let’s face it, who was ever going to do that anyway?

Pages

Add a new comment

Comments are closed.