Why Facebook and Myspace suck

Grown-ups like numbers. When you tell them about a new friend, they never ask: “What does his voice sound like?” “What games does he like best?” “Does he collect butterflies?” They ask: “How old is he?” “How many brothers does he have?” “How much does he weigh?” “How much money does his father make?” Only then do they think they know him.
~”The Little Prince,” Antoine De Saint-Exupery

I hate “about” pages, too. It takes me forever to decide what to write for them. It’s mostly because I don’t like basing my self-identity on external things.

This isn’t going to be a rant about “labels.” One can have labels while still not requiring outside sources for identity. Labels are too easily cast as the villain. I can call myself a “gamer” and be considered a “gamer” without basing my sole identity on gaming. The problem comes when you see yourself as a gamer first and a person second. When one’s identity becomes too enmeshed by things that aren’t you.

Facebook, Myspace, and about/profile pages perpetuate the idea that you are what you do for a living, where you went to school, the people you hang out with, the car you drive, the hobbies you pursue, and so on and so forth.

That’s a dangerous idea. My head was fucked over for almost two years because I based my self-identity on the bachelor’s degree I had obtained and the job I was working (or not working). That was a hard lesson learned. I am not my job. I work as a burrito roller and a stained glass leader, but I, the essence of me, am neither of these. They pay the bills and give me something to do. They are not, and should not, be more than a mere facet of myself.

My identity, the essential who-I-am, is not easily summed up. Fuck, scratch that. It can’t be summed up at all. It’s a viscous, ever-changing thing. Yes, my job, my apartment, my car, my bicycle, the clothes I wear and the mohawk I’m currently sporting make up parts of my identity. But they’re not the be-all-end-all of it. I can’t be summed up in a Myspace or Facebook page. If I sat down and listed everything I am and everything I’m not, and everything I like and everything I hate and everything I’m ambivalent about, it would still not add up to me.

I know people, some very well, who seem to (I can’t say for sure, as I can only say with certainty about myself) lack a solid sense of internal self. They base identity on external things. They seem sane and well-adjusted individuals…except when things go wrong. Suddenly, they lose those things or labels that meant so much to them and they slowly start to fall apart. Or, on the flip side, they let those things consume them until there’s nothing left.

So to base one’s perception of another person, and one’s friendship, off of some profile page on a social networking website is to belittle that person’s identity. You don’t really know them. You know about them, yes, but you don’t know the person. You will learn much more about me from reading this blog, or No Home Range, or my LJ than you will from reading any about or profile page for any of the above. And certainly you will learn more than you would from some crappy Facebook or Myspace page. But even then you still won’t know as much about me as someone who sees me and knows me as a face-to-face person.

And for me to become the person I would appear as if I had a Facebook or Myspace page would be the ultimate crime. It would be, effectively, suicide. There is no need for external support from objects, activities, or people, in order to form one’s identity. To allow this to occur is to kill your own self. It’s also why we have the epidemic of conspicuous consumption. People have lost who they are outside of how others view them. And increasingly, others are viewing them through the lenses of profile pages and social networking sites.

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2 Responses to “Why Facebook and Myspace suck”

  1. Dargon Says:

    Ah, labels. I’ve heard the pro-label and anti-label arguments to the point where they have become just the same-old-same-old. It sounds as though our views are similar, perhaps the same, though I tend to express it differently.

    There are labels that are “descriptive,” those which tell small things about you, and those which are “prescriptive,” those which define you. Consider any box. It has both of these. In front of me, I have my modem box. It has the prescriptive label of “modem.” Descriptive labels telling me the brand, that is is fragile, that I shouldn’t get it wet, it’s model and serial number, all sorts of things. None of those tell me everything about it, but they let me know little bits. Now the modem is a fairly static object; it would be possible, combining enough information, to learn everything about it.

    In a similar sense, I like to keep as clean of prescriptive labels as possible. Just how many descriptive labels I have, I don’t know, nor do I care. They all make up little bits of me, but even their sum does not make the entirety of me.

    I’ve always had problems with those “about me” profiles. I’ve never been able to pinpoint why, but I think this may very well be it. “About me” pages feel prescriptive.

    Now in defense of Facebook, it has been useful for me in keeping up with the goings on of friends I have already made. However, it seems rather useless for meeting and getting to know new people as compared to more blog-centric social networks, such as LiveJournal. Those you hear more about views and opinions, and get more discussion that meager small talk.

  2. You are not your ego. Your core essence is something deep, and honestly most people aren’t in touch with it except to the slightest degree. It’s something you really can’t be in touch with until you’re able to subdue the mind and quiet the ego. This is a point touched very heavily upon by a lot of reading I’ve been doing on meditation and eastern religion.
    That being said, the things you’re interested in are because you are who you are. Same thing with any descriptive label. I am lighter skinned because my DNA made me up to be that way. I consume oxygen because I evolved to survive through aerobic interaction with my environment. I wear glasses because my body developed a case of myopia.
    And Dargon, I like your descriptive v. prescriptive distinction. There is a big difference between making observations and assigning interpretable labels.

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