The Negative Mutation of Social Networks

by  —  February 20, 2009

One of the great things about the internet is that it brings people together.

One of the unbelievably awful things about the internet is that it mates that ‘bringing together of people’ with the double curse of the average human: (1) the difficulty to discriminate in choice and (2) the propensity to hoard and believe that more is better. What results from this Fly like merging is lived out daily by tens of millions on sites like Facebook. Multiplying the penalty of living this out on such sites is that, unlike some night in 1992 that faded out to muted shades as time went by, massive farms of servers are busy replicating and archiving your mistakes right now, so that the future you, the future friends, the future employers, perhaps the future children, can see it as clearly as though it just happened.

Welcome to the end of valuable friendships: a modern tragic play in four parts.

Act I
Your friend’s friend is a two-dimensional fuckwit

Looking back, there were those things said in passing over dinner, and the odd second hand tale. It seems like the clues were always there, waiting to be assembled: your dear friend has some good friends who are real douche bags; they haven’t a cupful of wit nor a minute ember of humor to douse with it. You always suspected it but you could never prove it — until now. Day in and day out, your friend’s update feed becomes a longer and longer laundry list of unfunny non-insights and retorts which weren’t even amusing when they first became public domain in the 1980s.
You can no longer deny it: here are the buffoons willingly added, and continuing to be kept, by your friend as their friends… and they’re schmucks: screamingly obvious, self-promoting, flying-a-flag morons. Your mind races:

Act II
A hole that can never be filled

20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and on and on; and more and more… Like Romeo is Bleeding, your friend has to fill that hole, but instead of cash in the backyard, they can’t stay away from that Add button. It becomes a tired, hackneyed, ritual which has lost nearly all value and thereby has cheapened that for which it once had value. Nobody has 150 friends. Simply nobody. You can’t say for sure that you’ve even had meaningful conversations with 150 different people in your entire adult life… but there it sits: your friend’s “friend” list. What does it even mean? Even making the statement that someone has 200 friends would have been vapid braggadocio in recent times, and yet here it is as some item of pride on the front page of your-friend-the-prom-queen’s profile. And still everyday, there’s a new one, a new five. Where do they keep finding them? How many items can a collector really pay loving attention to?

Tear Down This Wall! (even if it’s supporting the roof)

Five years ago, the idea of an adult hanging out frequently with both their parents and peers in a social situation would have been solely the hallmark of the tacky white trash.

Five years ago, the idea of a barely known co-worker and a friend-for-the-past-fifteen-years together regularly sharing your conversation and comment would have been impossible — obviously fucking wrong.

Today, these are part of life-de-facto on social network sites like Facebook. Evaporating is the concept of ‘appropriateness’. Bob, from human resources, three jobs ago, is treated to seeing your friend’s children photos – just like you are. Your friend commenting on Brenda’s photo of her baby is given the same profile screen real estate as anything else your friend does, even though you don’t know who in the world Brenda is and couldn’t give a good god damn. On your friend’s profile, you can read your half of the conversation your friend had with their parent when (a) why is it the public’s business, and (b) you didn’t want to know, and (c) seeing only half of something not only makes no sense, but also inspires curiosity in something you didn’t want to know to begin with.

Act IV
Everyone is a King or Queen

… so, much like all of the want-to-be-somebodies who flocked daily to Versailles in the 1700s to stay in favour, you too get up every morning to attend your friend’s court. What is it today that might be proclaimed to that court of those awaiting hundreds of friends — that passing remark that you’d like to be a part of because they are, after all, still your friend.
Dirtied and devalued is the notion of privacy: the transience of a special shared moment, lost to archiving on third party servers and replicated; backed up databases; off-site-stored media; there, always stark, never going away; often available for others to read, weeks, months, and years later, and best of-all: out of context. This is a dark rabbit hole from which there’s no return.


Perhaps this is just the way humans will evolve, like birds in a pet store, we will become all a large mishmash of people twittering-posting-and-otherwise-babbling, simultaneously, en masse, about nothing of any particular importance. Perhaps that will become what is usual and regular. It’s too early to tell.

One thing seems for certain: it cheapens us all.

Marked as: IntrospectionTechnology  —  2 comments   (RSS)

2 Comments so far
  1. Loki der Quaeler March 18, 2009 6:15 am

    I couldn’t have faked a more perfect example than this actual announcement of nothing-ness (and, unbelievably, asshats commented on it) — what total din.
    A perfect example of Facebook

  2. christina April 2, 2009 2:49 am

    This Internet Addict can’t stomach most social networks, and I’ll give my reasons.

    First, unless you live in a very rural area where you virtually cannot meet
    anyone to talk to , why are you social networking? This excludes people you are friends with who live far away!

    Second, when I do write people on Myspace they act very surprised! Isn’t that
    the point of being on a networking site? One even told me they couldn’t help me. I asked very simple questions on the matter I was inquiring about. What had happened was I wrote a rather disturbing song about cutting yourself to not say the word “I” . Everytime Aleister Crowley said “I”, he had to cut himself.
    Am I making this stuff up? I just was disappointed in that guy. He went on to rave about how there would be a price to pay if me and my friends jumped him in a parking lot and beat him up. I’ve never beat anyone up in my whole life!

    Third, it may be wrong to conclude that persons on Facebook and other networking sites are socially inept, the nature of the formate lends itself to depersonalization. I myself have numerous body piercings and tattoos. The other day a man smiled at my tattoo’s. They are almost never exposed because I got myself tattooed for my own pleasure, and hate the idea kids will see them and do it. I’m born into the role of social antagonist and go with it. I feel the masses will do anything trendy and may regret it later. Like that crack epidemic. Now I have to listen to how these people are “victims” let’s help them….

    Fourth, I imagine persons in these networks and blogs are lacking in inter-personal skills. As a regular user of youtube, it is put on display for all to see exactly how stupid people really are. Now, I know these are mostly kids, but the comments to videos are so unclever and pointless. If you don’t like something, don’t watch it. In this case, it helped me as I never bothered to become a registered user.

    Fifth, there are phony disinfo agents up there who do a poor job.

    Finally, people just need to share their personal feelings with someone. In reality, no one cares about you, and that scares most people. If you have a good true friend your better off cultivating that realtionship than attempting to network. Perhaps it is the “grass is always greener” aspect of thinking?
    It would seem to be herd mentality. It is offensive to say, but people will do anything that is popular , whether or not it is healthy,edifying , productive or of any value.
    I think Anorexia, Bulemia, drug addiction, materialism, murder, suicide,
    can be forced on people. A great example is music!
    Everyone has turned on the radio, TV, you name it and heard bad music.

    Sure. Now when this completely forgettable crap is played:Over and Over again…why it becomes popular! If one was to catch the first play of the song, as
    I often did in the early 1990’s, you’d say…this sounds just like so-and so.
    Only not quite as dangerous or as well delivered…
    Fast Forward six months, the crappy band , song , movie, TV show, you name it!!
    Totally popular. Whatever people hear over and over becomes true to them.
    To that end I don’t watch TV at home and assume everyone I meet is under MK Ultra mind control. This is no way implies I am rude to them. I did start yabbering every line I could think of from “The Wizard of Oz” at one of them.
    Nothing happened , but you sometimes have to wonder about people.
    My brain gets a steady drip of musical and artistic ideas…some people get a steady diet of something else altogether. The song “Hexonxonx” provides my release valve for when I feel it “pushing me” to depression. The chains rattle happy to perform, indeed.


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