Sunday, February 10, 2008
Facebook: Now you see us now you don’t
We’re apparently nearer to a CCTV camera than we are to a rat in the sense that CCTV watches us more of the time than rats do – and make no mistake, those rodent eyes bore into you wherever you go. And as if this surveillance was not enough, some huge proportion of us gladly exchange the one way mirror of personal freedom and private citizenship to expose ourselves to as many people as possible on the web. We facebook ourselves, to coin a new verb.
The name has the ambiguity of high literary coinage, it could have flowed from the pen of Orwell or Zamayatin (whose brilliant book, We, influenced Orwell’s 1984). Face – book. It is as though we want people to be able to read us like a book. We want to figure as the central characters in our novels. We want to stare out from monitors all over the world as though, solipsistically, the world is ours and ours alone, daily, hourly, second by second. We want anyone out there from the most perverted to the most holy to share in the thrill of studying our narratives, placing the face within it and finding us as interesting as we are to ourselves.
There was a time, within my lifetime, when to be enigmatic, aphoristic, private and sphynx-like were elements of what was thought to be an interesting personality. If photographs were about to steal our souls, then we’d throw up a defending arm and run for cover. The world used to love the mystery of who we might be and we’d go through life cupping the solution in tight fingers. Or so we deceived ourselves.
Now, we buy into the total publicity of the self, put billions into the coffers of American neo-cons, and reveal that we are..er…without much interest. We are thinner than cardboard cut-outs in our autobiographies, so thin that it’s hard to discern whether there is anyone there at all behind the photos, the videos, the logs.
Where once we had to fight a deep, introspective and painful battle to self-discovery, now we think we have ourselves taped via the trappings of technology. The Pharaohs’ bodies were heaped with symbols of what was felt to be significant to their status as they took the last journey.
We can’t wait that long. We undertake the process of mummifiction from the moment we virtualise ourselves.