Social Networking

Musings of a solipsist facebook-zombie

Exordium: In response to the announcement of my demise from facebook, a digital friend of mine responded with a link to this cutesy cartoon*. Which fed straight and perfectly into the thoughts behind both my “drastic” action -counting down the days to when I will hit the delete button for my profile, but also in to my doubts on so-called social networking in general. Let me explain:

We arrive at this story at a moment where our characters have already met. If this is by chance or not, is not stated. Since they are still on their feet standing around somewhere, we can only assume that it happened recently as if waiting for a bus or attending a cocktail party. Furthermore we must suppose that they have had a kind of exchange on some level of intimacy that would allow initiating the following: Person X prompts to add person Y on facebook and thusly “become friends” digitally. It is not known whether these people were real friends prior to this meeting or to what amount of social seriousness the proposal by X extends. That said there is no indication so far of what social value a friendship, either real or virtual might even have.

The recipient Y, to whom the invitation is addressed, then retorts: “Oh, I don’t have one”, thereby acknowledging that A: he or she does not have an account on facebook or in other words, does not have a digital placeholder for his or hers persona, that could satisfy such a request. Or that B: the invitee is not a professional model and therefore does not “have” a physical two-dimensional representation of the visual qualities of his or her face and/or body on paper in order to present it to a photographer or the like.

Based on this answer it is therefore unknown if Y simply misunderstands the intention of the proposal or if Y isn’t aware of the presence of such an alternative social framework such as facebook. If it is the latter, Y’s statement shows neither a dislike nor does it say anything about Y’s perceived use or need for an additional layer of social interaction or whether it is implicit that he or she is satisfied with the level of social interaction already at hand.

Neither can we deduct if X, who clearly already is in possession of the aforementioned social layer, understands or indeed acknowledges this answer. X does not reply to Y’s inconclusive answer and seems perplexed, as Y slowly becomes transparent, fades away, dissolves into thin air, disappears from what seemed to us to be reality.

This somewhat surprising and drastic turn of events is considered to be the dramaturgic point of the story as there is no further moral or conclusion given. Because of the theatrical finality of this, we as the observers are forced to take sides in order to elicit a response. That doesn’t seem to be so easy at a second glance. If we party with X there are these options to behold: We can mourn the fact of losing contact to a person that has the potential to become a close relationship. In that case we might have a tragedy on hand. Or we can attempt a smile and perhaps a laugh at the failure of Y’s inability to adapt to digital social skills, the joke being that his insufficiency transcends in to reality, obscurity and death.

If we stand sides with Y the joke or tragedy might be on X. If there is any reason to attempt a grin on that account, isn’t it also highly negotiable though? Does Y exit the story so swiftly because his or hers presence is negated by the mere mention of a relationship other than a “real” and perhaps unacceptable one? By leaving X this way doesn’t Y expose the surrealness or unrealness of his proposal? Isn’t it X who is left standing alone at the cocktail party, out of touch and unable, unwilling to unplug**?

The fact is that Y leaves his actual form; his flesh is no longer able to cast a shadow across the walls of the cave***, for X and the other inhabitants to interpret and try to understand. They can no longer discuss among themselves the source and focus of Y’s reality because he ceased to exist in the confines of their perception. They will have to deem Y for dead and simply nonexistent (unreal) or try to face him or her (and thereby themselves) above ground, in the harsh light of the sun where words still can be senseless but also still didactic, but then not by being written, but by being chewed over by talk.

And if we are lucky both variations are sometimes sung.

* http://imgur.com/dokFK

** http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N50NRQB99Sw

*** http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2afuTvUzBQ&feature=related