Very keen. Was initially a little put off by the mid-70's pop-culture-reference nostalgia-fest, but I'm glad I stuck with it (and it probably targets your slightly older Gen X demo nicely). The surreality of FB and social networking needs to be probed more.
Bravo. This I can get behind.
Making me nostalgic for a time I never knew, even.
I'm a recluse, and I'm on facebook. It's great, I get to spend all day looking at what I presume are normal lives through this weird opt-in fishbowl lens. AND it really doesn't try to force me to change how I handle social interactions; I decline invitations, avoid conversation and mostly just sit on the sidelines spectating.
"...the restless dead of 1978---the shag-haired, bong-loaded Banquos of my high school class..."
You write as though you're the only person who's changed in 30 years.
Glad this isn't trying to speak for my generation! Or anything I've experienced.
I don't do nostalgia much, but I really don't do it for other people's realities.
@4: Do some time in the San Diego suburb of Chula Vista, dude, and you'll know whereof I speak. Foghat still rules the airwaves, and there are more Young Homer hairstyles than the laws of retro physics allow.
Facebook is an adjunct to my social life - I restrict it to people I have met in real life. When so many friends were on it, using it to plan events and communicate, I had to join or get left behind.
@5: Is nostalgia still nostalgia when it's shuddering in cordial horror? Isn't fond loathing closer to the mark?
@1, 2: Thanks, gentlemen.
FYI, post numbers reorder when anonymous is published.
Very odd - your reminiscence of California high school days in the 1970s felt spot-on identical to my Colorado high school days of the early 1990s. We didn't call them "Forts," but I know exactly the spaces of which you speak. The same set of posters was on my bedroom walls and those of my friends (maybe not all the same bands - though some - but the same recipe...down to Boris Vallejo). Perhaps stoner culture is truly timeless and locationally transcendent.
As for Facebook - yes. Amen. You've finally pushed me over the edge - I'm going to go donate to Diaspora now.
Pynchon's latest is great on "stoner noir," although less horrifically shuddering than your take: it's definitely the mourning after the sixties, but somehow a sunnier, happier elegiac nostalgia.
"Life through a glass pipe, darkly" brought a knowing smile of pained recognition.
@9: How incalculably eerie. Maybe there's a timespace wormhole between my '70s and your '90s?
It's either a wormhole or Colorado is 15 or 20 years behind California. Actually, that wouldn't surprise me in the least.
Making this article look like a FB page scared the crap out of me. I'm sending you a dry cleaning bill!
Inspiring article. After reading it, I logged in to Facebook, which I've not used in a year, and deleted everything from my profile except my friends. I'm still linked to them, but I have no likes or dislikes, no favorite books or movies, belong to no groups, no favorite pages, and definitely no applications. Nothing.
Just the people.
Maybe now I'll start using it again.
I think I was really lucky to get on FB right around the time that a former classmate and yearbook photographer got on there too. He basically posted pictures and tagged everybody from high school and that got the conversation started. In no time, we'd kind of recreated the high school. Sure, I was glad to get out at the time, but 20 years later it's all water under the bridge and I'm glad to have the chance to see everyone again.
The vision of shag cut stoners is pretty tragic, but we were no better, ten years later with our sun-in and acid wash. At least we try not to hold that against each other too much. Most people seem to have mellowed out, relaxed their rigid "Breakfast Club" social codes and actually enlarged their social circle from the first time around. It's nice. It's very low-key. There have been some facetime meetings that have come out of the conversations on FB and many more that just unfold online.
For us fools who've thrown caution to the wind and put our lives out there in a public way, the FB experience has been quite rewarding. More often than not, I feel like my little FB circle offers a kind of moral support and validation that wasn't there before.
I almost never feel like my friends on there are trying to pick a fight or prove I'm wrong. I feel like its a pretty accepting environment. Emotionally, it feels pretty "safe" in a way that email, comment threads, and facetime chats are not.
It doesn't surprise or shock me that the company is trying to make money off of me. In fact, of all the corporations trying to profit off me, FB bothers me the least because I actually feel like I'm getting something out of the deal. Wheras when I watch crap tv or crap internet or whatever and the ads are blaring I don't always feel like I am.
that is totally true. especially in the smaller areas of colorado.
"In which Mark Dery rambles excellently about the past Southern California teenager and Facebook."
I was transfixed by your flowery prose that dripped nostalgia from every orifice. When I got to the end, I was surprised you had a point. No mention of "stoner noir" after the midpoint, though. Growing up in Oregon, we smoked a lot of pot. I started at the age of 7. Seven! We had the wilderness to escape to, however, so our memories are not so bleached by the pale indifference of forgotten scrub lands separated by freeways. The hippie revenants were there to tell us how it should be, but we never listened. The Dark Side of the Moon wasn't around to comfort us, it was Never Mind the Bullocks that we paid allegiance to. We were raised by hippies and we reject Facebook. Ot at least I do, and for most of the reasons that you wrote about. Thanks for the post. It was worth reading, which gets Boing Boing a higher rating than I would have otherwise given it. It was quite refreshing in light of the reactionary posts that I have already seen on Yahoo! and B3TA by the time Boing Boing decides to churn it about. Kudos.
this very much reminded me of the high-water mark speech from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. lovely essay, brilliant layout.
Disaffected suburban teens transcend time.
Chula Vista? Good Christ, man, how'd you make it out alive? I was out in Lakeside & El Cajon about 10 years later, but it was fundamentally the same, right down to the "forts." Moved up to L.A. to work in movies and TV in 1991, been up here ever since. When the high school classmates started "tugging my Facebook lapel," I think the most depressing part was the realization that nearly all of them who'd stayed in Lakeside or El Cajon had become (or stayed) repulsively right-wing over the years. I'm a 4th-generation San Diego County native, but it took Facebook to finally make me glad I moved out of the East County.
Thanks for the article, man. You hit a nerve, and it done me good.
I had a repeat FB friend request from someone who did his best to make my life miserable twenty years ago last week, and have had others from similar types. I tagged them all with 'I do not know this person', have deleted all personal information and profile photos, and access to my stuff is locked down to people I know directly.
Yes, but have you literally had a dead person contact you? I had a college friend who died of a drug OD, and her malicious BF hacked into her FB (hmm, BF FB) account after the funeral and started "friending" everyone in her extended network. Creeptastic, and FB refused to cancel or block the account.
General comment about the piece: It reads like a bad mashup of "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and PKD's masterful "A Scanner Darkly."
Wow, beautifully written, man.
I'm glad I'm not on Facebook.
The top indulges in a bit too much of the “my youth was a fraught pocket of unique social meaning” nostalgia* but once he gets to the point, I’m right there with him.
The fact is that facebook is a soulless nightmare that pimps the idea of friendship to sell ads. Never ever, and not for my kids either, if I can help it.
* (and yes, it's nostalgia; the author's 'cordial horror' is just another way of patting himself on the back for 'making it through'.)
It is with the hesitancy of foreboding that I click the beckoning"like" button, a like born of self-loathing. I regret it already but it can neither be denied nor reversed. Another bit of information added to entropy accelerating onward a universe destined for an infinity of darkness.
Thanks for the Pynchon. I'll add it to the teetering pile on the nighttable.
>>Emotionally, it feels pretty "safe" in a way that email, comment threads, and facetime chats are not.
Why, I wonder? Possibly because you first met these people in the flesh, and your disembodied interaction is therefore emotionally---and, crucially, ethically---anchored in the social psychology of f2f interaction? Much has been written about the ways in which anonymity is the mother of a million little pathologies, online; I'd wager disembodiment is equally to blame. Being-in-nothingness is a trolls who would never dare say, to your face, what they say online with impunity.
Seven! Neurologists of the World, take note: the maturing fruits of history's biggest uncontrolled experiment in rewiring the pediatric mind are coming your way.
Pair it with Elliott Gould's shambling Philip Marlowe (mumblecore avant la lettre) in Altman's The Long Goodbye, and you'll close the stoner-noir loop, as it were....
My point is that you don't encounter trolls on your FB feed. The atmosphere is gently supportive. Yes, most of your friends will just ignore what you say, but every now and then you'll get a little "like" button out of the blue, and that's nice. In F2F interaction there is no ignore option, so you end up showing your reaction to everything they say, and you can get more conflict that way.
On FB, there are a number of people I've never met in person, but by agreeing to call them a "friend" a lovely friendly social code is established and it does feel safe. Banal and boring at times, but totally benign.
My sister's friend recently died in a car accident; I didn't know her (the friend) very well, but we were facebook friends. Now, I'm constantly treated, in my newsfeed, to innumerable little messages to their late friend, all of whom still write on her wall, mostly lamentations. The girl's mother apparently has control of the account, and occasionally uses it to respond to the girl's friends; not in-character (which would be another level of macabre entirely), but nonetheless with the girl's name and picture.
I wonder what kind of ads show up on that account now. It's like the funeral hasn't ever ended, because the girl's account lives on. Nobody else I know seems to think anything of it, but every time her little user icon shows up I just feel terrible.
The article here was intriguing, but I have to admit, it was definitely written for another group of people. I was a freshman in college when facebook was opened up to my university; I'm among the last generation of people for whom facebook didn't exist in high school. While the company itself might not remain, the "social networking" category will be inextricably tied to the human connections between everyone my age and younger.
Facebook isn't merely a ride through nostalgia (borrowed or otherwise) for us; it's the fabric of our social existence. My sister's friends have little use for priests or psychotherapists, because they can communicate with the dead.
I would weep for all the people I knew who didn't survive that awful period, who escaped by suicide, by betrayal, by religion, by institutionalization, by incarceration...who all turned into human wreckage.
I would weep, but I long since cauterized my tear ducts with this toxic nostalgia.
Interesting that you would associate Facebook with the Right. They always struck me as Left.
Good point, especially when dealing with the objectification of friendship, and pointing out that a user is the product of social networking, not the consumer
I have complicated feelings about facebook. I think the concept is great, but poorly executed. I think the fears about the government spying on social networking sites are probably warranted and yet still a bit overblown. I think that nothing is ever really free as in beer, that one pays for the service either in moola or by having your data prostituted.
But damn, I caught up with family members on there, long lost relatives that would've been much harder to contact than just clicking "Add as Friend". I have become friends with friends of friends- people never met in person, yet we share some laughs together or have a conversation about politics. And my girlfriend, an acquaintance from high school who twenty years later has become,well, more. Because of Facebook. Not email, not the telephone. I didn't look her up on Google. Facebook.
One strange thing I've noticed is that I seem to have pockets of Facebook friends from different times of my life, and not the usual ones. The ones I've reconnected with are in many circumstances not the ones I was really good friends with at the time.
And it is interesting to see where my high school classmates ended up. Mine have really run the gamut and my gf and I laugh about in bed sometimes before we fall asleep.
btw- you do know your wall is viewable by everyone, right?
Indeed. And there's the irony: as a freelance writer and independent scholar in the Age of Brand Me, I'm more or less obligated to follow the crowd to whatever social-networking ecosystem it decides to inhabit. I use FB primarily to promote my work, land assignments, and, passingly, keep in touch with friends who spend most of their online lives here. Given my druthers, I'd prefer to use my website as my the face I show the world, and confine my socializing to e-mail---I'm hopelessly old school in that regard---but that decision isn't mine to make, it seems; public and private, like work and play, are hopelessly intertangled in our networked world.
I'm an optimist, with regards to human nature (at least in the context of a civilized and safe environment).
And I believe people are good at heart, on the inside.
However, most people are socially shallow, immature, and completely selfish.
Facebook suits this type of interaction and reality.
It is a facade.
We choose to believe, editorialize, memorialize, nostalgize, however suits our little world view best.
FB can connect two people for the possibility of developing a deep relationship. But it does not in itself add anything to the relationship. Instead, more often than not it is like a customized reality TV show.
And this social graph network stuff will only make people realize that everyone is just like everyone else. Doing the same silly things, the same drama, the same weirdos, the same likes and dislikes. It becomes trivial and hyper redundant if everyone is connected. You can substitute one of your "friends" for any number of other " friends" from a different social clique.
Yet, for most, as I said, this is sufficient for fulfillment and entertainment. Even if it is pretend, if it makes people happy, then so be it.
I admit I have not joined (I was in college back when it was limited to college students). In fact I fear it (like some kind of pathetic old man), mainly because it seems every other
person in the world joined this stupid thing due to peer pressure with out a second thought. But it will end up being like the psych experiment mentioned in the comments above...it's mostly in our heads, and some people will deal with it better than others.
As Andy Warhol said: " in the future everyone will be famous for 15 mintues". I think he meant 15 seconds.
O, and I love the art work with this piece.
Wonderful article. Readers might also appreciate "The End of Carnality is the Beginning of Facebook" by Christopher Hsu. He compares facebook to "Buddhist funerary."
I am late to this article but my version of this experience to place in the shadows of warehouses, cars in abandoned lots and the dry gullys next to railroad tracks.
We were the black t-shirt youth that nobody wanted any part of, some of us weren't dangerous. We just looked the part.
It was the "clean" guys that killed themselves, almost everyone in our setting ended up in jail or prison (even the Eagle scouts).
Facebook is evil....
I was asked to read this by my new professor at college and I feel like your point is completely true. I've also experienced a deceased friend commenting on posted sorrows and it's heartbreaking to have people drudge these ghosts back up from my past. Thank you for saying the truth and for writing this article.