Wednesday, 12 February 2014

This Facebook Life

Do your FB postings reflect your life? I bet they do not. Take me: I spent the last week sullenly applying for yet more jobs and battling a flare-up of back pain with floor exercises (but mainly with food, if I'm honest). But you wouldn't know by looking at my FB output, which has been the usual placid stream of editorials about the EU or feminist articles I've linked to, polite comments on friends pages, maybe a shared cartoon or other visual joke or two.

I'm writing about this because I have noticed a number of friends posting prefab little films about their own 'Facebook story'. The first I came across was vaguely moving: oh, look at so and so ten years ago; yep, I remember the wedding, oh and that was the photo we took in Paris etc, all accompanied by some vaguely soulful muzak.

By the fourth such advertorial it seemed clear that FB is not just using its own customers to advertise itself but is offering this as a service to them. It's selling them back their last decade as a mathematical algorithm, which is all FB think we all are. I don't fault them for trying, I fault us for falling for this Coca-Cola ad version of our own lives, which we have not even curated ourselves.

So back to the initial question. FB has lulled us into the illusion that we could document our lives through it, through the sharing of stuff, of photos and gags and links and likes with a greater and greater, more and more amorphous community of friends. Well, kind of. These fragments of ours aren't a coherent and honest narrative of us, aren't us.

We are still deeply human despite the changing digital landscape we move in; we remain fleshy and encumbered and slow and un-insightful. We haven't caught up with Fb, we're still lagging behind, unable to optimise. Despite FB's near messianic arrival ten years ago, praise be the Internet Gods, we have carried on living life as a first draft: we do not know, will never know what the life-changing events are until after,often long after they have happened. We do continue to make sense of our lives in retrospect, in dreams, in memories, in desires, in a gazillion ways and means that are not documentable, shareable, curate-able, scrapbookable, especially  by computers. 

As for my last ten years, it was meeting my husband, not marrying him, that changed my life, and no picture exist of the first event whereas the second is extensively documented. It wasn't the leaving do that mattered, jolly pictures notwithstanding, but the decision to leave the BBC. There's a gazillion missing pictures of, and shared jokes and meals between, my sister and me, because the last ten years we have continued to be mostly absences in each other's life. And do not get me started about the books I haven't written, and the ones still in drawers somewhere.

FB wouldn't know about that. For it we all exist on the same digital plain where time is always now, geographical distance is meaningless and the existence of FB itself is the biggest feature of the last decade of our lives.

Nice try. Close, damn close, but no cigar. And frankly they could have chosen less irritating, if vaguely soulful, muzak.