After a chat with some folks a few days ago, the conversation ended with the new version of “goodbye” which is “lets keep in touch, are you on Facebook?”

Feeling adventurous, I [rep]lied, “no.”

Facebook/Narcissism

I liked the graphic, despite it not being particularly clever.

My comment was returned with a look so horrified I thought I’d accidentally said “sorry, I’ll be dead tomorrow.” This, of course, got me thinking: is the self-obsessive collaborative web nothing more than a form of collective death-denial?

We’ve grown to identify Web 2.0 as the “collaborative web,” but what are we really collaborating on, but a war against self-denial, or more bluntly, death? Perhaps if we all clump together as much banal, utterly useless data about ourselves, we’ll be too big for death to swallow. The antithesis of self-obsession is essentially self-denial, and what is death but the ultimate form of self-denial? If we don’t accept death, one day we’ll perhaps evolve into pure energy composed of tweets, pokes, and emoticons.

Gizmo Duck

You know, I was going to include an image of Scrooge McDuck swimming in a pool of money as a metaphor for our decadent hoarding of information, but Gizmoduck is just so much cooler.

The Information Age has shown some disturbing trends as of late, notably, an almost obsessive fear of deletion. More and more online web features stress the ready availability of the past to the point that it may as well be the present. Twitter feeds keep a running log of all of our past “present status,” Gmail encourages users to archive as an alternative to deletion, and the internet wayback machine obsessively archives pages, thus serving as an electronic version of its namesake. We have the space, why not just save everything?

I’ve heard the arguments for security, posterity, historical record, and all the like, but I’m not convinced. According to my own Scrooge McDuck Theory of History, no matter how much we obsessively hoard and accumulate data, we’ll only be later obsessed with what we couldn’t, wouldn’t, or didn’t save. Douglas Coupland made the argument that the over-informed age has made spirituality and philosophy concerns of the past. I’m expecting this next generation to have a serious case of death-denial.

It sounds morbid, but should there be a Facebook status for “deceased?”

You go ahead, Webby dear. We quad-zillionaires have our own ideas of fun.”
-Scrooge McDuck

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Ugly Mug at the Counter

Have I seen this place before?

I chilled in the cleverly named Ugly Mug before a lax Wednesday night gig at Burdigala Wines. In spite of their following the PDX coffee shop paradigm to a tee (chalkboard menu, Stumptown coffee, secondhand furniture, local artwork, microbrew, kooky color scheme, free Wi-Fi, vegan menu, *yaaaaaaawwwwn*), I had a pleasant stay. I was there for nearly two hours and didn’t see one Mac (well, except mine). They are nice enough to provide power strips for laptop users, which, in my experience, is a sign of cafempathy. They did get into the spirit of the season with a community diorama auction, with proceeds going to a local charity. In this season, and particularly in this day and age, it’s nice to little snatches of humanity as we gradually lose touch with physical community. Of course, it’s also difficult to build a diorama as a Facebook group.

Diaramas on the wall.

Dioramas: because anything that ends in "o rama" must be awesome.

As I sit back and proofread my latest stroll through blogsville, I realize two things. First, I need to stop making up words and use a thesaurus. Secondly, it doesn’t take a college level of critical analysis to realize that my “reviews” are short on criticism and long on complain-ism. This would trouble me more if it weren’t for the fact that this is a blog, which is essentially a web surfer’s license to rant. I recently read William Deresiewicz’ article “Faux Friendship,” which examines the new phenomenon of the social network “friend.” While I do not necessarily fall in line with Deresiewicz’ nostalgia for old world friendship, his article confronts one of the most common misconceptions about the world of Web 2.0. Web 2.0 does not foster collaboration, it fosters self-obsession with collaboration and correspondence as mere byproducts.

Douglas Coupland's new book: Generation A

Hm, I think I think this post got derailed a bit. Look, a new Coupland book!

As a Facebook “user” with my privacy settings set to ultra-paranoid, it’s been some time since I’ve actually logged in and participated in any real facility. The heyday of my Facebook activity was when I was actually having face-to-face contact with most of the people I was “friended” with (to differentiate from “friends with”). I’ve found that my Facebook interactions merely reflect my actual interactions, in the sense that the only people I send messages to are people I would otherwise be communicating with personally. What is sad is that if it weren’t for the convenience of Facebook, email, or text messages, I might actually be calling them.

Coffee & cake at the Ugly Mug

Coffee & cake at the Ugly Mug

Unfortunately, the issue of self-obsession goes far beyond our social networking habits. Now Google and Yahoo are returning Twitter and MySpace feeds as search results, under the guise of “real-time” search. I’m reminded of an in-class exercise in which students dissected the Google privacy policy, uncovering the not-so-subtle way that the information age  erodes privacy standards under the guise of “improving service.” I don’t believe search engines are out to get us, we’re out to get ourselves, literally. Real-time search gives our information age data-diet what it’s been craving the most—a healthy dose of “us.”

Of course, I could make the same excuse for self-obsession that I made for friendship. As the world changes, it’s no stretch that the words that describe it would change along with it. Perhaps “selfishness” needs redefinition. How about selffriendness?

“…instead of just waiting for their turn to speak.”