on Facebook

A critical commentary on subjectivity and narratology.

The Obrienatrix has been on Facebook for some time; having initially Joined Up as part of a multiple-front campaign to keep in touch with fellow survivors of her doctoral cohort. FB has fulfilled and even exceeded that objective, with practical applications spilling over from (virtual) life into (real) work. Not least in some of its changes over the years, what they say about approaches to the individual, and what literary, ethical, and political implications these changes might have.

[This started out yesterday–2010-05-23–as a grumble, turned into a rant, was tidied up into a more coherent close-reading with notes dangling, and ended up today–2010-05-24–as an essay. Sorry.]

I’ll talk about the issues at hand and move on to more detailed commentary on implications in a moment.

I’m not going into either the privacy issues: mostly solved if one actually bothers to go into and fix one’s privacy settings etc.–as is the case with any public stuff online, WordPress included–on FB’s complex “granular” controls, see for instance “Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg pledges easier privacy” (BBC News Online, 2010-05-24), MZ’s article in the Washington Post (2010-05-23), and (more generally) Facebook Security.

Nor am I going into advertising. I spend a not inconsiderable amount of my Facebook time complaining about that already, and labelling every single ad that crosses my page’s path as “offensive.” After all, they do ask, and it would seem rude not to answer or to do so other than completely honestly:

Nor will I be dealing with assorted other ethical issues of predators and prey online. This post is more about how Facebook may have started out as the high-school face-book writ large and more detailed, but it may have now evolved into the most complex interactive meta-book online.


I should start with a screenshot from the current incarnation (public view version) of my “profile”:

That section continues in similar vein, with “Movies” mapping on to “Cinephile” and “Television” to “mediaphile”; it is preceded by “About Me” (basic info / name, gender; bio; favourite quotations) and “Education and Work”.

Identity and Identification

This “Profile” is one’s first point of contact with the outside world. Such things are already hard to write: a weighty responsibility, this exercise in self-representation. First impressions count in such close encounters. The mimetic exercise is made doubtless weightier if one had the additional intentions of various sorts of seduction: prospective lovers, virtual friends, the curious competition of online-friend-/ follower-collection. I am spared these burdens: I just want to be recognisable to those by whom I should like to be recognised, with emphasis on the re- : people I already know.

Blogs offer as wide-ranging a plethora of approaches to self-identification as do diaries, autobiographies, and other auto-fictions; as varied as are these writings’ purposes, authorial intentions, and intended readership. Montaigne and Rousseau do remain the standard of comparison, and remain unsurpassed. It is unfortunate that blogs have a bad name in certain circles and generations (not mentioning any of my older relatives by name), as their form and format offer far greater freedom of expression–quite aside from the free expression that is dissemination–than any other form of media. One can of course write, just as one can with pages, scrolls, tablets, graffiti-able walls, and any other approximately flat surface. That’s nothing to write home about. One can also insert images, sound, and video; and one can do, undo, redo, and so on: the medium is double mobile, as including moving items, and allowing one to move items around to one’s heart’s content.

All well and good, and nothing new to anyone who has ever been online, let alone encountered a blog. Like them, the Facebook profile can be entirely visual, or entirely verbal, or points between the two. It’s always been that way, certainly since at least 2005 (founded 2004). But like other social networking sites (it was, I believe, the original one) it imposes formal constraints on one’s profile, and these are my source of complaint. Well, more of a commentary than a complaint.

As ever with critical commentary: starting with context and content, and bearing in mind the bigger picture and common-sense practicalities. Facebook, let us not forget, is a social network. This explains why one has some sort of front page, front-of-house, whose design is based on the business-card and the traditional Rollodex index card. “Profile” isn’t an altogether inaccurate term: far from a portrait, more like a snapshot. I’d rather it go even more in the impressionistic direction of the quick sketch, even the caricature. One’s profile picture, cut down into a thumbnail, then accompanies one’s comments all round FB. There is of course the danger that it will become an ID photo, if one allows it to look too like a standard image of oneself; with associations of police mugshots and such “profiles” and “profiling.” As an ID document, I’d prefer the profile and its image to be more of a “passport”, in its original sense: not an entitlement to be and stay in a certain place, subject to that place’s authority; but rather an authorization to pass through (a port) without let or hindrance; transient, fleeting, to be glanced at briefly, but such a glimpse should still enable recognition.

As an aside: Marina Abramović’s “The Artist is Present” at the MoMA offers a performative and interactive solution to the portrait/snapshot issue: an image that is both. See the Flickr Photostream: a marvellous array of human expressions–it’s also a massive group image that retains individuality (and offers the possibility of individual comment), unlike Spencer Tunick’s depersonalised/~ing mass nudes.  A temporal “either/or” (immediate/long-term long-distance) becomes an “and/and,” sittings lasting from under a minute to hours. Spatial and temporal boundaries are broken in the work itself and its multiple identity: one woman staring, the sitter’s contribution, the repetitions of individuals, the gallery collected; the spaces delimited by one chair, by two chairs, by the room, the museum; the continuing performances of faces changing over time (the artist’s, but also those repeat-sitters), and of that Flickr gallery in slideshow view. I’d like to see something similar translated to FB …

Resistance and Subversion

Identity and self-construction are most immediately affected by the limitations imposed by FB’s choice and naming of categories within which one can provide information. Inflexible, and still based to some extent on that calling-card / Rollodex business-world model, but to be fair less businesslike than, say Linkedin; and less messily post-/anti-/illiterate than BeBo and MySpace. In all these cases, though, the categories available do not necessarily map onto an individual’s defining features; some may be redundant or irrelevant, others are missing. Some seem out of place: I’m sure “Favourite Quotations” don’t belong in that “basics” section (and I’m sure that Quotations used to live with “Books” etc. in “Likes and Interests”). In its first incarnation, I had subverted the given structure to my own ends. “Television”: I have none, but I do watch many things on YouTube (and DVD etc.); and this seemed an appropriate place to mention “likes” in radio. As I am a bookish person who reads a lot and has many beloved authors and works, I resented being limited to a set space for the “Books” section, so that spilled over into the next ones; in that previous incarnation of the FB info/profile page, this resulted in the then other sections being filled up with further works (in my “continued A-Z” sections), and the final ones–something like “other information”–then starting with “Dammit, I am my books.” Which I kept up for some time, as it was more Obrienaternal than cutting the list short would have been, or doing what one’s clearly supposed to and opting for the Top Tens approach (heinous as against all my deconstructive, feminist, and tolerant better instincts), or the (silencing / silenced protest) “not applicable.” I object to that sort of thing on bureaucratic forms imposed on me by higher authority, and that’s perfectly right and proper for that form of writing, in that relationship between writer and reader, and as reflecting those power-relations. I object to such constraints all the more in a form of writing that is supposed to be individual(ist), self-expressive, and self-fashioning.

There’s no space in this info/profile page for other media: not for non-moving images and other visual works, nor for performative arts. Other leisurely pass-times seem intended for “Activities”: but no demarcation between, say, passive watching of sports and active participation therein.  Should one be separating the enjoyment of music from its performance, production, composition? The same goes for sport. And where to place hobbies? Are they insufficiently active to go into “activities”, and are therefore “interests”? Or do they only pass if creative or otherwise resulting in an end product? Craft/techne vs. art? Back to that “activities/interests” distinction: can interesting things not be active? and am I less interested in activities, with an implication that actions should be less likely to be accompanied by reflection–the stereotype of classic action-man heros? But I’m not one, there’s counter-examples of thinking heros aplenty, and besides, this raises all the feminist hairs on the back of my neck.

What happens to the fine and gentle arts of leisure, oisiveté, and/or idling? Who is FB to tell me what does and doesn’t count, what is and isn’t sufficiently important to merit its own category (music vs. no sport), and what is and what what isn’t trivial? As we’ll see in a moment, FB does indeed indulge in prescription and makes over value-judgement as factual statement.

My own solution was (and is, see “Likes and Dislikes” screenshot above…) to play with the surreal comedy inherent in lists.

In its current incarnation, Facebook makes it easier to compose one’s window-display, by removing narrative constraints. It’s not as bad as texting or Twitter (though I’d have time for them in a rapid-discussion context, such as conferences and maybe even lectures). But the removal of narrative imposes formal constraints on those of us of a more conversational, discursive bent. In the current form, gone are phrases and sentences; all pre-existing information has been mapped onto pages (hence creating “Having a life” as one), and if one types in new information, FB makes suggestions as ones types (like any other auto-correction and predictive system) as to what one maybe means or is likely to mean, based on pre-existing pages. One is of course at liberty to type whatever one likes, thus creating more pages that might be useful, or that might be completely useless and unproductive as pages (ex. “beach-pebbles, collection thereof”).

Words and phrases become pages; the tagging system; networks and clouds. As experimented with on here for links (work in progress). The profile is in one sense static (unlike the Wall), like any front page; and in another sense it is mobile. For even if information is entered once and once only, that information itself changes. I am effectively my own tag-cloud, and who I am can change (even if I make no changes to that page) depending on (a) whether I am “liked” or “unliked”, (b) ditto for my constituent parts, and (c) how my tags themselves change, as they are associated with other tags by other people, or as other people–comprised of different tag-elements from me–have some tag-element in common with me, but whose other tags are different. A tag has a primary meaning in the usual linguistic way: denotation & connotation, associated semantic field, and  shifts in sense with syntactic combination and specific pragmatic usage. Going well beyond the usual fluctuations of those latter elements, a tag now changes when its network of associations changes. It can be changed by its network-associates, becoming associated with other tags. It can change within the network, by becoming more or less important to the network, depending on how many links to other tags it has and how often the tag is used. A tag can be changed by external factors, and by the network itself.

I may have used a word to mean one thing. Which can then be changed by someone else; worse still, in political terms, by the unanswerable force of numbers, groups, and meta-groups; a virtual law of nature, an impersonal and indeed inhuman outside force. At the core of Facebook is facelessness, and it is all-powerful. It is not a democracy: it is a statistical tyranny that operates without checks and balances, without separation of powers, and without respect for minority rights and tolerance of diversity. Locke, Mill, Berlin, and Popper would not be happy.

When this happens to words it’s important for the words themselves (see: NewSpeak). It’s important for the people who utter these words, as the implication is a disregard for their intention, a denial of subjective agency. It’s also important as what goes for tags goes for people too.

What an individual “means” changes as their tags change. And also as the network that defines them changes. Whatever I put into my profile page, and whatever that meant to me / whatever I meant by it, what defines me is my network: my place within it, changing relations, the second-order web of interconnected networks, and changes there. This is identification by group and relations, and it’s an identity that changes, with the changes made to one by external forces. Sure, one can be a unique special flower, as the only item that possesses this specific set of properties and relations. But what’s important is that that’s just a secondary side-effect.

Now, one of the most interesting things about FB is how it works as a network, and how it forms and reinforces group identity. This is done not only through individual-to-individual reacquaintance, but through the creation of communities of taste. That is: as soon as any given item is shared by at least two individuals, a group is formed. That connection is reinforced by the sharing of further items. More in common, stronger bond. More interconnections (between items of data, and individuals, and groups, and the networks thus formed), ditto, and greater visibility. (This may all lead in practical terms to the making of new friendships, and the breaking of old ones.) A peril of FB (and other social networks) is the triggering of competitive streaks in collection and status, as reflected numerically: number of “friends”, number of people into a page one has created (thus: one’s creation of groups and networks), and some sort of influence in some sort of a public sphere. Weight. Power. It’s not just authority by brute hit count: there’s a qualitative aspect too, hit count reinforced by support (individuals, groups, networks).

Playing that game runs counter to being a unique special flower, a FB Googlewhack with minimal to zero network influence. The most anti-FB thing one can do on FB might be to render oneself as a set of tags/pages that are unique to that individual: a corner of single self. But short of making all one’s information completely invisible–which is equivalent to a private blog, and functionally equivalent to not being on FB or existing anywhere online at all–it is impossible to be completely independent of the network, as anyone else could, at any moment, decide to share any one of  one’s individual elements. Or all of them. This could be malevolent; more likely, a basic human urge to communicate and form community. That’s central to FB, I think central to human beings, and inescapable.

The best one can do is to be true to oneself (as, after all, FB is big and there are people there who know you) whilst emphasizing contrasting, contradictory, and seemingly conflictual elements. A paradoxical hope, perhaps, both for uniqueness and for the greatest range of possible groups, communities, and networks to which one might potentially belong.

Returning to my original quibbles about identity and identification: “Info” and “Profile” should, in short, be considered, composed, and maybe one day renamed as “Caricature.”

Facebook on Facebook (on Facebook)

Partly to see if I wasn’t doing something cussid and/or daft and was using my tools as nature/the FB folks intended, I had a look to see what Facebook have to say about themselves, thinking this might prove a useful and exemplary model. FB-on-FB, like any other FB page, comprises the usual standard elements:

Down the right-hand side:

followed by some snapshots of people who like FB, “Favourite Pages”, “Notes”, “Video” (What is your favourite application on FB, etc.), “Photos”, and “Links” (Facebook Saves Family During Time Of Need–KPLR, etc.).

I felt vindicated in my attempts at subverting FB’s formal constraints. Some of the differences between FB-on-FB and my page simply reflected the difference between an individual entity and a corporate one (exactly like the legal/financial one); change in content, in emphasis, some elements removed from the equation altogether. FB has also twisted set sections to its own purpose: see “Information” (where one usually has a birthday) and a logo for the profile picture.

FB is not, of course, just the window-dressing that is one’s profile and its essays in self-definition. The substantifique moelle is the Wall to which one posts; and when one logs into FB the “Home” page to which one is immediately directed is the perpetually-moving list of all the most recent contributions–posts, comments on others’ posts–by one’s friends and updates from groups to which one belongs. Like a news RSS feed. Observations:

There is an emphasis on community rather than self: understandably, given the whole point of FB.

But I note the difference in perspective: the public view for “outsiders” has your static profile as first point of contact; yet the first point of contact for “insiders” (including yourself, as primarily defined as a member of that group) is the moving page of writings on the wall. The original model is news sites and their RSS feeds; the main body of the page is the collection of all one’s friends’ most recent contributions; in “syndicated news” style. Screenshot:

That’s a difference between the static and the mobile; between fixed present (with no verbs, no expression of temporality) and a past (to near-present) in movement. Walls make good reading. If one has just reconnected with an old friend, or if one has been absent from FB or any of one’s contacts for some time, one can read posts as a backwards narrative (like any blog). I’m sure there’s more to be said about this chronological phenomenon; the narrative aspect is wonderful. An example: reading back through nearly three years’ worth of wall-posts and comments thereon to reconstruct a love-story. Finding first references to the Significant Other by third parties; official FB befriending; the development from comments on posts to writing posts on each others’ walls; greater content being expressed, especially of a more emotional and psychologically-revelatory nature.

Facebook on Blogging

FB’s own page emphasizes narrative. The most recent Wall posts provide information about FB and how to use it, updates on new functions and security, and lots and lots of what they call “Stories”. FB also has a blog (which I didn’t know, but it’s been there since August 2006). At the top, its three current most important sections: matters pertaining to the World Cup, Security, and this:

The rest of the blog’s content looks very like the FB-on-FB Wall, but with the slightly different format of the blog changing what I guess has to be called the visual rhetoric. Down the right: “Search”–“Most Popular Stories”–“FB Page”–“Favourites”–“Comment policy” [essentially, Rules Of Engagement]–“Archive.” Side-by-side comparison highlights how “networky” a FB page is: a selected main element (info, wall, etc.) that’s part of a collage of networked elements (down the side). The blog, on the other hand, highlights moving narrative. That is, of course, intended to be emotionally moving too… and this is the main seduction tactic. As with any episodic narrative, get the audience hooked through emotional investment and need to know what happens next; another sort of “poetics of contingency”, and narrative as a literary form/cultural act that’s at least as interested in the future as it is in the past.

The blog fulfills two principal narrative purposes. The first is the recounting and collection of stories; forming a Book of Facebook, one in which all Facebookers might be participants, and stressing the sense of community: akin to story-telling performances in oral culture (not yet lost in the “first world”: kindergarten, funerals, lower-order interpersonal bonding between new acquaintances), and with similar socio-political effects (group formation, strengthening of bonds, collective memory, belonging as being part of the epic being performed, thus part of the epos).

The second is telling the story of Facebook, and may be observed in the following two early entries: chronology, historiography, with a hagiographical/messianic element:

CA starts out with a “you” and story-telling. Moves into a “we”, and the future. Some more “you” in the second and third paragraphs, and a future that not what will be done but what you might do: open potential and individual creativity vs. organized planning. Some “we” reappears at the end, combined with a “you” or the first time in the “we hope you like what we’ve done”: distinction between persons and roles maintained throughout, politely (see next post for a different approach to the you/we relationship), with a “you” as the chiasmic centre of that final clause. Ties in properly with the content, that is, the “Notes” feature enables one to embed one’s own blog, mis en abyme, within FB: there is space for the individual (and narrative) within the collective and the network. One can (as I’ve done with this post) link to an external blog; or one an use that space as a blog within one’s FB page.

Pronoun use  and its connections to style and tone again: MZ’s post starts out with a regular alternation between “you” and “we” throughout the first paragraph, with plenty reference to memory/history (some of which might or might not be misremembered: that “might”). Then its straight into full “we.” “You” disappears–being charitable, might be implied as swallowed up into “we.” Except that “people” appears in the final paragraph: that’s where “you” went. See end of post for more on that “you/people” business. Looking back to the previous post, which was otherwise nicer and friendlier in tone, with more subtle you/we work: there was one fly in the ointment, that protective “we didn’t want to start blogging until everyone else could” (hmmm: this new person, “everyone else…”) then the crashing arrogance of “so we waited until we launched our own version of the blog.” It is certainly true that this is their own version; and crashingly arrogant because the implication is that it’s better … when it’s not. If I write or find a blog post and wish to share it, I’ve always been able to do so via the Wall or a personal message (depending on how far I want to share the link). Same goes for Twitter and any other feedy stuff.

Things not being true niggle; as does that over-protectiveness by authority–and the way authority is constructed through the very expression of looking after others. Nannying is resumed again with MZ’s “change can be disorientating…” section: “change can be disorientating” is repeated in “it may have felt different at first”, which repetition slips the reader into the illusion that what’s paired with these two will be similarly parallel. But note the difference between “we’re sure it makes the site better” and “things like […] have all made FB a more useful and more interesting site”: one is led to see the second item as a simple expansion of the first (better = more useful and more interesting), through the “change” / “things like […] counterbalance,  and to equate the value-judgement and direct agency of “we’re sure” with the definite past tense and statement “FB [is].” Look at that “change” again: in a structure like the “you” vs. “we” alternation, it vacillates between the general and the particular. That “you/we” moved, in the final paragraph, to “we/people” (which I would see as a depersonalisation of “you”). In a parallel move, “change/things” become “our additions and changes/the new things we’re going to launch.” Change shifted from being neutral (“a lot has changed”), to a negatively-charged force of nature outside us to be feared (“changes can be disorientating”); between these two and after the second one, it also became “ours” (“we’ve made changes”, “our…changes”): it’s OK, FB has conquered and tamed change and heroically protects us. Change has been made positive, and it’s all towards a “goal” that transcends change itself: understanding (and those “people”). [More needs to be done on FB’s twist on Hegelian dialectics.]

Both abovementioned posts start out by referring to past history (and at the same time writing it), In both its social-network and blog incarnations, FB is contributing to new Web 2.0 sorts of narrative. It moves (whilst remaining the written word, and allowing for the incorporation of the visual and aural). Its direction of movement is backwards in time. Episodes can be expanded and contracted. The blog’s search function allows a reader to select from within the narrative as a whole: making their own book, like a late-13th-c. patron and their anthology-codex. Making multiple books, and changing them. And books which are interactive, and may include the reader (and other readers) as writers, if they can comment on posts, discus further in comments on comments, and thus add further strands of embedded narratives (and narratives of relations between commentator-readers).

The Importance of Liking

These things are true of any blog (most obviously blogs that tell stories). What make FB different is one little thing, a thing that may seem silly and ridiculous; appallingly facile and barbarous; symptomatic of post-literate dumbing-down and relativism run wild; the death both of absolute values and virtues, and of rational argument and conscious critical thought itself. Here is that little thing:

While “like” is superficially akin to delicious, digg, reddit, and stumble(upon); as is ever the case in literary criticism, context is all. On both FB-on-FB and FB-the-blog:

That thumbs up is crucial to the networking of information, and to the creation of communities of taste and style. But the fact that a simple polarity of “liking” isn’t the only available option is very important: “share” (same communicative family to “Tweet” elsewhere) and “comment” (resembling any other sort of comment, anywhere) permit greater elaboration and refinement, and specific targeting of one’s like. The use of the imperative personalizes the chosen action, along with the usual imperative sense of suggested proper course of action. I take this use of the imperative here as an invitation and indication of usual practice and expectation, rather than a command and obligation. It’s still normative and prescriptive, but voluntary. Placing “Comment” first emphasizes free conversation; “Share” last does so for community.”Like” lies between the two places, that most individual of the three actions positioned between dialogue and group-network. The individual is the crucial factor that mediates between discourse and intercourse, all three factors necessary to the whole; a symbiotic relational triangle akin to Karl D. Uitti’s (and others’) lyric triangles. “Like” alone, or placed first, would have a very different, simplistic effect, an incitement to barbarism and bullying. Likers being named keeps things personal and responsible. No mention of dislikers (and likers who changed their minds, turned their thumbs down, and became unlikers): back to that behavioural prescription, it is positive action that is expected on all three fronts–individual, interpersonal, and group.

All three actions are more than a unilateral isolated declaration: clicking on that blue hyperlink (and the subsequent crucial blue buttons) makes that declaration hyper and networked. The act of “liking” also adds one to the group of people receiving updates about that thing (which might, in the case of the FB page, be practical updates). As cemented by sharing: transmitting this information to particular other individuals. Comments permit individuality, a tempering of absolute and blind like/dislike, and the inclusion of narrative in a network of relations. Those networks are already in flux/movement, as seen above in relation to tags and to individuals. We can now add a movement that is specifically narrative, resulting in a network that is also a narrative and a commentating para-narrative, and a site that fits (and has the capacity to go beyond?) John V. Fleming’s concepts of super-book and meta-narrative.

For a rather bleaker, nay even apocalyptic, view of “liking” see “Facebook To Release A “Like” Button For The Whole Darn Internet” and comments thereon (Michael Arrington at TechCrunch, 2010-03-25). Of pertinence here: the comment on FB being “the internet on top of the internet”, and “@everyone who said they want a Dislike button. That’s idiotic and unecessary. The opposite of Like is apathy or anonymity. Dislike reflects like in the reverse. An it would be economically or even practically useful how?” The “decentralized” WordPress plugin, Likebot, also turns up in that discussion: watch it for future development.

Returning to my original problem: I should be spending more of my FB time searching out idiosyncratic and eclectic elements to like, share, and comment on; and encouraging FB-friends to do likewise. We have the usual choice of course of action: the resistance of refusal and rejection; revolutionary destruction; or subversion from within. I’d favour the latter, and echo MZ’s comments on change, but with a shift in agency to the FBers: embrace change, twist and temper and tame it, bend it to your will. It’s not just a case of the dilemmas of individual self-fashioning and all the usual perils and pitfalls of any social interactions, bilateral and multilateral. It’s a case of larger-scale re-fashioning, with all due proper consideration and critical awareness. Being on FB and being there actively, pro-actively, and interactively is neither a rule nor a right: Given the implications of social networking (and bookmarking) it’s an ethical, political, and aesthetic responsibility. The 3.0 semantic web is upon us: a hive or a cloud? Virtual life under centralised authority or in an online community? Apocalyptic dystopia or anarchist utopia? Obrienatrix being ridiculously hyperbolic or just Being Prepared? Make FB your own: and that’s the plural pronoun that includes the singular one.


My conclusions dovetail with FB’s own declarations of intent, as expressed in their own core self-definitions. This thing is yours (ours), it is a catalyst to FBers’ active agency. At least in theory; let’s never lose sight of the practicalities, data-collection, advertising-revenue, social experimentation and attempts at control.

How does FB define itself? FB-on-FB:


Very telling. Syntax: adjectival clause vs. sentence with active verb. Choice of main verbal component: both are catalyst-facilitators, though the first is of more godlike potency (especially combined with “power” later), despite the lack of active verb suggesting a less direct and active sort of activity. Both versions include “share” and “connect” in eye-catching positions: the first version pairs them at the ends of sub-clauses, in a nominalised form (adjectival complements of “the power” and “the word”); the second has them as a pair of active verbs, associated directly with a new component: YOU. That first version’s impersonal “giving”, “people”, and “the world” have changed into “you”, and the sentence’s other nouns are directly associated with “you”: “people” and “life.” Echoing those first- and second-person pronouns in the FB blog entries read above, and a shift back towards the personal and active, sequential, chronological, narrative; albeit now a networked rather than a linear one.

Telling, and helpful. Duly amended own basic info (note that they kindly no longer include items one hasn’t filled out–I have no “home town”–nor do they tell the general public that you’ve made certain items private, they’re just not mentioned). I returned to straight-up first-person active verbs in simple sentences:

[Note to self: must remember to stick in something about being unashamedly puerile, just in case. Overkill and all that.]

It remains to be seen how Facebook handles a basic human need for an arrière-boutique…

→ 2: updates on Facebook
→ 3: updates to … etc.


  1. Addendum: The Dislike Button (2010-08-27)
    I first heard about this a couple of weeks back, in a Facebook Security update:

    (screenshot: all images in this comment likewise; clicking on them will just lead to the picture, not to any site)

    Which refers to a CNN news item. Heck, is FB not run by proper computer nerds, you know, thw kind who’d get this from the horse’s mouth–rather than, cough splutter, CNN?

    CNN item link: Beware of fake Facebook ‘dislike’ button

    Which picks up on

    And now, today, I receive this:

    Sent by a “Eufemia Simmon,” who appears to have no other existence outside Facebook. Her FB page also looks curiously fabricated … particularly the bio and the quote (grammar and “feel” all wrong, especially juxtaposed with the interests; religion incompatible with some of the interests). The activities, interests, and other “likes” look to me like a teenage boy pretending to be a teenage girl: odd bedmates, item by item. Except this person is supposed to be 27. Note, no friends, nor other information that ties in with the “dislike” other than rebellious tendencies. I haven’t reported this, cos your never know, befeit of the doubt and all that, it might simply be a genuine teenage rebel. If FB had been around when I was between 11 and 19, maybe even 25 or so… I’d certainly have done something at least as cheeky.

    top of eufemia's profile
    eufemia's profile part 2

  2. Or is it an American right-wing conspiracy? to discredit the Democratic Party, Islam, and painting? plus “Catcher in the Rye” and “The Constant Gardener” (oooh, and some of the other movies…) and all they stand for? and women’s participation in martial arts, other active sports, drinking, and computing?

    It might just be a local Arkansas in-joke. Arkansanians, responses on a postcard to obrienatrix@apologetically-culturally-ignorant.com

    Why is this dangerous? People: if you haven’t yet done so, go read Octavia E. Butler, the “Parable” duo. As ever, the finest speculative fictionists are at worst eerily prescient–that’s what’s actually “scientific” about all “science fiction”–and at best a wise warning that should be at the front, not the back, of the mind.

  3. I’m still grumpy about that stupid “favourite quotations” bit. Like those blasted Victorian samplers. Or other framed favourite inspirational sayings framed lovingly and hung around a home. The sort of thing that some people seem to think makes it a home. Seen similar in an office, for similar reasons: emphasizing the kinship between one’s FB profile and those parts of one’s habitat that reflect one’s “personality”–or otherwise are one’s accumulated hermit-crab shell. There is of course no relation to marking territory. That would be uncouth, and we’re in the genteel world of doilies and antimacassars here.
    My “favourite quotations” read, for a while, like those of a very grumpy old git. I quite liked them that way:
    Until I found a favourite quotation (gulp), that kind of includes the aforementioned old gittish non-quotation, and pays homage to someone who would snort with derision at the whole idea of favourite quotations–as witness regular denigration of “Quote … Unquote”:
    (the late great Humph).
    I rest my case (and RIP Humph).

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