The impersonal stereo

“Friendship is a sacred thing, and I believe Facebook is cheapening it.” – Jimmy Kimmel

May 16, 2011:

Me: Hello?
Unfamiliar Number: Hello, Liana?
Me: Excuse me?
Unfamiliar Number: (split-second pause) Oh, my God, I’m sorry, I think I dialed the wrong number! Sorry!
Me: Oh, it’s OK.
Unfamiliar Number: This is *****, by the way.
Me: OK. Bye.

This is the best, clearest, and probably the funniest example of how you know for a fact that people have just been bitching about you. Your name is so seared into their brains from the conversation that they end up dialing your number by mistake. In my own oversight, I had long ago deleted the caller’s number so I didn’t recognize it when the phone rang, or I would have ignored the call. Shortly after this episode, I found that the caller had removed me from her Facebook friends list.

Two and a half weeks ago, Afham and I were evicted from his house. A few days later, one of his sisters removed me from her private Facebook friends list, thus cutting off my access to the bizarre inconsistencies and dirty laundry that make up her equally bizarre life. Then a week ago, I opted out of bridesmaid duty for her five-times-and-counting-postponed wedding to a man would have been her third husband, citing irreconcilable differences and making it known that I could not be thought of as condoning the behavior that she has been displaying towards her family over the past few months. This morning, I discovered that she had also removed me from her public Facebook friends list.

The common denominator here is the role Facebook now plays in our lives. Now that Facebook has become the single most relied-upon tool to update your life and make sure everyone else knows it, it has also become the most favored method of letting someone know that you want absolutely nothing more to do with them. Ever. Removing them from Facebook is equal to removing them from your life.

Which gives one the impression that Facebook has become your life. I can’t decide if it reads or sounds sadder.

I will admit here and now that I have done my fair share of spring cleaning, but I do it with the utter conviction that my purging revolves around the people whom I am fairly certain have no memory of who I am or why I’m on their friends list. The issue I’m really homing in on here is the level of human interaction that social media networks like Facebook, Twitter and even BlackBerry Messenger — all of which I am guilty of patronizing — have whittled it down to.

I’m a big advocate for communications technology and social media. I can no longer imagine how I would have been able to keep up with whats going on in the world if I didn’t have Twitter announcing things like Osama bin Laden’s demise the instant he hit the ground. But I’m no longer comfortable with the way it has also made people become so removed from interpersonal relationships that it has left a marked difference in the way they communicate. Gone is the need to hash things out over a cup of coffee (or tequila), over the phone, or even over some instant messaging service; now you just click ‘Unfriend’. Gone is the desire to call someone up to congratulate them on their graduation, wedding or firstborn, or to offer condolences on the passing of a beloved; now you just post it on their Walls because it saves you the forced verbal niceties and awkward lapses in conversation.

What has the world come to?

For someone with Asperger Syndrome, this decline in human interaction may come as a huge bonus from the booming convenience of social media. But for the entire world population as a whole, surely this isn’t the direction we want to see our daily — not to mention normal — communication plummet towards? Surely typing in block letters can’t yield the same results (and address anger management issues) that talking or even shouting can? And when did letting some 983 people know what we do, where we go and whom we see become a way of seeking gratification and validation? When did it become OK to place friendships and relationships on the same priority shelf as something as impersonal and insignificant as Facebook?

When did it become OK to live life on the basis of something so lifeless?

1 thought on “The impersonal stereo

  1. S.

    I like this post. and completely agree. I have felt that Facebook in particular, but by no means independently, has robbed us of meaningful communication and relationships. It is like we have 500 FB Friends, and only see a handful of
    those regularly.
    That being said, I have also come into contact with some great people that have touched my life in only positive ways through social networking. So I guess it is not all bad.
    Great Post!!
    – S.


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