Friday, October 12, 2007
Do you have Facebook?
Some time ago I received a mail from a friend who wanted to have me as his Facebook friend. As one proof Finland still remains a monoculture, local media also tends to have a sort of monomania as to what they write about and consider newsworthy at a given time. Whenever a new trend arises, Fenno-Ugric media lemmings immediately hop on the bandwagon, and for a month or two one rarely hears about anything else, when every journo worth their salt wants to give their in-depth analysis (or less than that) on what this shiny new and (supposedly) revolutionary whatchamacallit is all about! Of course, this is how media works all over the globe, but the small population of Finland (5 millions) also means the sandbox is somehow far more limited and it's harder to escape if one does not want that sand to one's eyes.
As you have gathered by now, the inescapable trend Finnish wheelers and dealers of media have been obsessing about has been this Facebook thing, one of these "social networks", founded in 2004 by an American college student called Mark Zuckerberg, where one can share with the rest of the world all sorts of important and essential facts such as what one watches on the telly and whether one is a pathetic, miserable loser with no friends, no spouse, no job, no education and no money or a super-social and sexually successful mega-networker with a formidable CV, nice annual income and naturally tons of cool friends (however a "friend" is defined), especially those with a heavy name-dropping value.
Now, I already have registered myself to Yahoo, Blogspot, MySpace, YouTube, Last.FM and Flickr (not to talk about countless mailing lists and forums I may or may not follow actively), so after all this (and having to consider also the fact I still have limited daily hours for my Net activities) I'm wondering how can I have time and energy for all this networking. Not to talk about maintaining and updating the pHinnWeb site, blog and mailing list, and keeping up my daily e-mail correspondence and constantly answering people's inquiries from all over the world about this thing or that. All these newspaper and magazine articles have been prone to emphasize the fact that people have been known to spend (or waste, however you see it) hours and hours daily at Facebook so, really, that's the last thing I need now! And as said, do I really want the rest of the world to know about my humble person anything more than is necessary; always wishing people to rather judge me by my, erm, work (or whatever you can call all this dabbling with music & culcha) than whether my face is pretty or if I have a great ability to whisper sweet nothings to their ears at a cocktail party or not.
So, I kind of had already sworn I wouldn't add any more of these "social networks" to my already considerable burden of obligations (hah!), but what do you know. Though I didn't want to be a nasty asocial curmudgeon (any more) and do a disservice to this mentioned friend of mine, so as a courtesy (and always being a curious cat and a sucker), I registered at Facebook and accepted his request. So, all you pHinn fans (and haters) can now find me there as "Phinn Kompleksi" (this Facebook member system apparently doesn't allow one to spell "pHinn" correctly). On hearing about my registration, one friend suggested I might next like to join Irc-Galleria, too (a popular Finnish social network favoured by teenagers) -- uhh, touché!
About the myriad ways Facebook has enrichened my life so far: already I have been turned into a vampire and been sent all sorts of invitations, e.g. to join some TV trivia quiz or to compare movie tastes, or to clubs in other towns that I can't possibly attend. And now people also can add all my known nicknames to my profile. Though I haven't sent or been sent any "gifts" (obviously a virtual counterpart to that little tinsel you can find from chocolate Easter eggs) or haven't been "poking" anyone, either, to avoid any possible embarrassing misunderstandings and accusations of sexual harassment. How long will it take before the ecstasy of communication will turn to panic? Well, I adopted a policy of not taking anything here too seriously, as long as there's an "Ignore" button available to any of these offerings. It would be interesting to know how much of the "New Communality" of this much-touted Web 2.0" actually consists of just new technology-enabled ways to talk crap with your friends and waste time (and precious working hours) on trivial activities that were not possible before.
Talking of the related issues of privacy and Facebook, Juri sent me the YouTube link above. Well, I guess I have to take the risk, then. Besides, if CIA and all these intelligence [sic] organisations want to gather indiscriminating information on someone, aren't there already a million and one other places where to get the dirt if they really need it? Living in the age of information, we have already lost the game of retaining a total control over the life-long data that's in distribution about us, and potentially accessible to anyone with necessary means who just wants to grab it. Perhaps I see fatalism as a better option than paranoia, but we become vulnerable as soon as we are born, become members of society's networks, both formal and informal, and all sorts of personal files (health, education, work, financial) on us are beginning unavoidably to find their way to the system. Not to talk about our own involvement in all sorts of social activities leaving a record somewhere. And as for spreading personal info about oneself to these networks, I suppose it's always a conscious choice. After all, we are all social animals aware of our own self-worth, being unique and with the urge of being recognised by others (there's both narcissism healthy and unhealthy, and in some cases just a fine line separating both).
Well, gladly there's also now Arsebook as an anti-social alternative!