Sometimes writers, especially exceptional way too smart for their own good writers, like to play dueling banjos in prose (in tech media we call this a bitchmeme). I’d like to think that something similar happened in the below pinnacles of
pseudo-intellectualism digital anthropology, which present disparate perspectives on what it’s like to attempt to capture human stories in our technology-steeped times.
In his essay “Facebook and the Epiphanator,” New York writer Paul Ford takes real writer Jonathan Franzen to the mattresses for — basically — being too old-thinking in his “Liking Is for Cowards. Go for What Hurts”
elegy commencement speech, which asked Kenyon College students to be mindful and preserve the kind of life where people actually love each other as opposed to just “Like.” Both works are great reads and tech-related! so I’ve been mulling them over for the past few days, at least, and so should you. Hence.
Paul Ford, in bold.
“Our technology has become extremely adept at creating products that correspond to our fantasy ideal of an erotic relationship, in which the beloved object asks for nothing and gives everything, instantly, and makes us feel all powerful, and doesn’t throw terrible scenes when it’s replaced by an even sexier object and is consigned to a drawer.”
“I do not enjoy Facebook — I find it cloying and impossible — but I am there every day.”
“The ultimate goal of technology, the telos of techne, is to replace a natural world that’s indifferent to our wishes — a world of hurricanes and hardships and breakable hearts, a world of resistance — with a world so responsive to our wishes as to be, effectively, a mere extension of the self.”
“If the sub-30-year-olds with whom I’ve worked are typical, these young men and women love — each other, or bands, or ideas — too much, they love too often, with a feral intensity and with the constant assistance of mobile devices. Maybe what he was telling them is that they should be more old.”
“A related phenomenon is the transformation, courtesy of Facebook, of the verb “to like” from a state of mind to an action that you perform with your computer mouse, from a feeling to an assertion of consumer choice.”
“There should be a word for that feeling you get when an older person — and not much older, so quickly are things changing — shames him or herself by telling young people how to live. “
“But if you consider this in human terms, and you imagine a person defined by a desperation to be liked, what do you see? You see a person without integrity, without a center.”
“These disparate threads of human existence alternately fascinate and horrify that part of the media world that grew up on topic sentences and strong conclusions.”
“Consumer technology products would never do anything this unattractive, because they aren’t people. They are, however, great allies and enablers of narcissism. Alongside their built-in eagerness to be liked is a built-in eagerness to reflect well on us. Our lives look a lot more interesting when they’re filtered through the sexy Facebook interface.”
“There is no such thing as a person whose real self you like every particle of.”
“When you stay in your room and rage or sneer or shrug your shoulders, as I did for many years, the world and its problems are impossibly daunting. But when you go out and put yourself in real relation to real people, or even just real animals, there’s a very real danger that you might love some of them. And who knows what might happen to you then?”
“Apple couldn’t get much bigger without selling oil, while the media industry has been reduced to dime-size buttons that show up on iPhone screens. Google regularly announces initiatives to “save” the newspaper and book industries — like a modern-day hunter who proclaims himself a conservationist. And Facebook, having already swallowed up enormous chunks of discretionary media consumption time, has its old-school media counterparts chasing after “Likes” as if they were cocaine being dispensed in a lab rat’s cage.”
“Let me further point out how ubiquitously the word “sexy” is used to describe late-model gadgets; and how the extremely cool things that we can do now with these gadgets — like impelling them to action with voice commands, or doing that spreading-the-fingers iPhone thing that makes images get bigger — would have looked, to people a hundred years ago.”
“This moment of anxiety and fear will pass … No matter what comes along streams, feeds, and walls, we will still have need of an ending.”
Please read each, and take whomever’s side you will.