Facebook Is The New TV

Television is dead. Thank God; what a freaking monstrosity. But it ain’t over yet, kids. Now we got Facebook.

Choose Your Own Adventure was pretty cool when you were little, reading a 50-page novel in size 14. (I never actually read those. Maybe you did.) But now, choice has become insidious. You still devour a steady diet of on-screen drama, but now it’s interactive. Want to see how a character (that is, that person you sort of used to know personally) reacts to another character (you)? Stir them up with an intelligent rebuttal to a lousy argument. Want some recognition, your own personal Emmys or Oscars or whatever-the-hell? Tweet your latest achievement or your social leveling-up. Unlock those new abilities, bro. And remember, it all happens under that soothing blue banner. (There’s a reason they chose blue and decided not to allow skins on profiles. Myspace mistake. Oh, Myspace…)

With the original boob tube, you could switch from channel to channel, from inferior to intellectual programming or from boring to entertaining. You could feed your superiority complex or your need for sedation, whichever malaise prevailed in your head. Now, you don’t even have to press buttons to change channels. You can just scroll. You can silently chuckle at other characters’ political opinions or the kinds of pages they Share from. (Real Amurricans for The Orgninla U S of A? Oh, lol) You can silently analyze the daily commission of grammatical, punctuational, and logical sins. You can construct your comments in perfect English or in ghetto-speak, as context or whim suggest. You can flaunt your intellectual muscle. You can surf from your self-absorbed friends to your philosophical friends to your funny friends. And you can go on categorizing, because isn’t that fun and easy?

Even better: if you have a hundred extra dollars a month, you can carry all this stuff around in your pocket. The cloud and your cloud-drama are only an unlocking swipe and a tap away. (I assume; I don’t have one of those thingies.) Rough day? Bring up that soothing blue-and-white newsfeed. Just got out of a stressful test? Bring it up. Bored at work, at a stoplight, or when sitting around with in-person friends? Bring it up, bro. Lol. Omg. Ttyl.

We are living in science fiction, and it has become science fact. But the repercussions are felt not only in an increased societal productivity and interconnectedness; paradoxically, they appear in increasing personal isolation, increasing screen-addiction, and an increasing disconnect from physical, emotional, and intellectual reality. It’ll be interesting to see how Generation Me acts in ten, twenty, thirty years. How will the iPod, iPad, iPhone, Facebook addict react to weMarriage, weJob, or weKids? Will we outgrow this crippling cloud-based narcissism, this daily adoration of digits? Or will our society collapse under this self-seeking isolationism?

Don’t even get me started on earbud-wearers and the dangers of walking or even standing next to them. Better take out an insurance policy on yourself.

It’s strange to be back, back, back on Facebook

My virtual life has picked up right where it left off eight months ago. Aside from an obnoxious format change (the nth, dammit), the Book of Faces is exactly as mundane, tantalizing, and largely irrelevant as ever. Typing “fac” into the URL field and letting autocomplete do the rest is still a quick fix for stress, boredom, or basic blue-feeling. Clicking the little red thingies still brings the familiar rush and the familiar disappointment of finding out that you’ve been notified of nothing important at all.

But eight months away did show me something. It showed me that real people still exist and that I could still relate to them the old-fashioned way. It taught me that “keeping in touch” is really a poor excuse for an addiction to digital voyeurism. It taught me that it doesn’t really matter how I look online, because how I treat people who are standing in front of me is way more important. It taught me that my imagined digital circles of relevance were just that–imagined.

This may be the complaint of an old fuddy-duddy, or it may be a your revelation of the day. The degree of numbness you’ve incurred with repeated Facebook abuse will decide for you.

Response to: Evangelicals Question The Existence Of Adam And Eve

First, read or listen to the NPR piece:

http://www.npr.org/2011/08/09/138957812/evangelicals-question-the-existence-of-adam-and-eve

Christianity does not hinge on the literal existence of a first man and woman nor on a literal moment-in-time fall from grace. The brokenness of our world and our glimpses of joy are evidence enough that we were created for perfect relationship with God and other humans and that we’ve screwed it up beyond repair. Christianity hinges on the concept of our original purpose of glorifying God; on our choice of sin; and on our redemption by God. This little garden-of-eden-to-end-of-the-age is acted out in our hearts every day–and God still wins us back.

Shifting gears: when Paul mentions Adam as a literal man, he’s writing under the interpretation of Genesis that was accepted in his day. If God is as incomprehensible as we say he is, what’s to stop him from inspiring a man to write an epistle under a cultural interpretation that may not be literally true? He is still our Maker, our Lover, our Forgiver, and our Judge, and I will still follow him even if he allowed something like that in the writing of the New Testament. Is this a copout to a self-created image of God? Perhaps–but in the realm of the infinite, the game changes.

The alarming thing is that those who resist current trends in science are acting out of fear, not out of faith. Read Romans 14 and judge for yourself whether I’m taking the final words out of context, but the chapter ends with “whatever is not from faith is sin.” Hardcore denial of current scientific research reflects a lack of faith that God could go beyond the boxes we were taught to put him in. That’s not to say that current research is correct–I don’t know if it is, because it’s changing all the time; but I do think it’s incredibly fearful of evangelicals to torch scientific disciplines that seek to understand the immense complexity of the world God made.

http://www.gtanders.com/culture/161/

To survive, you must bend; you must adapt. We are all connected by plastic, copper, silicon, fiber, and radio waves carrying ones and zeros; and if you don’t log in, you will break. Are you juggling an exchange of bits over the cellular ether, an exchange of bits over Facebook chat, and an exchange of bits to prove that you’re doing your job at work? So am I. Join me in the increasing plasticity of life.

This is not what I signed up for, but I do remember seeing something in the Contract of Life that mentioned terms changing without notice. I guess it happened, and it happened so subtly that I didn’t notice. I’d like to get out of this contract, or at least revert it to its previous state; but the Lessor seems to have moved on. He says print is dead, Facebook is relating, and the iPad is so last year.

The byproduct of the coming digital integration will be a massive physical isolation. It’s already happening: all across the world, millions of people are sitting in front of a screen right now, digesting bits assembled into pictures, games, articles, love letters. Somewhere on the other end of hundreds of miles of plastic, copper, silicon, fiber, and radio waves, another human entered those bits into cyberspace while staring at another screen.

The progress of the digital age cannot be discounted, but we are only just beginning to see the accompanying regress. With speed comes exhaustion; with logins, aloneness; and with plasticity, loss of essential nature.

The human mind needs to be oxygenated just like any other organ, and even introverts need face-to-face love to survive the loneliness of digitization. As much as we must bend to keep up, let’s make holy a place where we can snap back to our most human shape; where we can find each other breathing the same air; where ones and zeroes cannot interfere; and where humanity is valued over plasticity.

Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment–to love one another–is the same message you heard before.

– 1 John 2:7

The Wedge

Not yet conscious, not yet human, but headed in that direction.

They worked you up in a glorious reeking haze, dulled senses unfeeling, and there you go. You were not planned, and neither was the act.

Can’t kick yet and can’t tell her you’ve come because at this point, she could just be late.

In eleven years, if you make it, you’ll earn the same reproductive rights to your own body that now drive a wedge between your mother’s interests and your own.

But for now, your mother says

FUCK YOU CHILD

You’re a nuisance and I hate you.

And god weeps in the atoms of the scalpels that slice you.