So, my publicist/promoter told me to open a Facebook account. I did as I was told, reflexively, because the whole reason you acquire a publicist/promoter is because you’re a doofwad with nary a clue about how to promote yourself.
The payoff was immediate. Mothers of Twins booked me as a keynote speaker for its 2009 Conference in Las Vegas, and — boom just like that — I was communicating with a mother of 4-month-old twin girls living in Caracas, Venezuela.
Makes your head spin.
This new cyberworld we inhabit can be fun, creative, useful and educational. It swirls with exponential possibilities for connecting human beings, not to mention making me famous.
But my publicist didn’t see me wince, too, as I signed up. Because this new world comes with some built-in weirdness. Specifically, MySpace, Facebook and the blogging phenomena include a Trojan horse of narcissism for a culture that needs no help or encouragement in this department.
If you open a Facebook account, you will find on your home page, right next to your primary photo, a text box with the question “What are you doing right now?” You click the box, and “(Name) is …” pops up. You complete that sentence. JoeBob is fighting a sinus infection. Shelly is getting a migraine. Todd is looking for his ferret that escaped while the cage was being cleaned. Chris is doing laundry. Etcetera.
The post includes a time stamp, so that a visitor can know exactly how long ago your ferret escaped.
There is a blue “comment” thing you can click to comment on what people are doing, such as, “Yikes, sorry to hear about your ferret.”
Of course, the imp in my personality couldn’t resist, so I typed “Steven is trying to remember what he was thinking in his primary photo,” because the photo has me looking pensive in dark glasses. And sure enough, a couple of people wished me success in remembering.
Twenty-four hours later, I typed “Steven is happy to say he has remembered what he was thinking in the picture.” People I never met and don’t know were genuinely happy for me.
And I love that the text box is communicated in the third person. As if the owners of the respective profiles are visiting the site, too. As if they are watching themselves. Listening to themselves. Getting some news about the kind of day they are having.
That’s just it, see. We are watching ourselves. And watching ourselves watch ourselves. That’s the part of this new cyberworld — and the culture it both creates and reflects — that blows my mind. Makes me giggle helplessly and kinda creeps me out all at the same time.
Movies such as “The Truman Show” (1998) and “Ed TV” (1999) already explored this foolish absurdity. Reality TV shows simply revel in it. Shamelessly.
I’m pitching a reality show called “Surviving Survivor.” The show will follow the adventures of four guys sitting abreast on the same couch watching the new season of “Survivor.” They’ll realistically argue about whose turn it is to fill the chip bowl and get realistic phone calls from their wives/girlfriends realistically demanding why they aren’t home.
And there should be a reality show called “What the Hell’s Wrong With You?” realistically depicting the lives of the nine remaining people in America younger than 40 who don’t have either a MySpace or Facebook account. These nine cast members will build gingerbread houses and play strip poker while they realistically examine and discuss on national television their value-based decision to eschew personal Web pages on the grounds such things are social exhibitionism and an invasion of privacy.
I just typed “Steven is removing his own gall bladder with a home surgery kit” on my Facebook home page.
I don’t keep a diary. But, if I did, I can’t see myself taking it to the mall, walking up to a stranger, turning to page 38 and reading aloud, “I’m feeling blue and unable to concentrate today.” Not because I’m afraid for people to know that, but because I just can’t imagine my random moods would be either that important or that interesting to anyone.
A “friend” I don’t know — you acquire a fair number of these on Facebook — writes, “I need to get a life,” on his home page. He has this epiphany about needing to get a life. And he announces that to the world on Facebook.
I’m speechless with the irony.
Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Clear View Counseling Wellness Center in Las Vegas and the author of “Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing” (Stephens Press). His columns appear on Sundays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.