Social networking sites

From Everything Shii Knows, the only reliable source

This website is an archive. It ran from 2006-2010. Virtually everything on here is outdated or inaccurate.

Below this line the article is no longer up to date and does not represent my "valid opinion" as it currently stands.
You're still welcome to read it. Just thought I'd let you know.

Most people recognize that social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook, and so on are essentially pointless and maintain profiles just for the limited value they get out of it ("hey, it's free"). I intend to argue that you're better off without them.

Twitter is a bumper sticker communication mechanism. Facebook, MySpace, and are not even media: they are a means of reducing your identity to a node on a graph. You can communicate something of limited value to your friends through these networks, but truly meaningful communication must take place on another level entirely. What takes place on these three websites is not meant to be saved or looked back upon later. In fact, it is better off deleted -- it will free up a little space on their hard drives and in your head.

The experience of technological narcissism produces a smothering obsession with ways to reflect the superficial self. There is an ability of self-expression withourt a recourse to a superficial identification within a technological process, product or field of influence. The process of self-expression becomes an obsession to declare individuality, uniqueness, specialness that is founded on superficiality. ... Self-expression has become a variation on a common theme -- the expression of the narcissistic superficial self through purely technological means.
... individuality, uniqueness, and the creative act have nearly been erased from experience. We now follow standard procedure to meet standard goals. Technological narcissism pushes forward with making the experience of society, our culture, more and more general -- a worldwide monoculture. While pursuing its self-fulfilled prophecies of personal freedom, liberty, and unlimited variations for unique expression (individuality) it has done nothing but construct a worldwide monoculture that is destroying the possibility of the existence for any real experience and replaces it with a "standing reserve" of experiential processes with superficially constructed deviations ... the marketing term is personalization.
The desire to "be human" has been supplanted with a desire to be "different" within the system and, most of all, to be acknowledged for being different.
C.E. Hayes, "A Specious Species". Green Anarchy #25 pp.18-19

Social networking websites are actually anti-social. They are not sprung from the desire to assist others and integrate onself into a functioning part of an experience-based society, but from the desire to be networked -- essentially a narcissistic validation of one's identity, and a lust to watch that ego grow. The very names MySpace and YouTube betray this.

In all these websites you grow your network, and your ego, from "friending". The use of "friend" as a verb obscures the fact that you are not actually making friends when you friend. You are either asking an existing friend to confirm your relationship for your sake, or asking a non-friend to support you in your quest for ego. Only a close friend would just as easily add you as you would add them. Those sort of relationships where there is absolutely no ambiguity about who would want to "friend" who are not assisted in any way by a social networking website. The people you "find" on these websites are not your good friends, whom you already know, but more distant acquaintances whom you want to prove your friendship to, for your own sake.

The special functions that some of these websites, such as Twitter or, serve is similarly narcissistic. They track information about you and you alone, and broadcast what you want the world to see, as if they cared! At least on a blog you are writing with the intention of saying something useful. On a social networking website it is acceptable, and sometimes even encouraged, to be useless and say nothing of value. It's no wonder communication on sites like YouTube can be so frustrating! Everyone enters into them with the intention of making themselves heard, so obviously some people will just say the first idiotic thing that pops into their heads.

Comment by OGT: Isn't it also egotistical to set up a website on your own domain and tell people what to do?

It's arrogant, if you like, but I'm not writing this in order to marvel at my own genius or to draw attention to myself. I like reading and writing cultural criticism, and this is a theory for you to consider. If you disagree I would love to hear why and develop a discussion. Just don't send your ideas to me in 140-character bursts.

On MySpace, if you write clearly and compose coherent paragraphs with informed observations on history and current events, "buddies" will make fun of you.
Mark Bauerlein, author of The Dumbest Generation

At this stage these websites have spread across the upper and middle classes with such speed that they are relied on for some things. I understand that in Silicon Valley it may be difficult to go without a Twitter account. Similarly, on college campuses deleting your Facebook profile on principle can make it difficult for acquaintances who want to look up where you live or how to phone you. So, I recommend taking a middle path, mindfully considering questions like these:

Do I need to broadcast this information?

Who would I like to see it? Would my parents want to see it? Would an employer want to see it?

If this information were missing, would people demand it? Would people be inconvenienced? Would well-intended desires of others go unfulfilled?

Would malicious desires go unfulfilled?

Suggested replacements for a profile: writing letters.

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