Being on Facebook is like being on any of the other public channels: you're both there and not there. You're both yourself and another. You are both a secret and a mirror. I have to say that I'm amazed at how many with a Facebook profile, also among my own list of friends, regularly send out warnings against this and the potential maltreatment of personal data by this and that presumed or not so presumed big corporations. I laugh all the time. As far as I'm concerned, I ignore such warnings, and I insist on having all security on FB disabled. I don't worry about corporations using my photos for adds, and nor am I afraid that I might get fired or sued because I say something that might disagree with disagreeing parties. And why? Simply because (1) I don't presume that anyone reads anything I have to say, (2) nor do I presume that my life is so goddamned interesting that it would even remotely interest those with interests. And (3) I trust that fairly intelligent people will know better than that. Which means that they will know that there is always a filter placed on what the presumed-public-to-know must know. What idiots might think doesn't interest me. If, however, I nonetheless choose to believe that some might read my blog or the feeds on my updates, I do not do it because I presume anything, but because such a belief, or rather hope, may create an entertaining narrative, such as in this simple scenario: if I said this, which may or may not be true, what might others then think? Such invitations to speculations enhance our reflective thinking and appeal to our ludic sense, but should not be confused with what we know as a matter of fact. We don't often swear by our assumptions unless we have a very good reason for it.
On the question of privacy—as against the state of when you yourself feel the need to expose yourself as a big secret on line to compensate for the fact that you have no secrets of your own—it's really very simple. If you want to stay private, there are a few places you can still go to—try Tromsø, or a top of a mountain where you can play the hermit ascetic—or make sure that you don't appear on any websites or links that you yourself upload in cyber space. As a general rule, I actually believe that only those whose lives are even more boring than mine actually worry about someone out there always watching. I say, if that is the case, let them watch. It's not like I'm an innocent lamb, and I entice to no such watching with my presence on the internet. This being said, I'm amazed that we still need to debate what to do about our cyber selves, while using the vocabulary and conceptual apparatus that is only adequate enough for barely covering the notion of the self as we know it thus far in terms of the self's universal actions: you get born, you fuck and procreate, and then you die.
On Controversy today, people interested in communication—a writer, a rhetorician, a media researcher, and a student—talked about the benefits or the disadvantages of having a profile on Facebook. Some invoked pragmatic reasons—you want to know what others are doing, even if the info you get may not be so accurate—and others claimed that the whole thing is rather superficial. Your own info and the info provided by others is just not enough to rank among meaningful communication. The writer—a man past his prime and the oldest on the show—and the youngest, the student—didn't think that they need to either show off their bare bums in pictures or have their physical profile they already have more enhanced in virtual space.
So, the question of one's cyber identity was seen either as a whimsical position, by those against Facebook, or as a necessary and interesting engaging with new media by those pro Facebook. The only woman on the show, the rhetorician, implied that she has no time for anything else other than being on Facebook all the time. She was also an advocate for the positive way in which Facebook enhances our senses. The sixth sense was invoked, but what was said about it was mainly nonsense. The sixth sense is not the same as the sense that we might get about people through what they let us know about themselves through their writings. The writer, here, added that the problem with getting 'senses' about other people's state of mind is that the information often comes in an unmediated or unedited form. He doesn't appreciate, for instance, when people who write X-mas cards, write about every detail in their lives over a whole year. As a social forum he was against this type of communication, yet as a forum for promoting your public life as a writer and lecturer, he was more welcoming of Facebook.
The other question raised was the question of whether Facebook can be a forum for democratic debate or whether it is merely a forum for self-promotion. Why this should be any different from the other web sources where we plaster our faces all over the place, not to mention write everything about our academic life, publications, and other grand things that we have achieved, beats me. The point is that ever since old times, when people began to have access to public media, they have always been interested in exposure. It's a basic form of desire. What we need is to learn about the codes of conduct that are devised in connection with all new media, and that these codes are up for constant revision, and hence nothing to fear. Perhaps what we also need is a good spanking. We need to have someone tell us that we don't need to do anything for the sake of appearances, nor do we need to live our lives in constant dependency on this or that myth, or engage in acts that materialize as a set of ideological beliefs.
The whole point of Facebook, and one which seems to escape many, is that Facebook opens towards destabilizing the idea that knowledge of the other can be achieved if only we get to read the other like a book. Facebook plays with the ironic ineffable of the fact that insofar as more and more become more and more illiterate in our dominant visual culture, such readings of faces, according to the book, and as a book, are virtually impossible. Perhaps we can all start thinking of the implications of not being able to read people anymore, rather than yak unreflectively about being constantly under some presumed surveillance.
Here in the wilderness, I'm glad, though, that I can be sure of no hidden cameras around that would catch me with my ass over the fence to the daisy house. But then, as established previously, this is a magical place where the mirrors are not deceiving, and the reflections are really true.