Facebook keeps asking me, “How are you feeling, Jim?”
How am I feeling?
What the hell is this?
Recently, without warning, Facebook started asking questions. What’s going on? What are you doing? What are you thinking?
As I said on Facebook itself (or is that herself?), I find this sudden change in behavior creepy and unsettling and maybe just a bit like the first warning signs of an overly attached psychotic girlfriend.
How am I feeling? It’s just me, right? Or do the rest of you hear that question in Glenn Close’s Fatal Attraction voice?
I expect my machines to be cold and logical and completely uninterested in atavistic human emotions.
And I like it that way.
I don’t want machines interested in how I’m feeling, I don’t want them to feign human concern and I for damned sure don’t want them feeling human emotions. Seriously, don’t you people watch crappy science fiction movies? Nothing good can come from human emotion imprinted on machines. There are far worse scenarios than SkyNet, Folks. Far worse. Worse even than Edgar, the creepy jealous 8-bit PC with 128K of RAM and the mind of a horny adolescent who lusts after Virginia Madsen in Electric Dreams. Worse even than Proteus, the malignant evil computer who tried to impregnate Julie Christie in Demon Seed. Worse even than Hector, the eight foot tall clockwork psychopath intent on hooking up with Farrah Fawcett in Saturn 3 (In the Hector’s defense, the robot rape part was marginally less revolting than Fawcett’s nude scene with Kirk Douglas). And, sure those are pretty bad (OK, really, really bad), yes, but as terrifying as those cautionary tales were, they’re nothing compared to true horror: Robot Robin Williams as a self propelled sex toy getting it on with Embeth Davidtz in Bicentennial Man (That sound you hear? That’s the ghost of Isaac Asimov upchucking through his muttonchops).
How am I feeling?
That’s how it starts, folks, right there. Facebook asks you how you’re feeling, next thing you know you’re having greasy jungle monkey sex with a Cuisinart.
And where does it end?
More and more machines are being plugged into the internet, first they act all concerned and ask you how you feel, but once you’re involved and it’s too late to back out of the relationship without becoming rabbit stew, well, then it’ll be all about them.
Call me a selfish bastard if you must, but frankly I just don’t care why my clothes dryer is feeling sad today.
And just wait until they start making smart toilets… but, I digress.
Look, I’m just saying be careful what you wish for. Back in my day, everybody my age wanted to see Farrah Fawcett without her clothes on – but when we finally did it was indelibly combined with Kirk Douglas’ wrinkled flabby gray ass. The mere mention of Charlie’s Angels nowadays and I have to bite down on reflexive dry heaves.
I know, I know. It seems we’ve wandered far afield in a few short paragraphs and you wonder where I’m going with this.
I’m going here: for some folks, the rapid evolution of technology and the resulting change to social structures can be more than a bit unnerving.
If you live long enough, there will come a point where you start to feel like the world is passing you by. That things are changing faster than you can keep up. And eventually you reach a point where you just stop trying and assume a permanent state of boggle. Every time I hear the “music” my kid listens to, I feel exactly this way. This really isn’t anything new. Back in the 1970’s a guy named Alvin Toffler coined the term “Future Shock” for too much change too fast. Toffler wrote a book with the same name and they made it into a movie narrated by Orson Welles. They made us read the book and watch the movie when I was in high school, and I remember laughing about it. Future Shock? More like Old People Shock, nothing in the book or the movie seemed all that shocking or strange to my sixteen year old viewpoint. Technology was awesome, get in, sit down, and keep both arms inside the ride at all times.
Do you realize that there are still folks alive today who once farmed the Midwest behind horse teams?
Imagine how much the world has changed in the short eight decades or so of their lifetimes.
Technological advance has been accelerating geometrically since the beginning of the last century. And that technology continually transforms society. Advances in technology affect all aspects of our civilization. Sometimes changes come in small incremental ways over time, say, such as how we grow our food or manufacture products or fight our wars, those changes lead to slow measured alterations in the way we interact with each other. Sometimes change is sudden and profound, such as the advent of the birth control pill or the internet, and then we see radical transformation of traditional roles, rituals, and long established customs – and to most human beings, there is little more unsettling than that.
It’s no wonder why the older we get, typically the more conservative we get, the more we pine for the good old days when things appeared to be simpler and easier, and change didn’t seem so much like a car careening down a hill out of control. The world that was once familiar has become increasingly alien and strange, bit by bit, faster and faster.
And a simple thing like a machine casually asking “How are you feeling?” can bring it all into uneasy focus.
Nowadays, we tend to call it information overload.
And it’s happening faster and faster as we rush headlong towards the Singularity – i.e. that point in time as defined by writer and futurist Vernor Vinge where our technology so radically alters society that what comes after is no longer human as we currently define it and cannot be predicted with any degree of certainty from our present vantage point.
At the moment, I suspect society is on the cusp of another profound change, one that will push us a crucial step closer to Vinge’s Singularity.
This time one driven by social media.
Social media is transforming our civilization in a thousand different ways, big and small, all profound. It’s changing how we define traditional interpersonal relationships, power structures, politics, information gathering, viewpoints, right on down to the syntax and grammars of written language.
Last week in St. Louis, a customer was a jerk to a waiter in a restaurant. Nothing special, it happens a thousand times a day all over the world, most of the time the waiter just has to stand there and take it. But this time the customer’s obnoxious behavior was made public on the media sharing site, Reddit. And as a result another waitress was fired, which then also went public via social media. And suddenly a Christian Pastor (the obnoxious customer) and Applebee’s (the obnoxious employer) found themselves on the receiving end of a monstrous tidal bore of scorn and condemnation, one that is having very real financial consequences. Obnoxious customers and obnoxious employers have long treated those in the service industry as serfs and chattel, after this incident, and others like it, they may have to think twice about that. Social media and a simple smart phone will very likely change that one sided relationship, shifting social power to a more equitable footing. I suspect that you’ll eventually see a de facto rating system similar to the formal one on eBay where both sellers and buyers rate each other on their mutual transaction – you’re seeing that happen to a certain extent on Applebee’s Facebook page right now. Once upon a time, those with power and money controlled the information flow and defined the social narrative, no longer. And the Restaurant chain’s ongoing public self immolation on social media is an abject lesson in why companies need to understand the changed landscape sooner rather than later (and in Applebee’s case, why they really need to just shut the hell up right now on Facebook, because, whoa).
Down in Florence, Alabama, a high school football coach and part time psychology teacher was suspended for ranting on in front of his students about “Fat Butt Michelle Obama” and voicing his dislike for gays and other people he feels aren’t living in accordance with his personal version of Jesus. A student recorded the teacher’s off-curriculum rant via the usual means and posted it to Facebook. Where it went viral. A number of folks of similar bent (including the seriously disturbed commenters here) have complained that the coach’s civil rights and freedom of expression are being suppressed. Nonsense. A teacher in front of classroom full of students has no reasonable expectation of privacy, certainly there’s no reason whatsoever for a student to keep a teacher’s public assholery private – and why should they? A teacher’s freedom of speech while in front of a classroom is sharply constrained and for good reason (usually), ask any teacher (Hell, in many cases a teacher’s freedom of expression is constrained outside of the classroom as well, just ask the former-porn star turned middle school science teacher who was fired in California last week for doing absolutely nothing wrong). The difference is that in the past, the coach’s excuses – he claimed the students took him out context and that he was just talking in a debate type environment, obviously untrue once you watch the video – would have to be taken at face value. His word against a bunch of kids. And he’d keep getting away with it. Just as Mitt Romney’s “Forty-Seven” percent comment and Todd Akin’s “Legitimate Rape” comment could have been dismissed as being taken “out of context.” Which is exactly the excuse they both tried. But, with social media, those traditional excuses and political damage control measures no long work. In this brave new world, freedom of expression has consequences, real ones, immediate ones. If you’re going to say it, you’re going to have to take responsibility for it, better start getting used to that.
Social media is giving us eyes into the Syrian civil war – and it is a civil war, not an uprising, not an “unrest.” It’s a civil war, and we know this because those in the middle of it are using twitter and Facebook and blogs to get the word out. The totalitarian Syrian government cannot control the narrative, cannot hide its brutality and oppression – neither can the rebels, for that matter. Imagine if the Jews had such a tool in 1938. In a very real sense, social media enabled revolution, the Arab Spring, and drives it still. And that should serve as a heads up to both the rulers and the ruled. In this day and age, twitter and Facebook give you far more real power than the Second Amendment ever did. If you value liberty, Americans would be well served to amend the Constitution to ensure unfettered access to communications and social media instead of unrestricted access to guns. This is one of the reasons I am foursquare against laws that, for example, prohibit the of recording police officers and other authority figures in the routine performance of their duties, or ill-conceived restrictions on public access to information such as SOPA/PIPA. I feel the same way about this that the NRA does about guns. And on that note, regarding access to social media over firepower, nobody ever slaughtered an entire school with a smart phone and a twitter account – they have, however, toppled governments. Q.E.D.
But for a lot of people, it’s frightening, this shifting power balance, this changing social structure.
For a lot of people, it’s scary as hell, because it strikes right at who we are.
Yesterday I read an article on Yahoo! News about people taking a “vacation” from social media, from Facebook in particular.
According to the article:
More than 60 percent of adult Facebook users say they have taken a break from the social media site, according to a new study released on Tuesday by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. And 27 percent of users say they plan to spend less time on Facebook in 2013.
Note the part where it says “adult” users – Old People Shock, looks like my sixteen year old self got that part right.
And it’s not just Facebook. A number of people report that they need to periodically take a break from social media in general, from the news, from TV, from information overload. But Facebook for some reason seems to generate more passion and hatred than other forms of social media. There were more than two thousand comments under the Yahoo! News article yesterday, I read every one of them. Only one was positive, the rest were like these:
I quit cold turkey. that place is a time suck with few redeeming benefits.
Could have saved yourself a lot of stress and BS by just avoiding it all together from the start. Fecesbook is a virus.
Fecesbook is not a virus, it's the Devil!
Facebook is rather stupid, nobody needs to know every move you make, especially Big Brother as he is watching it too
I'm going to bed!! Ok, I'm up now!! Really?! Wow, Facebook SUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Facebook sucks! Never been on it never will.
I wish Facebook and Twitter would die swift deaths. Social media has helped ruin this country
Maybe Zucker#$%$ can bring back 8 track tapes too. If a person uses Facecrap, they are a (r)etard.
TAKE A BREAK??? J0ou Zuckerberg better hope they come back, ever.... even 10% of those that left.... Thank God i never had an account....PlSS ON IT
Facebook is a fad.
A fad that will burn-out soon.
At present, one eighth of the world’s population has a Facebook account, I think we’ve long since passed the fad phase.
It sucks! It’s of the devil! The comments that amuse me most are those which claim they’ve never had a social media account, but purely hate social media anyway and blame it for all the perceived ills of the world. These people are future shocked indeed. They hate something because it’s different and they don’t even know why. These are the folks who see the word “change” on a bumper sticker and are reflexively terrified. Change? Oh no, anything but that! Put it back the way it was! For these people, change must be bad, by definition – and yet, these are the very people who when they do eventually join Facebook, are the ones that invariably send me endless, endless, requests to play online games and want me to “like” page after page of special interest forums.
The simple truth of the matter is that social media is a powerful tool, it’s a way to experience the world in ways that we never could before. It’s allows us to experience differing viewpoints, meet other cultures on an equal basis, see things we would never see otherwise (ok, not all good), laugh and cry and sing along with other people’s joy and sorrow.
In the real world, I sailed the seven seas from one end of the globe to the other and walked on every continent but Antarctica, and yet, everyday Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and Google and this very blog show me things I’ve never seen before. To me, it’s amazing, exhilarating, mind expanding, challenging. I’ve never felt the need to take an extended formal break, but then again you’ll notice that I don’t post every day either.
But for some people that same experience is terrifying.
Facebook and all Social Media....WORTHLESS and a Complete WASTE OF TIME!!!! Get a LIFE PEOPLE!!!!
Here's an idea. Go outside and do something. Quit living vicariously through a digital screen. 'Facebook People' don't have any clue how ridiculous their existences are.
That's only like taking a break from breathing toxic air. You need to quite entirely, and you will find how your real life is more meaningful and rich. Those "omg" and "lol" only litter your mind with useless pointless garbage. Are you a domesticated mutt or a free eagle?
This is by far and away the most common sentiment among the Luddites, get a life. Get a life!
As if the people saying “Get a life” are shouting the message down from their hang-gliders. As if they’re scuba diving on WWII wrecks in the Tonga Islands after base jumping from the Empire State Building. Last week they were mountain biking the Appalachian Trail and the week before that they were backpacking across Morocco with a squad of Legionnaires in search of the fabled lost city of gold.
Actually, you know who does that sort of thing?
People on social media.
When Felix Baumgartner jumped from the edge of space and fell towards earth at supersonic speeds, he broadcast the whole way to the ground on social media. And the whole world followed him right on down to the victorious landing. Get a life? Hell, on social media we get share tens of thousands of lives, from the mundane to the extraordinary and everything in between.
And for those people who can’t go outside, who for one reason or another be it age or infirmity or poverty, social media is life.
Get a life. Right. Says the guy afraid to live. Get a life.
I dumped (f)agbook in 2011. It is waste of time and really only for the socially lame. Suckerberg has got everyone by the balls and for no good reason people just continue to use the site. Oh well I guess if you cant have real friends make virtual ones.
I prefer to meet my friends at the cafe or bar for a drink and catch up on old times. Way better than FB. Sometimes I even try to bring real pictures.
Why live a virtual life when you can choose to live a real life? Meeting in person, face to face and interacting with others is more meaningful.
Look at me! I’ve got five hundred friends! Well guess what dumbazz, their not real!
Social media “friends” aren’t real friends.
A fairly famous writer whose website I used to visit says that the people who comment on his blog, who comment on his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter, are just words on a screen. They come and go and mean nothing to him – except as a source of income.
You know, a couple years ago I might have agreed with that sentiment. But I’ve come to see it in a different light. As someone with a somewhat larger than average online footprint, it seems to me that these online “friendships” are more than just words on a screen. I care about people I’ve never met but interact with regularly nonetheless, the ones from all over the world who follow along with me here on Stonekettle Station and on my Facebook and Twitter pages, I would miss them if they were gone (for the most part). Sure they irritate me sometimes, just as they often make me laugh and make me think. Isn’t that the definition of friendship? Is it the same as my long time friends who are made out of meat? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not.
But they are more than just words on a screen and without social media I would likely have never met them.
And that would have been a shame.
I never joined FacePlant. I find most people boring and don't have tolerance for stupid Bullsheet. George Carlin did a skit on Boring People that is a classic. Look at it on youtube. Very funny.
I have a low tolerance for bullshit, that’s why I hang out on YouTube. Uh, okay.
I never use social media, I don't post in comment sections because I am not full of myself and want attention
I don’t post in comments sections, except that I posted this in the comments section of Yahoo! Doh.
"Look me I am on FaceBook". Like if you think I am as wonderful as I do.
I do not like FB~~Everybody seems so happy on FB~~2 happy~~It is very phoney~~
The pettiness of humans was never meant to be put on public display as FB has done.
Because people aren’t petty and self centered and narcissistic in the real world, right?
What was that Bill Cosby joke? So I asked him, why do you do cocaine? And he answered, because it amplifies my personality. And I thought, amplifies your personality? But what if you’re an asshole?
Sure, social media can, and does, amplify the assholes, I don’t think there’s any disputing that (really, let me show you my hate mail) – but it also filters out many of the biases that serve as barriers between people. Skin color, weight, body type, bad breath, sex, accents, and so on. One of the comments up above asked if you’d like to be a free eagle, well on the internet you can be exactly that, free of the chains that drag so many of our relationships down.
Your cell phone is your personal tracking device. RFID chips are already implanted into several products such as food and especially clothing. Kraft is already doing this and has been for years. If you have a web cam in your home you can be spied on at any given moment. I just read a disturbing article in Good Housekeeper about the "home of the future". Very, very scary. 50 years from now babies will be chipped at birth. You will not be able eat, buy food, essentially purchase anything without it. Step out of line, all they have to do is turn off chip which will have the capability of killing you in seconds.
You can't even delete your facebood account. It's creepy. And they link it to your email and find your contacts without you knowing. It's linked to your cell phone. Maybe even address if you'r stupid enough to post that. And Otraitor was bosom buddies with Zuckerberg which makes it even more interesting. They are spying on you!!!
FB was made for the FBI to keep track of people so going to homeland security won't do any good. When I was asked for my ID to log in I knew it was time to log out for good. Just say no and never log in again
Certainly there a downsides to this new technology – not the least of which is that it allows crazy people a much larger platform. Any technology has both benefit and bane, same as with anything. We’re tool users, it’s how we choose to wield the tool that makes all the difference.
The advance of technology, especially technology that changes the very fabric of society is exciting – and frightening.
Our world is changing.
How we connect to each other, how we relate to each other, how we see people and the larger world is changing.
Social media wants to know how I feel about that.
How do I feel? Fascinated.
I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Just as long as it doesn’t involve greasy jungle monkey sex with killer robots.