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I Facebook, Therefore I Am

Written By: Usree Bhattacharya on June 9, 2008 1 Comment

It was some 25,056,000 seconds ago, at the time of this writing, that I joined Facebook, a megalith among social networking sites. Having tried, tested, and deleted my profile on MySpace a year prior, I was incredibly wary of joining a site I felt too old for…wasn’t Facebook for the unjaded and perpetually-partying undergrad crowd? But, as the old saying goes, you should try everything once, and I did. What I didn’t realize at the time was that Facebook is addictive like few things known to man: it’s like the Cocaine or Heroin of the internet age, the hard drug of a networked mind, the nicotine dependency of a digitized society. A few hours without it and I feel a searing withdrawal: a desperate craving in my soul, a cramping in my fingers from (imagined) disuse, a terrifying disconnection with the world at large…I feel all the four symptoms that the Urban Dictionary lists for “Facebook Withdrawal“: 1) Craving, 2) Fear, 3) Denial, and 4) Depression. [Okay, so I put this last sentence in here primarily because it’s funny (and not entirely untrue).] For this reason, I have the official Facebook Toolbar built into my Mozilla Firefox browser. If I receive a Wall Post or mail, am “tagged,” or receive a gift, I see it the second it is done. Patience, as my friends and family will attest, is not one of my virtues.

Usree Bhattacharya's Facebook profile

To paraphrase Descartes, “I Facebook, therefore I am.” I find myself needing to validate my existence through the site. Who I am-or who I seek to be seen as?-is constructed daily and diligently through my Facebook profile. My political views (“Obamaniac”, the daily political articles posted on my “Posted Items”), religious views (“Whateverist”), emotional states (through “Status Updates”, “Wall” postings, tagged photos, “Notes”), hobbies, interests and affiliations (“Groups”), and musical tastes (ILike Dedications, Recent Plays) are laid bare for my friends’ perusal. I am unclear at this point, I have to say, how much of this is for others, and how much of this is for me…for, Facebook is also a forum for self-construction, self-reflection, and-not to forget-narcissism on a grand, networked scale. I am not merely connecting with others; I am fashioning a self, the self I want public, the self I want “out there.” I can control the “digital” self I put out for “public” consumption through a plethora of privacy settings: I can control who sees what in my profile, and-by extension-I think I control what people “make” of me. How deluded that is is not something I have figured out yet.

Recently, I told a friend of mine a story of how a “Friend” wrote a highly objectionable Wall Post on my profile. I told the story stuttering with indignation and anger. She stared at me like I was a kook, and said, “Usree, that’s Facebook, that’s not real life, you know? Who cares what anyone says on FB?” I couldn’t understand her statement…of course it matters, it’s Facebook! It IS real life-isn’t it? Well, at least it’s a reflection of my real life-with the added benefits of privacy controls, the ability to untag, remove news from your mini-feeds, Block stalkers or people you would like to avoid and-that most important of tools: “Remove Friend.” It’s like a policed, self- and Friend-fashioned life forged through multi-modal literacy. In this very individuated society, Facebook is my savior: it is my life, only better. When I am on it, I feel connected to humanity-and my own humanity-in ways I haven’t in too long. If that sensation is mediated through Facebook, is there something wrong with that?

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One Response to “I Facebook, Therefore I Am”

  1. RaulR on: 29 July 2008 at 9:14 pm

    It is interesting how you state “To paraphrase Descartes, “I Facebook, therefore I am.” I find myself needing to validate my existence through the site. Who I am-or who I seek to be seen as?-is constructed daily and diligently through my Facebook profile.” It is as if you can tie in the seminal works of Lacan’s notion of the mirror stage as seen in his works of the “Performative I.” This human need to fill the never ending lack places you and other facebook users (including myself) of affirming each others lack, yet produces a discourse on creating more lack by comparing your looks, your life, education, marital status, and anything else you think they may have done better.
    We can take this further by exploring the psychoanalytic perspectives of the oedipus complex, and tracing memory with Marcel Proust’s Swan’s way in which the experience of drinking tea for the first time alludes to Freud’s Psychoanalytic perspectives on memory. The concept that memories are just mimetic traces that gets displaced throughout time, in which we acquire libidinal chips that gets invested within this so “symbolic order” we live in.

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