One night, I was on Facebook and started thinking about a meaningful and clever status update to write as if status updates can be at all meaningful. A provocative sentence popped into my mind: “When would it be a good time to shit all you can on everyone you know on Facebook?” I stopped and wondered for a moment… I wasn’t quite sure what I was trying to say but it sounded kind of neat and naughty. Why not, right? That was exactly what popped into my head.
The perfect status update.
I also thought it would be an interesting experiment as it was sort of provocative but framed within a conditional interrogative. A few hours later after I posted the update, I received several responses along with an SMS from my best girl friend K asking me why I was angry.
“What’s wrong? Why r u angry on FB?” K asked.
I was really curious about the responses I was getting from my Facebook friends who knew me from various levels of acquaintance.
Imagine Lewis Caroll updating his Facebook status:
`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
What would we think if we didn’t know him? The master of nonsense challenges our need for sense and meaning in his brilliantly nonsensical “Jabberocky.” In this age of cyber literalism where a few tweets can cost you a libel lawsuit and $430,000, is there still room for play? In this eternal, endless and free cyber world of communication with just a click away, isn’t it ironic and problematic that artists and writers have to censor themselves constantly in fear of misinterpretation or saying the wrong thing?
Are we truly freer or easier to express now with the internet?
Are we WINNING?
We write blogs on the internet. We do business on the internet. We shop on the internet. We advertise on the internet. We create on the internet. We flirt on the internet. We hook up on the internet. We make friends on the internet. We get jobs on the internet. We get fired on the internet. The reality is we do everything (or a lot of things) on the internet. We produce all kinds of cyber communication for many different goals and purposes.
Using the Facebook status update, we may express emotions. We may ask for help. We may complain about things. We may ask for a job or a ride. We may ask for sympathy. We may let people know how we’re doing. We may just post information. We communicate with a variety of goals in a variety of styles even on such a simple and specific application.
And it wasn’t like this five years or ten years or fifteen years ago. I remember the internet was not even in popular use in 1996 when I was at UCLA film school where I joined the first graduating class of the New Media Lab. My colleague Alice built a website featuring herself playing a dying cancer patient. It was an experiment to see what kind of feedback she would get. It was her graduating thesis and I thought it was one of the most brilliant things experimenting with the boundary of fiction, non-fiction and autobiography.
But imagine someone doing that website now and having to face the legal and ethical issues involved.
While we certainly do need some kind of monitoring or responsibility setting with internet communication, I’d just like remind us to think more about the messages and information that we receive before reaching for the gun. In this cyber age when expression and communication are literally at the speed of thought, let’s not take the cyber diarrhea of billions too seriously.