Tuesday, August 16, 2011

#46 F*cking Facebook Photos

"Humans are masters of deception. We use our minds and behavior continually to try to trick people into believing what is not true…that we're tougher, smarter, sexier, more reliable, more trustworthy than we really are."
-Paul Bloom, Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science at Yale University

There's a moment in middle childhood when the difference between what you know and what grown-ups know starts to seem unaccountably huge. It's not just the stuff you're aware of but imperfectly understand - like man-made flight and pancakes - it's unknown unknowns. Crepes, blood sausage, really cool panties we don't even know about. My brother's childhood belief, recounted years later, was that people must have a chip implanted in their brains during college, which is why mom and dad were so smart.

So it cuts deep when you finally realize as a teenager that grown-ups live life like a f*cking d*ckhead. They don't know sh*t. They're bad at their jobs and confused about the point of existence. They visit psychiatrists and pee their pants. As Adam Carolla says, "I had no idea. I had no idea that this is how life would be. You know when you're a kid and you're nine years old and you're walking around, you see a cop or a schoolteacher or a dentist or an attorney, you go, "Oh, that guy must know his sh*t"… I had no f---in' idea how bad everybody, from my gardener to the highest people on the rung of show business, how horrible everyone would be."

But fine. Life disappoints. Humans are fallible even in fully matured manifestation. John Edwards. Bruce Jenner. Darth Vader. Such is life and the moping, adolescent fury responsible for goth fashion. The truly devastating disillusion, however, comes on the sly. It's covert like a ninja but it kills every bit of childlike wonder and enthusiasm you have (sadly, the opposite effect of the ninja style). Within decades you become a despairing, self-loathing, bovine-minded middle-aged man with no hopes, no dreams and no interest in the wonder of the cosmos, like Kenny Powers as a gym teacher, and you won't even know how it happened.

The disillusion is this: the reason adults don't know much about anything is that they don't care. It doesn't matter to them. All those years they fed you a diet of math homework and mnemonic techniques as if learning about the world was the quintessential part of the human condition, but as far as they're concerned, the pursuit of knowledge is a nerd's sideshow, a sidecar, the artsy little seat adjoining the motorcycle of important things: island homes, famous friends, and trophy wives. Adults know by a wealth of experience that people like Socrates, Kepler, Ghandi, Hamlet, Abe Lincoln - those geniuses end up dead. Poisoned, persecuted, starved, stabbed, shot in the head. Charlie Sheen, Donald Trump and the Situation, by contrast, end up on top of sexy waitresses.

The secret to life, it turns out, isn't knowing about sh*t. It's convincing others to validate you. Class dismissed, tiny mo fos.

But consider that for a moment. You grow up presuming that reality - waterfalls, tanbark, the gravitational mechanics of jungle gyms - is the focal point of existence. However messy and amorphous the ultimate purpose of life, you just assumed it had something to do this stuff and knowing more about it was the natural next move. The notion that reality is a kind of arbitrary and fungible anchor for some weird construct that basically amounts to sociological warfare is profoundly disturbing.FN1

And probably at a conscious level we never accept it. For most everyone naked social strategizing, like rain to a sorority girl, is yucky. Empty somehow. Thus, adult life has historically involved pretending that the reason we squabble over the debt ceiling or stem cells or Helen of Troy, fight for a plot as Mel Gibson said whereon the numbers cannot try the cause, is that such things matter existentially. They are special and intrinsic and we in the form of Bill Maher or Marc Maron or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad do not merely use them as common and fungible points of reference in the larger enterprise of propagating our DNA with someone who's not way dumb and ugly.FN2 Until Facebook.

Facebook has transformed reality from a necessary if random reference point into something extraneous. Q: Why did Jane visit the park or date that guy or whatever? A: So she can post self-promoting photos on Facebook. It's started to dawn on ladies that parks and, to the point of this blog, guys, have marginal or at least second order utility as mechanisms of social validation. And further, and this is the real epiphany, those things, in most cases, can make you look less than awesome. There are limits to what reality is willing to offer ordinary people.

Facebook isn't like that. On Facebook you have hot friends and a cute nephew and are being hugged by Mark Wahlberg when you celebrity saw him at a restaurant in Venice. On Facebook you don't have to accept being a mid level marketing manager with a used Jetta and a boyfriend who kind of looks like Janet Reno. On Facebook you're a f*cking superstar. On Facebook your knowledge about and engagement with the ostensible stuff of life can be regularly and almost wholly staged and for that reason is effective like never before in tricking people into believing that you're tougher, smarter, sexier, more sensitive than you really are.FN3

This isn't a knock. Any adult more interested in bumblebees than impressing Salma Hayek is a f*cking d*ckhead. This is, nonetheless, WTANGISF.

FN1. Carolla said in this regard, "You know how long man has been walking this earth? Millions of years [ed.: including direct ancestors]…the fact we all happen to be here at the same time at relatively the same age is one in a billion…if you were here in 1855 and I was here in 2025 we'd still be really close in time. …It is kind of a weird miracle-coincidence we're all here at exactly the same time. And, by the way, we're all going to be gone about the same time too. So, here the thing: what the f*ck are we killing each other for? Shouldn't we relax?…We have a short run, a little window, in terms of the earth's calendar, just a blink of an eye. How about we save the killing for the next group of assholes that comes when we're gone. But nope, we can't do it. We got to start building bombs and going at each other. And whenever I say that to someone, they say, 'What kind of f*ck fag pills you been eating?' All right."

FN2. Maron on Bill Maher's show said, "You can think for a long time that you're angry FOR A REASON. But, a lot of times, if you just do a little more thinking, you're probably just f*cking angry. Politics [or whatever] becomes a template for your [self-made] fury."

FN3. Concededly, social media technologies mess with conventional definitions of who people really are, so the point is overstated. Still, it's not likely that virtual realities like Facebook will ever cannibalize the primal realities of in-person interaction, whatever Keanu Reeves movies suggest. Because at some point you have children and you can't tweet your way through that sh*t.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. RELEVANT. I'm always trying to maneuver myself to meet my friends' "Friends" on facebook that I find attractive, only to find that they're no better than the Average Joe. In fact, they're most likely WORST than the Average Joe. I'm pretty sure if I met the Average Joe I would date him.

    The problem with facebook is that everyone knows it's based on lies and only good points (even "funny" pics of someone passed out are good points because it shows how lighthearted they are, how down they are to party, etc. ) but we like it that way. Facebook is to the present time people as what 'Utopia' was to the people Sir Thomas Moore targeted with his book.

    They should rename it FARCE-BOOK (just sayin).

    That being said, I just changed my fb profile pic thirty min ago. LOL.

  3. This website is retarded. Can't find girls in SF? Must be blind and/or looks like the elephant man.

    1. Year later aside,

      I'm a successful 23 year old who used to model and I still can't find girls in SF.

      I get blown out in approaches on girls remarkably less attractive than what I used to date at end of high school and in college.

      That being said, I still get it every once in a while.

      I don't dumpster dive like many fellow frustrated male San Franciscans

    2. you sound a lot like that entitled douchebag from the isla vista shooting. calm down - attraction isn't all about the way you look on your model exterior. In SF, people look for a little more substance. Maybe if you don't act so cocky, you'll get someone.

  4. "You know how long man has been walking this earth? Millions of years [ed.: including direct ancestors]…the fact we all happen to be here at the same time at relatively the same age is one in a billion". well I had this exact same thought in my mind for a long time...until I realized I had made a foolish mistake: if you consider the total number of people who have ever roamed the earth since mankind exists, then the current number (7 billions) is a very significant % of that total figure because of the incredible demographic explosion which started in the second part of the XIX century. As a result, the odd of somebody living now are pretty large. QED
    Excellent blog BTW. Kudos to you my friend

  5. (1) I recently realized (really realized) the Hawthorne Effect* dynamic of Facebook -- doing an activity or forming an opinion in order to represent it online, as opposed to merely representing online the things I'd do regardless of their Facebook posting value. A huge percentage of my planning & doing was oriented toward being able to summarily describe that activity so I would sound unique, ethical, smart, & of course not at all vain (enough to having predestined my activity for Facebook). This realization at the end of a lengthy but affectively very mild, stumble-through-the-city acid excursion. So with a Holden Caufield, stoic anti-world resolve in my generally altered mindset I deleted (to the extent Facebook let me) my profile. This, despite my vanity (and vanity-associated anxiety) has been surprisingly easy to maintain; there has been nearly no desire to return, perhaps because Facebook affirmation is, as Therese Jane suggests, especially inadequate.

    So I'm glad to read about it here. Smartly and elegantly assembled, readable without that nagging sense that it's functioning to affirm the writer(s) & readers sophistication.

    (2) The blog post seems a bit incomplete. Perhaps I'm just seeing a different structure than the one the author(s) intended. It seems that the first two propositions of the syllogism are there, but no conclusion.

    [I]the deceiving to be loved dynamic; [II]Facebook & how it let's us deceive
    -- but then the final deathblow conclusion is missing. I really wanted one. But maybe I just wanted to keep reading on, when I reached the end.

    (3) Really exceptionally excellent blog.

    *Wikipedia: "The Hawthorne effect is a form of reactivity whereby subjects improve or modify an aspect of their behavior being experimentally measured simply in response to the fact that they know they are being studied, . . ." This term is new to me. I found it looking for the name of the problem in experiments where measuring instruments affect the results.

  6. Can u please post something? Anything! By anything I really only exclusively mean something witty and hilarious. No pressure.