Wednesday, 17 June 2009

facebook questions

So, the serious and frivolous, leading and rhetorical, genuine and hypothetical


What is the difference between you and the you visible on facebook?
How are you selective in your representation? Why?
Which photos don’t you upload?

In the information you upload what are you communicating?
What are you selling?
What are you proving and to whom?

What are you on facebook for?
What is the nature of its pleasure?
What is the nature of its service to you?
If for convenience and efficiency, how are you spending the time saved?

What needs does facebook fulfil that Christ doesn't?
When does a good gift become a substitute saviour?

Would you want facebook to display the number of hours and minutes you were logged on each day?
Would you be uncomfortable if the mirrored glass that lets no one know you viewed their profile was removed?

Can you preach the gospel on facebook?
Is there a sufficient ‘plausibility structure’ to assert any truth claim?
(‘plausibility structure’ - Peter Berger via Michael Ramsden, also used of L’Abri)

Can you demonstrate by your life online that Jesus’ resurrection is intellectually credible and existentially satisfying?
Why this is hard in a virtual world?

Can people see that you are flawed and need a saviour in a world where you can atone for your own sins, erase your own history, renew your own identity?

Does your profile point to Christ?
Could it?

Why do I look at people’s photos?
What is it doing for me?

Why am I choosing to view these photos of a friends holiday, on my own, in a darkened room?
Have we forgotten better ways of doing these?
How might it be otherwise?
How can I make an experience of sharing more real, more weighty?

What do I fear in life, what do I hide from?
From what am I escaping?
For what do I compensating for and exaggerate?

Why is there so much irony on facebook?
Why do people love to hate it?
Why do use metaphors of facebook-stalking, facebook-rape, and of pimping one’s profile?

Why is it so hard to leave?

Are you comforted by words of condolence on facebook?
Can you express empathy online?

Would you invite people to your wedding via facebook?
Would you propose marriage on facebook?

What is the measure of an idol?

What is the measure of an addiction?
What category do you consider facebook in - that of oxygen and necessities, that of household cleaning and chores, that of foreign holidays and luxuries?

What is the model we read the discourse of facebook through?

What is the motivating force for the facebook providers?
How is facebook free?
How are you paying for the service?
Do you count that cost before building?

Why did Jesus come at a time in history before facebook?

Have you hugged someone today?
Have you plunged your fingers into soil today?
Have you loved your next-door-neighbour this week?

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

facebook is..

· Facebook is cheap, it makes words and photos cheap. The easier Facebook makes things, the less value they have, the less story they have, the less any experience is framed and defined by delayed gratification. It is aiding and abetting the cultivation of a generation of impatient consumers, grazing information, dissociating fact from meaning.

· Facebook serves a superficial, sight-seeing mentality. Albums catalogue snapshots of made-for-facebook poses at events that didn’t happen.

· Facebook is Babel, a megaproject that is destroying language.

· Facebook is wilfully ambiguous, it colours everything with its ambiguity: rsvps, affections, inferences.

· Facebook allows you to manufacture identity, and regardless of whether you fabricate illusions, everything must be placed under suspicion – this is not bringing people together.

· Facebook impedes closure and gives the illusion that I can be omnipresent, by never fully leaving a place you are never fully at the next. Your Being is diluted, diffused, spread thin across the globe.

· Facebook is calculated to keep you online looking at their ads. Facebook would rather you conducted all your socialising through their forum, it profits them to keep you inside, plugged in, chatting in 2dimensional space.

· Facebook abuses the human decency that otherwise obliges you to open the door when knocked, answer the phone when rung, help one in need when he asks. It will fatigue human decency by the cacophony of urgent appeals to your patience.

· Facebook is addictive, don’t start. There are the subtle addictions, addictions to affirmation, to busy-ness, to gossip. But further, I have experienced a weight of obligation, unspoken, to be available which in a sense would parallel addiction. This is people-pleasing’s toll in an environment without self-limiting restraint.

· Facebook panders to an idol system I am too weak to resist. The ego I could be, the image I could present - the possibilities are tantalising.

· Facebook takes time I don’t have or want to give. Facebook is a dead end for creative energy. Facebook is a cry for help from a purposeless generation.

· Facebook enables and encourages geographical promiscuity, timelessness and placelessness. I’m not in, of or for a place, I am not submitted to the geography, sunrise, neighbours, politics or any inconvenience of this locale. Facebook is virtual and on a trajectory towards the increasingly unreal.

· Facebook is not enriching my relationships. Facebook is not close enough for intimate relationships and does not give appropriate distance for acquaintances, it blurs what would otherwise be a functional hierarchy of friendships. Facebook ascribes undue importance to superficial relationships and does not offer the potential for real intimacy.

· Facebook trades in a false vulnerability. Those who ‘vomit’ (JimP) themselves online are being done a grave disservice. These are safe places to be vulnerable because people don’t care, and can’t. You are free to imagine they do. (Jim is online here for those interested, it’s not about facebook per se)

· Facebook is predicated on informationism. As Schultze describes this quasi-religion which preaches the is over the ought, observation over intimacy, and measurement over meaning.

· Facebook makes our relationships tertiary: there is a middleman, a marketeer, and a cloud of self-congratulating witnesses. All is a performance of who is watching whom in a grand charade of broadcast small-talk.

· Facebook offers more information than you can possibly process.

· Facebook stores your data under dubious Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. If that bothers you..

· Facebook reduces the personhood of a human, their depth and complexity shrink to a face and its attributes. And we become the limited models we employ.

· Facebook gives the illusion of multiplying your availability and denies the limits of the human form, you can chat intimately with five friends on five continents, offering the image of an I-Thou encounter to each, but there is a sense in which you are both suspending disbelief, convincing yourselves that their undivided attention is truly yours.

· Facebook makes me feel good, I get a buzz when you poke me.

· Facebook is primarily an exercise in narcissism, and only secondly a tool for networking. Like hanging a floor to ceiling mirror in the hallway (‘so that the space feels bigger’) – we are inescapably lovers of self, in a group photo you seek yourself out.

· Facebook increases anxiety. Anxiety concerning the system: where your data is, who has your address book, what will the next privacy change bring. And anxiety concerning you and your relationships: who is setting the code for etiquette, am I being understood, should I be more available. You have no excuse not to reply to messages within the hour.

· Facebook allows me to take friends for granted. It reduces the risk of relationship and disincentivises meeting face to face.

· Facebook industrialises friendship to a quantitative process governed by efficiencies.

· Facebook makes of us second-handers and normalises this empoverishment of a person ((Ayn Rand via JP) “They don't live from the joy that comes through achieving what they value for its own sake. Instead, they live second-hand from the praise and compliments of others”

· Facebook is your life as an OK! Magazine headline. Your 15minutes of celebrity, your name in print, the banal minutiae of your life announced in a 24hour newsculture. This, and reality TV are the models of discourse facebook is made legible through.

· Having written these all, I discover they are largely covered and more succinctly by John Piper in the following single paragraph (in the full text he tempers this with the positive side which he is erring on in his decision to twitter) “[social Internet media like blogging, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and others] tend to shorten attention spans, weaken discursive reasoning, lure people away from Scripture and prayer, disembody relationships, feed the fires of narcissism, cater to the craving for attention, fill the world with drivel, shrink the soul’s capacity for greatness, and make us second-handers who comment on life when we ought to be living it. So boycott them and write books (not blogs) about the problem.”

· Facebook is unsatisfying, hard to maintain, unsustainable. I have not a home of sufficient weight to keep me from making my home on facebook. I have not done facebook well.

facebook leaving

I fasted facebook Lent 07, I didn’t miss it. I want for a child-like delight in the present moment, to run with abandon through the long grass of a physical world. You cannot build a treehouse on the facebook, you cannot smell fresh strawberries.

And so I am leaving facebook. Just as I have left everywhere I’ve ever lived. And so face a dilemma of how: how to leave with grace, how to communicate my reasons without self-righteousness and how to keep up relationships beyond these city gates. Should I give myself wiggle room? Call this an experiment, see how it goes in a month? Shouldn’t I just develop disciplines to reduce my availability on facebook? And should I write this post in the first person, preach it in the second person or facebook-status it in the third person: (“I’ve had enough, you should leave too” phil said..)

Briefly, by way of introduction, I am not a conspiracy theorist, I am not making black and white rules or denying that people have given and received love through facebook. However, a not insignificant number of friends have expressed unease about facebook from a political or christian perspective, countless others, in conversations had and overheard bemoan wasted time on the facebook.. And so on. I thought I’d have a stab at establishing a framework that puts this unease in context and maybe offers a route out or at least here to begin to sketch out a vocabulary that we might start talking about leaving facebook. Those who say facebook is just another tool are quite right, but it is so just like Starbucks is just another drink purveyor and prostitution is just another career option. None are neutral; all have consequences; and all embody a conception of the human which may be life-giving or destructive.

Enough. I will try to post for discussion:
1. "facebook is..." - what I find facebook to be within a bigger picture of the real.
2. "facebook questions" - questions I ask of myself before leaving.
3. "facebook - how shall we then leave" - how to, how then and what next.

Monday, 1 June 2009


oh let's buy an old wallpaper factory
and plant strawberries on its rusting roof.
let's sew up and mend, recoloured like sony,
and remember the laundry, and remember the l'abri.
let's gather our journals down at the river
bespangled and staggering, lost boys in mourning,
from treehouses, exploded in fabric and copper.
Your book is stars falling through open roofs,
birds nested in the eaves,
and burrowing friends.

(image: jj)


trees we can believe in
play and have tea in
that tear up the pavemen'
and whisper hopes agrarian.

(image: mfg)


you are in my whistle on campus, and you are in my drum,
all melodies I can't forget, and harmonies i hum
dorset's glitter lingers, as spring time turns to sun
i've learnt to bear the distance, until again we're one