Tuesday, October 15, 2013

After Dark, October 15, 2013

The Facebook Experiment
One week away...can it be done?
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

That taking a week without using any aspect of Facebook except the Pages app will make one less scattered or sad.

Another day where Facebook "friends" or "friends" of "friends" are making comments which they do not know are wounding (comments about the kind of work you do, the kind of food you eat, how much food you eat, what you wear, weight, sexuality) or - maybe worse - they know are wounding. One realizes there is a completely separate app to manage Facebook pages (ie: work) and one realizes that one doesn't HAVE to go to Facebook proper. So you stop. Just to see. Your real friends have your email. If they want to reach you there's that or the phone. OBSERVATION: I'm bored. What am I supposed to do with this iPad if I'm not recording what I feel about this episode of Ray Donovan? Like, just watch the episode?! Not care about how many people "like" my opinion on it? LATER: Forgot to turn off Facebook in notifications on iPad and iPhone...done! LATER: For the first time in months am reading ALL the interesting articles in The Guardian instead of bookmarking them for later (which never comes). And Chris Brown is still an utter asshole! NEGATIVE: I miss some real friends. Maybe I'll drop them a line.

Intense debate about hobbyist reviewers on Twitter prompted by a really depressing article.  Meanwhile, Putin pal, Valery Gergiev, is getting high praise for his Stravinsky concert in Toronto. It's the kind of stuff I'd be sharing on Facebook. OBSERVATION: Maybe it's better I THINK more about these things than slam down an initial impression. However, I don't think my initial impression of how badly-written Ouzounian's review of Venus in Fur is will improve with time,  especially in light of the depressing article about hobbyists. OBSERVATION: Time. I have so much time now. (But there are worse things one can do with spare time than watch Godfather II again.)

I find myself writing long emails that resemble letters I used to write: more thought out. I follow the debate, on Twitter, about the end of paid theatre criticism and realize that the unpaid operation that is CharPo is larger than any arts bureau at any paper in the country. The emails I write express my gratitude for the people working with us. Also had a great Twitter convo with someone not a Facebook friend on homosexuality/pedophilia themes in the works of Benjamin Britten. OBSERVATION: I pay closer attention to things I watch and read just by removing the Facebook cog from my multi-tasking. The iPad is not in my hands constantly. Less scattered? Maybe not but the fact that I have to think things through without FB consultation is invigorating.

Why do people still think they can use FB as their only web presence?! Tweets abound with links to FB. Just when I thought I was out, they drag me back in! Meanwhile, wondering what happens when FB becomes like Friendster or MySpace? It will. (I suspect when more and more people realize friending their parents was a bad idea...)

Had I not been allotting more time to reading, I would never have read this. And we should ALL read it. It's the kind of article that makes your imagination spin and makes the future of ideas look exciting again, instead of depressing. Discovered, via Twitter, that I am missing the birthday of a friend (who is also in the milieu). Is it a good thing that we count on Facebook to remind us of these things instead of having them marked on a calendar in the kitchen, like our mothers did it? It is a small thing, but it means we have ceded another responsibility of real life to the internet monster.

Today in the news and on Twitter it's all: Alice Munro! and Take that, Gilmour! I don't know why but this news makes me extraordinarily happy. Pulled a prank on the site last night and just let it play itself out instead of thinking it through and parsing it and discussing it on Facebook first. That, too, is a good thing: going back in my own head for a bit. Not every damn thing needs to be discussed first, or after, on FB. LATER: Turns out my prank is the most read "article" of the day on the site.

As I reach the week's conclusion, I realize I don't NEED to go on Facebook - absence does not make the heart grow fonder - but I will go on but also stop conning myself that it is mostly for work. OBSERVATION: More and more people rely on Facebook to communicate - one-on-one - in a way we used to do by email. That is dangerous as Facebook harvests all that information. I realized this the other day when I was at a medical clinic and there was a government poster warning doctors and nurses against sharing information about their work as the slightest mention of a patient (even obliquely) can end up in the wrong hands. That's spooky fucking shit.

Despite the fact I used to set aside 20-40 minutes twice a day to hit Facebook, I had not realized how many times I almost subconsciously dip in and stay for a bit (read: more than a bit). Though I have not counted their number, the amount of free time I have noticed in the last week has been enormous: to read, watch movies, game, make notes on articles, etc. However, the most pernicious aspect of Facebook is not how much time it consumes, but how it is used. It is not LinkedIn so it may not be a good idea to accept friending from professional acquaintances. But what about those odd instances when "friendships" cross over and become friendships? Facebook - for good or ill - has created this 21st century paradigm. I have a dozen or so professional associates I have never met whom I really hold dear and a bunch of others I may admire but don't much like. What a week away has taught me is to "cull". But there is a  question you have to honestly answer before you start pressing that unfriend button like an impatient drunk waiting for an elevator: if I had no professional interest in this person, would I still like him or her? Answer that and your life on Facebook, in the arts, will be a lot easier. Also ask: what is gained from the time spent on Facebook? One knows if time is wasted. But the definitions of time well-used and wasted is a very personal thing. Reading the opinions and statements of people you like (and by extension respect) is, to my mind, never a waste of time. However, ultimately I feel there may be a better way of doing things than Facebook (and if I figure that out I'll tell you all about it from my pied-à-terre in Paris).

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