50 pictomat essays: facebook and the dumbing down of american discourse
October 5, 2010, 11:22 am
Filed under: 50 pictomat essays

mark “zuck” zuckerberg, 26 year old computer programer & billionaire, born: white plains, n.y. (1984)

yes, it is true that pictomat does have a facebook (f/b) account. we swear to the gods that the original reason we opened this account was to get “friends” over to this fabulous blog. we had and have a lot of issues with f/b that we are trying to sort out. here are some of the reasons we are afraid of facebook:

1. f/b owns all of your content. that means that they can use, say, any of your photos in their ads. but thinking logically, with one out of fourteen people in the world having a f/b account, the odds are better at winning megabucks than f/b using anything you post. but, still …

2. those damn farm games … what the fuck are they all about. f/b is going to start up their own version of paypal “to make it easy for f/b members to buy goods and services they see on the site”. they are going to make it possible for you to buy a virtual carrot for your virtual farm. hmm … do you really want to do that with your real money? any of you who play this game, please explain, if it is humanly possible, the logic going on here? call us vicious. we are not trying to be. we are however very curious, we honestly are vveerrryy curious.

3. after reading a longish biographical piece in the new yorker about the inventor and owner of f/b mark “zuck” zuckerman and watching david fincher’s masterful biopic about f/b “the social network” (which takes some dramatic liberty with the real story, but generally stays close enough to the facts), we don’t trust the guy. it is not because he might possibly have stolen the idea from people he was working with, or that he screwed his only real “friend” out of stock options. it is because we wouldn’t put it past mr. zuckerman to readily hand over, or even have a contract with the c.i.a. or one of the many private companies our government now employes to do dirty work the government used to do themselves. yes, we mean that we believe that f/b is, most probably quite illegally,pouring over, reading, looking at every link you post, and some pictures you put in your photo album, especially if you are a person of color, a muslim, or other than heterosexual .

remember f/b owns your page. that means the government and its minions can circumnavigate the judicial system and tap you on the shoulder with their strong arm any time they want. ever notice that photos in press that involving people of interest, or arrested for a crime, are now more than ever credited to f/b? in this supposed land of justice and liberty for all, you used to need a warrant for such things. we don’t trust our government and we don’t trust f/b. and because once is not enough, we will repeat: one out of every fourteen people on the planet has a f/b account.

4. we really are not surprised by items 1-3. here is what is really bothering us. f/b is either so poorly designed or very intelligently designed. that all depends on what your definition of human discourse is, because we find that f/b is built to dumb down discourse, not only this country, but worldwide. you can only “like” things, you can’t dislike anything, because that would be just too “unfriendly” in the f/b world. in certain “comment” sections you only have a limited amount of characters to say your piece (granted the smart and loquacious, as one of our dear readers and a f/b member is, figure ways around these tight constrictions and taught us -thank you “l”), but it is purposefully built to make talk short. it only allows you to be male or female. what if you are in the process of changing from one to another? there is only one line each to put your religious and polical views into your “info” section. we need at least a page! just try typing more in those two fields. you can’t do it. guess religion and politics are just too messy to talk about. god (or not) forbid, that you get into a  chat or spat on f/b over religion or politics, only the two most controlling subjects that govern our lives.

oh sorry, we did forget “amour”. and that is how f/b started back at harvard. it was a dating service for the university elite. zuck’s dating service morphed into f/b, and dating and sex are the two easy things “the social network” manages to do adequately. “amour”, you know the kind, where you actually can talk to your mate once you have hooked up on f/b? well, that is probably going to be difficult, especially when you have been encouraged to write in baby talk. without engaging in meaningful conversation on f/b, odds tell us that if you are honing your social skills by writing those one sentence, cute and friendly little chirpy bits, and punching the “like button”, it ain’t gonna teach you how to make that hook up last too long.

… and what the hell is a friggin’ “poke”? give us a break, f/b! sounds just too nasty, so if you “poke”, explain that one to us too. we are terrified to poke the “poke” button, tell us what is does. we figure only one person has to answer that question because the “farm” question and what a “poke” is or does can probably be answered by the same person.

our friend from the big apple has this to say, “i have a bad feeling about facebook. the subprime mortgage disaster of the internet waiting to happen.” but then another dear friend and frequent commenter here “whatsup girl” tells us she has found out things about people and met up with friends she would never found without “zuck’s creation, and encourages us to lighten up and think of f/b more  “like walking around at a party with small chit chat”. we will admit there is certainly room in this world for chit chat. so we see and agree with both our new york city friend and “whatsup girl”. what a dilemma! we have been reacquainted with old friends too, enjoyed a bit of “chit chat”, and checked out very interesting links our “friends” have sent us that we might otherwise not known about.

time to wrap this up. so why are we on f/b when we have just spent an entire post dissing it, and what have we done to make it work for us?

1. get rid of “friends” that we haven’t written to or never write to us. it was our fall clean up project last week. f/b, we checked, does not inform people that they have been (well, there is no official f/b name for it) “unfriended” or perhaps “defriended”. chances are they have wanted to do the same thing to us, but just felt we would be offended. the truth is they will never notice, because they are not a part of our real “social network”. if they somehow come back into our life, we will just ask them again to be our “friend” again. we hope we are right about them never even noticing, because then we can click that “friend” button once again, without fear of rejection. but then a true “friend” would always forgive us, right?

2. we try and encourage more of a conversation. a little push and shove. more chit less chat. it doesn’t necessarily have to be lengthy, but one can always be pithy. real “friends” like pithy, and will probably realize it is just fine to say what they really think back at you, because you are doing it. we ask our “friends” specific questions, and that invites specific answers. if they hit that old “like” button with making a comment, we ask them what and why they “like” something (if we are truly curious, and we usually are!)

if you follow these simple rules you will not be skimming through tons of silly and useless nonsense. you will be finding out thing you didn’t know, not only about your “friends”, but about their world, and the great big old world too. we say, in closing, subvert the f/b system. make it work despite itself. you know, “zuke” didn’t have friends when he first started f/b, and he is still a social introvert. we think he wants us all to feel like he does, lonely and misunderstood. don’t let him do it to you. fight the power!


13 Comments so far
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pictomat forgot to note that earl has a facebook account. he has none of the conflicted feeling mentioned in the article. his real goal is to get more “friends” that lady gaga. he wants you to know that his name is earl grey and he will push that approve button faster than you can request to be his friend. he is a cat with a plan. we are not quite sure what his plan is though.

Comment by pictomat

I especially like what you said about the “dumbing of america”. If we can just encourage discussions that leave a person feeling better, more cultured or understood I think we will go a long way. My paranoid tendencies rise when I think about the government looking in. Also, don’t mention you are going out of town, etc. in conversation. In a world where we worry about sharing personal information, it is interesting that we don’t mind sharing all on f/b.

Comment by "whazzup girl?" (alias What'sup girl)

late in the nite.. you are discoursing on facebook.. if everyone gave as much thought as you have.. why there would be no time to tweet! i’ve seen some sad and twisted things on fb. The flip side is I’ve seen my friends creative works, and shared some honest truths. I knew right away when I sadly lost my last two aunts. at times it can be a collosal waste of time (as betty white so succinctly put it) but then how we mark our time, and debate, relate, and touch each other is the key. Of course pissing some dickwad off is kind of cool too.

Comment by hank ivey

you have some very cogent point here, mr d/z. the so-called ‘security’ sector is having it’s work done for it. i have plenty of friends who get all political and ranty on efbee. i’m sure they are being tracked by whomever.
but, i also agree with your friend that it’s like an online social mixer – the chit chat part of it. And, i gotta say, sometimes a couple of sentences is plenty. more pith would be nice, but maybe that depends on your friends…

Comment by e


I couldn’t find the like button on your blog, so I made my own;-)

I joined facebook early to its start. When I first searched for “friends” who went to my high school, all I found were 3 of the more introverted techys. I was kinda proud that I had found it so early on. I joined mostly in protest of my loath for Myspace. On Myspace any creeper or yahoo could see what you were up to… I felt like on facebook I could at least regulate who got to see my information. Overtime it has gotten more ridiculous. It is strewn with ads and idiot games. They fish through your info and try to sell you exactly what you “need.” I hate this… so why don’t I quit my FB page? One topic that you forgot to mention Mr. DZ/ Pictomat… FaceStocking! It is why you may not want to fallow rule #1, get rid of “friends” that we haven’t written to or never write to us. You get to see what all of these once acquaintances are up to with out ever having to waist a conversation with them. It is especially good if you grew up in Reno… it is like a really bad reality tv show. Then suddenly you feel well traveled, slightly interesting, and great about your life. TaDA!

Oh, and I also like keeping up with really good/interesting friends who live out of the state. I think it is fantastic that I can look over their posts/art/photos and exchange banter on things we would not be able to do the same with over the phone.

Over and out,

ps- “poking” is only for people that want to say hi without having to type. Or something silly like that… you think they could have named is something else…

Comment by hh

HH, guess we made a much too hasty decision last week by gleaning out those “friends”. you are certainly using f/b to your advantage. keep on fighting the power!

Comment by pictomat

from an email to pictomat:

NO poking around the farm for me- pat

Comment by pictomat

i started using fb because it seems to be the only way my extended family talks to each other anymore. (sad but true) i find my cousin’s continued posting of what she cooks for dinner more annoying than the farms and fish. i just hit the buttons that say never show me farms or fish and voila never to be seen again

very much agree with your comment on the dumbing down of america. how much further do you think we can go before idiocrasy become reality

Comment by ~S

from a facebook comment about the article from “ld”:

“I like how his bio is a “computer programmer and billionaire”. Sad how money
defines him like that. Big fucking deal, he has money. Oops, he might zap me
with a face-bolt. “

Comment by pictomat

from an email receive at the pictomat home office from our friend anne:

I like your piece on fartbook. I hate f/b. I recently got an account, and yes you can be my friend if you want, but it is a senseless waste of time. Of course, I still don’t own a computer so if i was able to update my page at my every whim, maybe i’d be in to it. but I think you are right about the govmn’t. I have put almost none of my actual info on my page. But maybe the gov’t will decide i’m not a threat if i have a page. Apparently all my high school friends thought I was dead cause I never had one. But I’d rather see my friends face to face, and I like everyone I’m in contact with now, why bother with people I hardly remember?

Comment by pictomat

from an email received today, from a dear woman in uptown manhatten:

nice swipe at Facebook. i agree on just about every point but you left out my biggest pet peeve, which is the national case of dissociative identity disorder i suspect the site (as well as others) is fostering. all those people – especially all those poor teens – looking at themselves through the lens of their computer screens, and through the profiles of their millions of “friends,” constantly posting and reposting and reposting again the images and bits of info that are supposed to sum up who they are… ugh.

then again, could be that i’m just an old fashioned introverted luddite. (i got a Kindle last week – realized i just wanted to sit around reading “books.”)

Comment by pictomat

and an email from a woman, brave enough to say why she played the farm game (!)

“I had a fling with Farmville, Zoo World and Cafe World, but Farmville was the
main one…and then I went cold turkey because I really have better things to
do, and hope I can stay away. It gets addictive for a number of reasons, and
I’ve tried to think about this…1) I was playing with friends from grade school
and high school I’ve been out of touch with, as well as with colleagues and some
folks from around the world I’ve never met, so it’s social. 2) You can shop
without actually spending any money! How cool is that?!! 3) They’re always
creating new, groovier things to want…like a dog for your farm…who could
resist that? But it becomes, instead of a game and fun, an obligation, and it
was this that began to make me see the folly. I have to spend 2-3 hours a day
so my crops won’t die, so I have food in my cafe, so my zoo survives? Wait a
minute. They aren’t real!! I hope this is what you were looking for…my farm
is still out there, with my zoo…I could still go to them, and they’re awesome
for virtual places, but I haven’t been to them in months.”

Comment by pictomat

from a second email from the woman above, further explaining the farm animal thing:

“Sometime if we’re in the same place with a computer and internet access, I’ll
see if I can find my farm and show you; it’s a microcosm of life…you raise and
sell crops to raise funds to expand your farm, purchase larger houses, add
animals (and you tend to them every day for more funding for more
things…chickens lay eggs, you brush reindeer-horses-cows give birth to calves
once you’ve found a bull on your friend’s farm). That’s the social part; you
visit your friends’ farms and they visit yours…you fertilized their crops and
find things that help your farm…and the more you have the more you have the
opportunity to buy in terms of crops (vegetables, flowers, etc.) It’s
addictive!! I just had to move on.”

Comment by pictomat

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