I suppose it marks me as some sort of paleo-holdout that I assiduously avoid all online social networking sites. I have never held an account with or visited Facebook or MySpace — I conflate these into MyFace — or followed anyone on Twitter. I have no idea what it means in the modern sense to write on one’s wall; I only know that the last incident in history of writing on one’s wall, recorded at Daniel 5, presaged the end of the Babylonian empire and the end of Semitic influence in Mesopotamia in 538 BC. I see no reason to follow anyone’s tweets or any other non-human phonic emissions. If I want to catch up on my friends’ lives, I call them on the phone or write to them: by most contemporary reckoning, an archaic process.
A marvelous new life just entered our church congregation, and the excited dad kept their loved ones informed via Facebook. I think this is a good application of Facebook, but not enough for me to get an account so I could see the pictures. But the dear dad very kindly e-mailed pictures to me, proving the utility of ancient institutions. I have some apprehension that I may not be able to see much of my own grandchild without Facebook, but I suspect my daughter will humor her anachronistic mom, and e-mail me pictures. I’m unable to receive pictures in my phone because I don’t have a camera phone and I have severed texting from my phone plan: more archaisms, I suppose.
It’s not that I resist new technology. It’s that I resist incorporation into some sort of Borg, a network insidiously designed to dissolve privacy and individuality, and to equalize idiocy and literacy. Harsh words? I admit to strong feelings about this.
A Marine general visited my high school once, and he said the world didn’t need any more leaders, it needed more followers. He struck me as kind of an idiot. And social networking sites that thrive on accumulating followers strike me the same way. I am incredulous that the President of the United States has the time, between vacations, to tweet his profound comings and goings to a couple hundred thousand followers, while the rest of the country just wishes somebody would show up and lead.
The people with whom I most enjoy communicating still capitalize their first-person singular pronoun, still spell their second-person pronoun with three letters, and still spell at all. They take beautiful, creative photos, often with cameras that don’t come with phones. And they convey meaningful abstractions, use beautiful language, deploy symbolism, and relate factual information in a way that is a joy to read. From what I’ve picked up in the buzz, I don’t have the sense that avoiding the MyFace scene is causing me to miss much.