Monday, November 30, 2009

Digital Suicide

Today I answered a Facebook event request from a loosely-tied Friend who is celebrating the deletion of his Facebook account....on Facebook.

Setting all irony aside about his bashing Facebook...on Facebook, blah blah, postmodernism, blah, many would (and will) solute his efforts to kick social networking as an act of self control, an active delay of gratification, a digital abstinence that will prevent his impregnation with narcissism and trivialized data surfing.

Yet I would argue that the act of publicly deleting a Facebook account is, in fact, by far the most narcissistic act possibly imaginable on the entire social Web. Rather than an establishment of self-control, it is in fact a complete surrender to the forces that Facebook mutiny is trying to avoid. It is a digital suicide, with the event request to attend the funeral serving as the suicide note, the flamboyant, final reification of the victim's existence.

What is the purpose of physical suicide? It is not just the culmination of all forces that a person interfacing with an unbearable world can no longer deal with, but also an attempt to manifest or externally convey the seriousness of the victim's interior pain. Eliminating one's self as an escape from a feeling that no one else feels at the expense of creating pain in others left behind is, well, selfish. Suicide is the final act of complete narcissism; it is the singular expression of full introversive control of one's self in an otherwise uncontrollable existence.

Public digital suicide, then, is similarly hyper-narcissistic. Calling out for alternate ways of keeping in touch doesn't quite justify it-- why would one delete his account in the first place if he wants to maintain the relationships that exist in that space? Wouldn't it make more sense to just keep the access? Publicly eliminating one mode of communication in favor of another is like calling everyone in your phone book and asking them to write letters to you instead of calling because the phone just isn't working out for you anymore. Why not just take the phone off the hook? Or contact people through different mediums with encouragement to respond via the same medium?

Now I'm not saying that destructively frequent users should maintain their Facebook behavior, and deleting an account may be required to direct attention elsewhere if Facebook becomes a compulsion. Yet lowering use of or quietly ignoring social media tools is a far more honest, albeit less sexy, way to eliminate defunct digital identities.

The above image is the cover of Amanda Plamer and Neil Gaiman's photo book/short story collection entitled "Who Killed Amanda Palmer: A Collection of Photographic Evidence" available here.

1 comment:

  1. amazing. I didn't think of it that way. And I request all of those David Foster Wallace materials you offered.