October 21, 2010
Marcus is eating a tuna sandwich. Marcus has arrived at LAX. Marcus is bored. Fascinating stuff, right? Wrong. In which case, why are millions of people writing this sort of tosh every single day?
How about this: Marcus is getting a partial lobotomy from a blind surgeon. Marcus is receiving his 350th tattoo. Marcus is parachuting from an Israeli fighter jet whilst dressed as an 18th Century housemaid.
Such is the stuff of facebook status updates, tweets and other cyber musings. Twitter allows you 140 characters to do it and facebook gives you a bit more space. The problem is that people often don’t quite realise exactly what they are broadcasting.
‘Tuna sandwich’ updates are the first issue. Not a problem as such, but it pushes blandness to the limits and tests everyone’s boredom threshold. Whilst I’m thrilled that you’re alive are happily functioning once again after last night’s curry, but I don’t need to know these minor details. Thank you, but no thanks.
Then there are the emotionally-revealing updates, jam-packed with TMI; ‘Ezmerelda is depressed with her life’. Depression deserves love, attention and compassion. But does sharing it with your 1,254 online facebook “friends “ really serve a therapeutic purpose?
Regardless of how you view Marc Zuckerberg, his vision for Facebook has had a massive impact on people’s lives. Although he isn’t portrayed in a sympathetic light in Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant screenplay for The Social Network, Zuckerberg has succeeded in getting more people to connect on a more frequent basis.
The real dilemma which troubles me is thus; how to clear my next one-line broadcast out of my mind. Last week I was floating on my surfboard just off the Santa Monica, almost breathless as the sunset over Malibu, admiring the beautiful reddening sunset hues light up the sky, as the last rays of sun bounced off the sea and caused a few clouds to have a scarlet hue at their base. A flock of pelicans glided above the surface of the water in perfect formation, their long beaks barely skimming the now-turbulent waves before they rose in graceful unison. While this happened, all I could think was “how am I going to condense all of this into a status update?’.
Herein lies the rub. Rather than experiencing life in the moment, many of us are focused on how we are going to share the moment. Like the holidaymaker who spends an entire vacation behind the lens of the video camera rather than being immersed in the moment, we can separate ourselves to the point of abstraction so that all we are completely separated from the moment.
If you’ve ever been stuck in a social situation where you are with another friend, or even a group, and all of them are texting, g-chatting or emailing, it gets fairly tiring pretty quickly. Maybe I need to update my conversational skills or maybe we’re heading into a communications black hole.
Of course there are some positive benefits. Tweeters sending messages from oppressive regimes, giving news about rapidly unfolding natural disasters, or sending warnings to void war-torn trouble spots.
We have to be very careful what we broadcast, and we need to be aware of it. Ultimately it’s all a form of narrative and we are telling a specific story, including some details and omitting others. Tuna sandwich or partial lobotomy, these broadcasts can stay online for a long time and come back to haunt us. The ancient words of Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi have become truer than ever: “know these three things and you’ll avoid trouble. Be aware of what’s above you – an eye that sees, an ear that hears, and all of your actions are written in a book”.
Tweet with care.
Marcus recently moved to LA from the rainy isle of Great Britain. He’ll be updating his blog once a fortnight, but if you can’t wait that long to get More Marcus, go to www.bibliyoga.com to receive his free weekly Kosher Sutra column. If that’s still not enough, come along to his weekly body-soul yoga classes in Beverly Hills that you can book through www.jconnectla.com. What, you still want more? So offer him your daughter in marriage and then you won’t be able to get rid of him.