January 27, 2011

Is Facebook Stealing Our Souls?

photo courtesy Massimo Barbieri.

Facebook has turned us all into individual commodities, and with that we have lost our true connection to one another.

As Gloria Anzaldúa says:

“They [westerners] are fascinated by what they call the “magical” mind, the “savage” mind, the participation mystique of the mind that says the world of the imagination—the world of the soul—and of the spirit is just as real as the physical reality. In trying to become “objective” Western culture made “objects” of things and people when it distanced itself from them, thereby losing “touch” with them. This dichotomy is the root of all violence.”

Because we all now have an online self that generally gets more attention than our offline self, we become a dichotomy. We are online, we are offline. Can we be somewhere in between?

Perhaps that in between space is where our offline world—the pictures and stories from it—go online. But one could argue that those offline pictures and stories are just another way of creating how we want to be seen to the world. What type of brand we are trying to sell. And as we live and try to maneuver through this consumer society, marketing ourselves well could be the difference between a good life and a great one. Okay friends or awesome ones. Decent business connections or amazing ones.

Whether we realize it or not, we are all now capital. Not liking things sells just as much as liking things. What we eat, what we buy, what we say, we’re all part of this virtual sales game. Connecting right back to what we do when we’re offline.

When we talk to people we say things like, “Can’t wait to make that my status update.” or “Hey, everyone, get together, let’s take a picture for facebook!”

It’s as if we have to catalogue our lives instead of actually living them.

It’s more important to have an appearance than to actually experience anything remotely enlightening, or life changing or transformative.

We have shut those ideas out. Online anyway.

We can’t find spirituality through facebook. Sure, we can discover interesting intellectual videos, or find out what Sally had for dinner, but we can’t truly connect. We can only stay in touch…and not even a physical touch, but the worst kind—long distance—and how many long distance relationships actually work out?

But is spirituality what we’re missing? Is that part of the piece that’s gone away in the connection puzzle? If we rationalized everything no one would ever dance, or sing, or create any type of art, because it’s more important to eat and have a roof over our heads. There is that spiritual element to those activities; they connect to our emotional side, a part of us that begs for the magical, that begs for closeness.

I’m not one hundred percent sure what our “true” connection should look like, as it can often be idealized into some nostalgic days of yesteryear instead of being a genuine actual thing we accomplish. But I think the biggest part of  it all is experiencing these “magical” types of activities with other people…, dancing, singing, conversing, creating, sharing a connection to a bigger idea; touching, feeling, enjoying life together. In the same living breathing space, not just in virtual space.

Some other people’s thoughts:

Ted Talks: Amber Case, “We Are All Cyborgs Now.”

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Krystal Baugher  |  Contribution: 5,310