trials of mediation

I’m emotionally over Facebook–by which I mean I am no longer invested in it as somewhere I can express my identity and personality. I used to spend hours cultivating the perfect biographical statement, interests and favorites, and group memberships, but now it’s turned into a virtual version of my apartment on its worst days–namely, full of clutter and crap that might express me, but not in any sort of coherent or favorable way. Anything I find interesting–quotes, links, videos, gets posted in a place that I’d ideally like to keep for photographs and messages to and from friends that I can’t see in person. The one day I connected my Twitter account to my Facebook, such a barrage of crap that was probably rather interesting on a feed cluttered up my Timeline that I just couldn’t stand how it looked, nor could I find a message from a friend that I was looking for.

In the fall I deleted Facebook from my bookmarks, and it remains gone. That makes me visit it a lot less often than I used to, and aside from article-link-posting binges, I don’t really do anything on Facebook except play Words With Friends (I love/hate you for that, Zoraida!). I don’t plan on quitting, but it’s no longer a place that works for the way I want to use media and mediation to send messages or create the virtual costume of myself. I don’t like who I am when I spend hours on Facebook, wistfully clicking through pictures of guys I used to like or girls who used to make fun of me, nor do I like how my profile page looks like, littered with shit I find interesting and want other people to find interesting about me. I don’t know why I held out on Twitter for so long, because it’s more my thing.

Expressing yourself adequately through media doesn’t just depend on how hard you work to create the right image, use the right language, and appear to be the type of person you are (or want to appear to be). It also depends on how other people use their media, because their attitudes and expectations of different media (Facebook, text, IM, etc) will color their view of how yours looks/appears. The way each person understands and approaches media is called their media ideology, and I just read a fascinating book on how relationships and breakups are mediated. The Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting over New Media by Ilana Gershon details the beginnings, (dys)functioning, and endings of 21st century relationships (mostly in college-aged and young adults) and how they can be complicated by different media.

I was super excited about this book as soon as I heard about it, and it took me until now to read it. A very readable and fun sociology book, Gershon’s study is based on interviews with tons of college students, who candidly told her their stories of being broken up with over text message, of obsessing about current boyfriends’ photos on Facebook, and more. What’s fascinating is probably how interesting I found it even though it’s totally a no brainer. This book is clearly for teachers of sociology looking for a pop text, or for adults who find the current generation interesting. But even though I don’t need the term “Facebook stalking” defined for me, I found the book rather interesting (if a bit repetitive–it didn’t need to be as long as it was with the narrow scope it had, and its topic probably would have been more interesting if it included platonic relationships and their function through media as well). And I was actually a bit surprised by how many people with seemingly “normal” relationships (I say normal because I’m never in a relationship, and instead I obsess about crushes or FWBs who are barely even Fs and never go on dates because I find them insufferable) have serious conversations (the “We need to talk” kind) about whether or not to share Facebook passwords, about whether it’s okay to take photos with members of the opposite sex at parties, and about what constitutes flirting on a wall post. And apparently it is really, really common to build Facebook profiles in order to spy on exes’ new girlfriends and stuff.

Since I can only ever live in the era and generation I am in, I don’t know what all of this relationship-building looked like pre-Internet, aside from a few glimpses when Gershon interviews middle aged people to get their perspective, but I am curious to see if there was as much nefarious stalking and such a high amount of sheer self doubt before we lived in a world that socially required us to put ourselves on display. Is there a book about The Breakup 1950-1990? Because what would make this book more enlightening would be more comparison to what things used to be like. But maybe I think that because I’m not Gershon’s target audience so much as I am her subject.

As far as the writing goes, the book treads a fine line of being straightforward and easy and thinking you are really, really out of touch with technology. I also highly recommend you do NOT read this one on Kindle, as the figures and interviews get a little wonked up in ebook form. All things considered, though, it’s a good work of nonfiction, not a textbook, that weaves in stories and explanation and interviews in a way that you feel as if you are reading for pleasure, not to get a meaty quote for a sociology 101 paper.

Oh, and I just remembered that I, too, have been dumped by text message. If I was even in a relationship with the person. Has that “in a relationship” status always been so hard to define, or did Facebook invent that uncertainty? That’s a question I’d really like Gershon to answer.

Buy it here.

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One thought on “trials of mediation

  1. I don’t blame you for losing interest in using Facebook. It’s such a time-waster. Everyone’s on there one-upping one another trying to give the illusion that they live these perfect lives, but in reality it’s one big facade.

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