Perusing Andrew Sullivan’s blog I came across his post on Carr’s attack on social networking. I think Carr’s post is well worth the read. Extended money quote below the fold.
Carr’s attack is mostly focused on “Twittering” but his attack can easily be directed at “Facebook Status Updating” given that it is really just an organized “Twitter” site now (isn’t this what most people use Facebook for now?). I realize that this post, by the way, will likely drag the Twitter/Facebook cheerleaders like Adam Potthast out of the woodwork to come to a passionate defense of these tools.
“Narcissism is just the user interface for nihilism, of course, and with artfully kitschy services like Twitter we’re allowed to both indulge our self-absorption and distance ourselves from it by acknowledging, with a coy digital wink, its essential emptiness. I love me! Just kidding!
The great paradox of “social networking” is that it uses narcissism as the glue for “community.” Being online means being alone, and being in an online community means being alone together. The community is purely symbolic, a pixellated simulation conjured up by software to feed the modern self’s bottomless hunger. Hunger for what? For verification of its existence? No, not even that. For verification that it has a role to play. As I walk down the street with thin white cords hanging from my ears, as I look at the display of khakis in the window of the Gap, as I sit in a Starbucks sipping a chai served up by a barista, I can’t quite bring myself to believe that I’m real. But if I send out to a theoretical audience of my peers 140 characters of text saying that I’m walking down the street, looking in a shop window, drinking tea, suddenly I become real. I have a voice. I exist, if only as a symbol speaking of symbols to other symbols.
It’s not, as Scott Karp suggests, “I Twitter, therefore I am.” It’s “I Twitter because I’m afraid I ain’t.”
As the physical world takes on more of the characteristics of a simulation, we seek reality in the simulated world. At least there we can be confident that the simulation is real. At least there we can be freed from the anxiety of not knowing where the edge between real and unreal lies. At least there we find something to hold onto, even if it’s nothing.”