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Art Imitates Facebook: The Future of Us

Syndicated radio news show, here & Now, broadcasts out of WBUR in Boston, serving up a daily helping of gourmet brain food for smartypants listeners. On December 27th, host of the show, Robin Young, interviewed Carolyn Mackler and Jay Asher, co-authors of  The Future of Us.

I proudly remember the day my 13-year old niece declined to read the 2nd book in the Twilight series.

Both Mackler and Asher have  penned wildly popular bestsellers for the teen market and have joined forces to collaborate on this hot selling young adult novel. The book seems destined to enchant angst-ridden adolescents on its inevitable rush to fill the silver screen.

If a higher power guides our mortality, providence will mercifully bar Justin Bieber from playing the male lead in the impending cinematic blockbuster.

Teenagers Josh and Emma enter the plot as neighbors and lifelong pals whose fates dangle on a clever story hook, dripping with magical realism. The setting transports us back to 1996 to a younger world when AOL gagged our mail slots with zillions of useless CD‘s. Josh’s mom compels him to take the AOL wonder disk next door to Emma’s house so his galpal can install an email account on her new computer.

After signing on to new accounts, Josh and Emma discover their respective persona presented in a bizarre form of electronic media which Mark Zuckerburg has yet to invent.

Our protagonists become transfixed by the social media profiles of their own thirty-something selves who will not exist for another fifteen years. The story follows Josh and Emma as they struggle to reconcile juvenile hopes and dreams with a disappointing adult persona.

Do our Facebook identities transcend time?

Do our characters have the existential power to change the course of their lives by avoiding painful mistakes? Or, have our players glimpsed the reflection of  immutable future selves who hold Josh and Emma hostage on a miserable path they can neither abide nor amend? Does knowledge of our future self offer new wisdom through preventative choices, or simply doom us to unwanted destiny?

Who steals the show in this grim tale?

I’m sure the yarn unfolds in an  endless stream or recriminations and teenage foreboding. Does it even make sense to dread the advent of digital anima and persona founded on all the sincerity and vulnerability of a used car salesman? Who knows? Read the book or get your own niece to offer a synopsis.

Both antagonist and plot device, Facebook overshadows our cast as the main character, posing intriguing questions about digital identity expressed as persona and product. Like a co-dependent college pal, Facebook throws its weight around, alienates our friends, and gossips incessantly about everybody we know.  Your friends don’t approve of this unhealthy relationship, but they don’t understand your special connection with Facebook.

Facebook has a jones exclusively for your attention, not your honesty.

We accept that we can’t trust Facebook to hold anything in confidence. In fact, we crave its addiction to broadcast our tawdry secrets and most cherished lies, certain that our creative self portrayal will soon become canon among our peers. Truth is the last thing we would ever dare to share with Facebook.

At first we benefit from Facebook’s slavish loyalty to our well scripted biography, however self-aggrandizing. Audiences enjoy a good story and a tall tale. Besides, it’s Facebook. We don’t expect honesty, yet we weary instantly of the fool who fails to distract or entertain us. And like a jester who no longer amuses jaundiced courtiers, a wearisome bore may inspire painful backlash.

Is there a place in social media for a bold and earnest self portrayal expressed in stark contrast to the falsehoods venerated by our petty masses?

The answer remains an unequivocal “yes,” as long as you feel comfy talking about your hemorrhoid procedure, your erectile dysfunction, or how you lost your last partner to emotional selfishness and a complete absence of personal ambition.

On Facebook the only friend you can ever count on is discretion. Everything you post, follow, like, click, link, friendify, share, or blog automatically falls below the event horizon of Zuckerburg’s massive data mining gravity well. Have fun with your distraction but keep your eye on the clock. Oh, and lie your little heart out. Everybody else does.

“I’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It’s awful. If I’m on my way to the store to buy a magazine, even, and somebody asks me where I’m going, I’m liable to say I’m going to the opera. It’s terrible.”
J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

“Clinton lied. A man might forget where he parks or where he lives, but he never forgets oral sex, no matter how bad it is.”
Barbara Bush

“The truth is always an insult or a joke, lies are generally tastier. We love them. The nature of lies is to please. Truth has no concern for anyone’s comfort.”
Katherine Dunn

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One comment on “Art Imitates Facebook: The Future of Us

  1. I heard that interview. pretty interesting stuff

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