Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Information Junkies

In Neil Postman’s keynote speech he mentions a quote from Henry David Thoreau Walden that really moved me.

We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate... We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the old world some weeks nearer to the new; but perchance the first news that will leak through into the broad, flapping American ear will be that the Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough.

This statement jumps out at me for being so true to our world today. Postman later referred to us as information junkies. Humans today have the world at their fingertips and while this may seem enticing and brilliant many of us have somehow slipped through the cracks of our keyboards and can’t seem to get out. We are obsessed with our computers... our personal private investigators; whether it is the latest news on Brangelina, the hurricane in Texas, Sarah Palin’s impregnated daughter, or your next-door-neighbour’s boyfriend’s sister’s friend, we are fixated on news and people that really don’t affect us. Because it is all “at our fingertips” however, we find ourselves trapped behind our computer screens discovering information that is high unnecessary. The form of media I feel endorses this obsession most, in my life and the lives of many, is of course: facebook.

Facebook has become overwhelmingly popular in the last four years; and while some try to kid themselves into thinking it is just a “social networking website” the truth is that it is a human search engine. I cannot count the amount of times I have seen received friend requests from people I do not even recognize. After sending a private message to them asking them who they are and how they know me, often I receive a message back explaining either “we met at that party!” or “I’m Amanda’s friend’s brother!” After reading this most people, inlcuding myself, just accept the invitation and get on with their lives, leaving Amanda’s friend’s brother and that random guy at that random party on your “friend’s” list.

Another term that facebook tries to fool us with: friend.

To me, my friends are the ones that know practically everything about me and truly care for me and, well, who I’ve conversed with for more than 15 minutes! Facebook uses this familiar and warm term to describe perfectly anonymous strangers. It is because they are so mysterious that we find ourselves creeping their pictures, comments and statuses to find out more. We always want more! With the click of a button we can find out what they wear, what their friends look like, if they’re in a relationship (if so, what kind? Married, engaged, dating, it’s complicated?), if they are partiers or home-bodies and even what they did last Friday night. Because of the vast number of “friends” everybody has - usually anywhere between 100 and 700 – humans can find themselves on facebook for hours, even days lurking the lives of others.

My point? I feel this is the greatest waste of time known to man! This is the definition of insignificant information. We shouldn’t be aware of what everyone has done on their own time, or if they are in a relationship or what their sexual orientation is. Those pieces of information should only be known by those who are truly friends. Those that do not require facebook to find them out.

People are fascinated with facebook so much so that it is corrupting our lives. I was shocked to find so many facebook screens appear in my lectures. University is thousands of dollars and people are paying attention to facebook instead of their professors! Tasks like assignments or even doing the laundry seem to take so much longer because of our “facebook break times”. This seems insane! Why is it we feel so compelled to log on to facebook every time we are on our computers? Why do we accept friend invites when we do not really know the person? Why do we feel obliged to post pictures up every few weeks? Why do we feel the need to comment on others’ albums and facebook defaults?

You may ask yourself why I still have facebook if my feelings are so strong. The answer is simple. I too, have fallen through the cracks of my keyboard.

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