Last week, our favorite femme fatale announced she was leaving Facebook until further notice. 48 hours, nay — 36 hours, later she was back posting status updates like nothing ever happened. (Harrumph.) At the same time, another friend was MIA on Facebook. He slipped away without a word months ago. There’s been no trace of him on FB since. We know he’s alive. Four Square and Twitter tell us he’s getting around quite well.
Common wisdom says we leave to move on to cooler and better things. Back when social networking was new, some left Myspace for Facebook, didn’t we? Now, leaving seems to be more a form of martyrdom. Because — let’s be real — are there cooler, better networks to move on to — yet? Do we care? Of course, we do. In any next world, our hope is to find meaning. But we’re all not waiting for the same thing. For now, we’re playing with purging. We’re testing our friends. We’re throwing down gauntlets. Are you coming along? Are you staying? Whom do you trust? Who loves me?
The testing doesn’t begin and end with obvious social networking. The Great American Apparel Diet, for one, gathers solidarity for those attempting to eliminate new apparel for one year. Something lost = rags. Something gained = friends in sync with yourself and some extra free time to bond with them. And then there is NASA’s 100-year-starship to infinity. What will we be willing to leave behind–forever? And who are we willing to spend that forever with if given a choice?
Hearing Raphael Sofaer and Dan Grippi at Diaspora talk about building their social network Utopia where you and your friends own your own data, keeps us captivated. Some of us already have abandoned the current players in protest of privacy policies to wait in a holding pattern for a site like Diaspora to launch. It affords a sense of control. Others will jump ship when the time comes. And still others will wait for their friends to test the waters. Until then, those who stay will reluctantly abide by privacy policies that frustrate them.
Years ago, we met with young book artists at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. The artists were adamant about not belonging to any social network. They insisted they would never plug into something so phoney. However, they were IM’ing each other in World of Warcraft. WoW was authentic for them.
For now, it’s an inner turmoil as we shift from one era to the next. It’s like we’re stuck in a detox diet. We purge and hope to see things transformed. Transformation and connection are what we’re craving but we don’t know what we want to transform to.
Disconnecting is integral to evolution. But no one said it was easy. Think about it. A Pew study says two-thirds of American adults sleep with their cell phones. 4 out of 5 teens do too. It’s subconsciously soothing. What if we miss something or someone?
Our relationships are complex. What technology abstainers, leavers and wanna-bes all have in common is a culture of rebirth and epiphany. One that is not all big, neat and cozy. Our epiphanies will be defined by everyone’s unique cultural narrative. Not having everything neatly packaged is a hard concept for many to process. It’s something we’ll have to get used to as our culture inches ever so slowly toward open source. Hopefully, we get the message before we see the “Game Over” signs.
Image via BuzzBeast