The virtual living is getting ridiculous. I think things were under control as long as it was just blogging and (even) until social networking sites like Orkut. Facebook takes things to a different level altogether. For those of you who are not familiar with Facebook, it’s a social networking site that deviates from the standard format of profile pages and guest books and offers members a host of ‘applications’ which give them exciting, albeit virtual, options like gifting eggs that will hatch into pets, or becoming vampires and biting other members or, even, stealing other people’s panties.
When members add an application, they obviously want others to add it as well (who will they bite, send gifts to, steal panties from etc otherwise?) so as a result, your FB inbox is soon full of invitations. I was checking my invites today and came across one that asked me to choose a designer bag. Now I have few material fetishes but bags are right up there. So I idly clicked on the link and the next thing I know, I’m choosing bags of different colours and shapes and thinking to myself that I could just do this from now on and save the money I spend on real bags. When I found myself in the midst of a wrenching dilemma between a Fendi and a Balenciaga, I decided it was time to log out.
In related news, Nisha Susan writes about social networking sites for books in the latest issue of Tehelka:
With all the bookblogs, booksellers’ sites and social networking sites we already have did we need a social networking site for booklovers? Apparently we did but didn’t know it. Goodreads, LibraryThing and Shelfari, like many phenomena on the Internet, turn previously amorphous, even unknown desires into necessities. These new sites understand that very few committed readers have ‘favourite books’ and allow you to upload as many books as you want. (Library Thing allows you to add only 200 titles for free. Beyond that you will have to pay a fee to support your habit).
So what is this incessant book displaying and bag buying and biting all about? Are we jobless, bored, stupid or too broke to buy real bags, gifts and booze? I think it all boils down to vanity finally. You have a captive audience on whom you can inflict information that otherwise nobody may ask for. I mean, my best friends don’t know what kind of bag I like or what book I read last! See, the important thing is not to just catalogue, but to then display the catalogue where everyone can see it. Take the virtual book collections. Unlike those that rest in a mahogany bookcase, virtual books cannot be picked out, thumbed through or quoted from. They exist only as reminders — for yourself and others — of who you are or perhaps, what you’ve achieved. Uh…we call it “sharing” though.
We are a generation of narcissists. Let me rephrase that. We are a generation that is honest about our narcissism. The Internet is just another fabulous way for marketeers to pander to it. It is telling that a lot of the applications on Facebook involve personality tests, the results of which you can display on the board for others to see. Then there’s one called Hotness that lets you inform others that “you’re bringing sexy back” or “heating it up” and flirtatiously ask if they think you’re hot. Such fun!
I’m not turning up my nose at all this — or at least, not from a distance. I have half a dozen of these applications on my profile page (including Hotness). I think it’s fantastic that people are finally being honest about the fact that they’re in love with themselves. It’s a relief from my parents’ mealy-mouthed generation that pretended to be “above all this”, all the fucking time. Whether we’re going too far in the opposite direction in our bid to be frank is another debate altogether.
On another note, the article also talks about the two kinds of book lovers.
Anne Fadiman says there are two kinds of book-lovers, the courtly lover and the carnal lover. The carnal lover’s books have broken spines, yellow stains and and more than a nodding acquaintance with the nether regions of households such as the kitchen and the loo. This lot adore literature but not are not reverent towards the corporeal form of books. The courtly lover’s books, on the other hand, tend to live in dust-free cathedrals of cellophane.
This has led to much marital incompatibility in my case. I refuse to divulge which kind I am but that in itself is probably a clue.
Anyway, in the spirit of narcissism and shameless self-promotion, let me leave you with this: I’ve been tinkering with Ultra Violet and have changed the format a bit. We also have our first poetry submission. So do head there and leave comments.