I just blocked Facebook on my computer. It’s kind of humiliating to admit that I don’t have the willpower to not get sucked into my father’s aunt’s second cousin’s fifth nephew’s Facebook statii, but it would be even more humiliating to stand at them pearly gates and admit to God that yes, I did waste a combined 15 years of my life coveting everyone else’s neatly manicured e-lawns and carefully presented e-lives. Note to self: nobody’s life is as interesting as it looks on Facebook.
I’ve been wanting to exit the Facebook community for awhile now, and my desire came into sharp focus when I won a Kindle this week. (As an aside, did you know that actual people sometimes win raffles? Due to my continual state of raffle-loserdom I’ve spent my whole life thinking that raffles are a cruel joke, a set-up in which the raffle-ticket-drawers simply call out bogus names so that they can keep the prizes at the end when the ‘winners’ mysteriously fail to claim them. This is apparently not the case, at least not at my school’s library. Thanks, G. Allen Fleece, et. al!)
As far as technological raffle prizes go, a Kindle is really a perfect match for me, literature buff wannabe and self-diagnosed education addict. But the possession of this little prize has put me in quite a quandary.
You see, I make it my goal to never add a piece of technology* to my life without understanding the ramifications of such an addition. I read Neil Postman’s absolutely fabulous work Technopoly several years ago, and it inspired me to consider my technology use with more care.
Winning a Kindle, therefore, has plunged me into a heated debate with myself regarding whether or not to hop aboard the e-book reader train. Sentimental and sensual reasons aside (turning the pages of my tattered, book-smelly, thrifted copy of The Count of Monte Cristo brings joy to my soul that I’m convinced no Kindle version will ever excite), is Kindleing something I’m willing to support with my consumer dollar? What unforeseen changes might this piece of technology bring about in our society, and are they changes that I’m willing to support?
Perhaps I’m over-thinking it, but realistically speaking, how many people would have predicted that Facebook would bring about the massive cultural shifts it has inspired? I thought it was an asinine ode to narcissism when I first joined it, and now I find that far too much of my time, mental and social energy, and even identity get caught up in my interactions on that particular site. Had I foreseen the ramifications of joining it, I’m not sure I ever would have. Please don’t think I’m demonizing Facebook. The user, not the tool, is always to blame for technological misuse, but as we develop into a society of increasingly thoughtless technophiles, the rampant misuse of technology becomes far more likely. . .and while I can’t stop the movement of society, I definitely want to carefully monitor the role I play in it.
In the midst of my Kindle dilemma (Kindlemma?), as I’ve been refining my philosophy of technology and deciding how much power I’m willing to allocate to the various technologies in my life, I’ve realized that Facebook is a piece of that puzzle I want to let go. I don’t plan to give it up entirely, as it can be a helpful way to keep up with wonderful friends of whom I might otherwise lose track, but I want to be more cautious about the mindless and unproductive intrusions I allow it, or any other technology, to have in my life.
As for my Kindlemma, well. . .the jury is currently hung with regard to that verdict. Feel free to present your evidence, even if it amounts to, “Here! Over here! Send the Kindle this way!”
*Here I use the term ‘technology’ in its colloquial sense to refer to computery gadgets/software, not necessarily the technical, Neil Postman sense, which I believe refers to man-made tools as a whole.