Saturday, February 13, 2010
“Get your actual life back by deleting all of your energy-sucking social network profiles, kill your fake virtual friends and completely do away with your Web 2.0 alter ego,” reads the blurb on a new website that has just popped up, on that "Magic Carpet Ride" that is the internet.
Talk about responding to stimuli! The new site, “Web 2.0 Suicide Machine”, offers "assisted suicide of your virtual self" by running a program that erases your profile and deletes all of your friends and messages – one by one. The process also renders your user name and password invalid, ensuring that you can’t log back in. It’s a free service which originally started with what was meant to be an artistic experiment last year, according to Gordan Savcic, self-titled “Chief Euthanasia Officer” for the website. So many people showed an interest in such a seemingly obscure service that the site was launched early in 2010. Savcic goes on to say that one of the nicest features of their website is that you can lean back and watch how the machine is executing your own "2.0 suicide"!
It seems that more and more people are opting to tune out of the social networking sites that count close to a billion members world-wide between them, such as; MySpace, LinkdIn, Flikr, Twitter, and the biggest one of them all - Facebook (boasting 400 million active users - 50% of those log in every day, and each one spends more than 55 minutes per day on the site).
For a long time, being an inherent technophobe, I resisted invitations to join any of these networks, but I knew people who were active members; people who were texting,
e-mailing, blogging, surfing the internet, and working at full-time jobs, as well as, presumably, interacting with flesh and blood human beings in the real world, away from the keyboard.
I was finally coaxed into the Facebook world by my far-away sister who was posting news and photos of her babies that I could not otherwise see. At first, I was sucked right into this virtual playground. I went on a photo-hunting and - posting frenzy. I was “friended” by family and friends far and wide, I updated my status regularly, I joined causes. It was a totally new experience for me. There I was: talking to “friends”, visiting their pages, browsing their photo albums, and having them see mine - without having to brush my hair, or leave my house! I got into the habit of checking the Facebook wall so often, I could see how this could become addictive. When I finally came up for air, I felt like a pallid version of my former self. Unlike Facebook, the real world seemed so loud, so bright, so – ironically - “in my face”, and, what’s more; I now had to make an effort to live up to the more polished virtual “me” that I had been presenting to the world.
Now the bloom is off the Facebook rose, for me. Apart from the fact that I can use my 55+ minutes per day more productively, I’ve simply grown disenchanted with the whole thing. I got tired of seeing the same people saying similar things (to do with “partying”) and posting similar photos (depicting themselves “partying”) hour after hour, day after day - not to mention the endless games like “Farmville” that they all seemed to get stuck on, and the constant pleas to accept hugs and kisses and join causes that didn’t amount to much, as far as I could tell. Then there were the young adults like my children, my nieces and nephews, whose every move at every moment of their lives seemed on display. I felt like I was snooping, even though I respected their privacy and made sure never to ask to be their “friend” in the first place - they all asked me.
I noticed something interesting - some of the people who seemed to be the life and soul of the Facebook party, came across as strangely introverted when I had the chance to meet them in real-life social situations. It was almost as though they could only be themselves (albeit their virtual, fake selves) when they were behind the shield of the computer screen.
I had a vision of human interaction in the future: A world of people affected by a new variation on Asperger’s Syndrome. People incapable of connecting in a meaningful way because they had never learned to read body language through the age-old process of in-person contact with each other - people lacking the ability to use all of their senses to intuit how others felt, and to respond appropriately. A world devoid of the highs and lows that emotion contributes to the human experience - in all its drudgery and splendor.
Emoticons just don’t do the job ;)
The “Web 2.0 Suicide Machine” is not the first of its kind - late last year, “Seppukoo.com” was launched - fashioned after the Japanese custom of ritualistic suicide termed “seppuku”. The mission: to help people log out of social networking sites, in order to “ … discover what happens after their virtual life and to rediscover the importance of being anyone, instead of pretending to be someone.”
Interestingly, these services arose not only to help people to log out – this can easily be a do-it-yourself exercise; but as a result of many frustrated users finding that they were unable to totally delete their information from the social networking sites when they opted out. Facebook has fought back by blocking the “Web 2.0 Suicide” website, which is now, in its turn, “cloaking” its access and continuing on its quest to free the world, while all activity seems to have ceased on the “Seppukoo.com” site.
Realistically, though, the number of people who would opt out of their social networks, by whatever means, is hardly going to make a dent in the number of users any time soon.
As for me, I’ve overcome my aversion to new technology - for the most part - now that I’m choosing to exercise my free will. I continue to be a member of Facebook, but now I log on infrequently, and only when I have something worth posting or investigating. Otherwise, I have reverted to more old-fashioned means of communication; e-mail, telephone, snail mail, and face-to-face contact - though I won’t be resorting to virtual suicide any time soon!
To view the aforementioned sites:
Web 2.0 Suicide Machine