Saturday, February 13, 2010

Social Suicide

“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, “” 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 “” 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


  1. It's a conundrum, isn't it, and the answer--as I suppose is the case for all self-inflicted wastes of time--is (sigh) self-discipline. It was nice just to sit quietly today, finish Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and contemplate which in the stack of books I have next to me I might pick up next. But I do bear in mind that technology has brought me many riches, including a connection I would not otherwise have made with my co-writers on Raining Acorns. So, as always, it is a question of balance, which, in the case of Facebook, you seem to have found, and well done!

  2. After creating my own website in 1996 in part for the purpose of learning html and because someone told me I would not be able to figure out how to launch a website (I had it up within a week of that challenge), my first encounter with possible virtual friends was with the website. It was fun for a few months but it had not quite caught on so I lost interest.

    I share your disenchantment. Not being a people person to begin with, social networking has little appeal for me anyway. Privacy issues also surfaced before Facebook and the like, which made me leery to embark when invited. Once information hits the web it can not be easily deleted especially if it gets mirrored.

    Raining Acorns and many websites that I peruse are enjoyable safe havens. I have found I can take the magic carpet ride with dark tinted windows!

  3. Social networking offers, amongst other things, new ways of connecting with existing friends, making new ones, sharing ideas etc.If people could find the same results without using social networking one has to ask, why don't they? Some reasons are time, distance, cost, and lack of alternatives to meet people we would wish to. So social networking along with text, e-mail, letters, telephone has a beneficial role in providing channels for communication. These modes can also help people express themselves when they may find this more difficult face-to-face. So it brings new opportunities.

    But face by face communication brings more- the opportunity to express and absorb greater "information" about the other.This can be a very important in a process of developing mutual understanding and trust essential for establishing deeper, more secure, sustaining, enriching connections.But the extent of this will be limited by how well a person can actually connect with others.And by our understanding of ourselves.

    For there is a great difference between establishing a potential channel for communication and connecting.Even in "real life" how many of us have felt alone at a party or that even at a one-to-one where we feel we aren't making the connection we wish?

    Face-to-face may have benefits over virtual but it isn't the simple panacea for our aloness either. Making connections isn't that easy. Drink, drugs, food, books, TV, film, extreme sports, work etc are often used to escape such unhappy feelings, find courage or solace.

    In some ways economic development has set us more apart e.g.the dissolution of real-life communities, encouraging competition and distance both physical and emotional, undermining self-esteem. Technology from the carrier-pigeon to social networking may provide a means for offsetting that loss so there can be benfits from using it wisely.

    But ultimately we need to develop our own abilities in connecting. For connecting isn't simply about the mode we use but about process.It takes also takes time, trust, understanding of ourselves, others and courage always enhanced by real life engagement and sharing with each other.

  4. Very interesting concept!

    I think there is a huge difference in how generations see and use social media. People who are 35+ or so grew up and made friendships the old fashioned way - in person, with actual paper correspondence and telephone calls made on a phone attached to the wall.

    When I use Facebook, I find it a great tool to catch up with long lost college and high school friends. I can get a glimpse into their lives and reconnect in a way I would not do on paper or in a phone call, because it would be too cumbersome to maintain all those relationships in the old-fashioned manner.

    I wonder how social media affect the way today's young people make those initial friendships. Their relationships and their use of social media will be totally different from what the older generation experiences.

    I find Carol-Ann's comment on how some people were more introverted in person than online to be true too. I know sometimes I communicate better in an email than in a phone call (or at least I think I do!).

    Shortly after my mom got an email account, I found I often sent her many short emails; I would email as soon as I thought of something so I wouldn't forget. She replied back: "Does this email mean we'll be in contact more, but communicate less?"

  5. Thank you all for such interesting responses - I find myself agreeing with most of your comments. Actually, I feel a tad hypocritical, seeing that I am now spending so much time online - and I love being a part of this blog!

    Jane - "I can take the magic carpet ride with dark tinted windows." That's it, in a nutshell, for me.


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