Ten Years of Devolution: Facebook and “Celebrities”

Think about where you were ten years ago. A lot of shit has happened, some for the good, but mostly for the inconvenient. The iPod and HD TV and LeBron James are awesome, but terrorism, economic greed and TMZ suck. When I think about this decade the two things that stand out the most are the rise of Facebook and cult of celebrity. Unfortunately, the two have become linked in the psyche of today’s youth.

People have always been enamored with celebrities. There will always be a demand for gossip and a glimpse into a lifestyle that 99% of Americans will never experience. The problem in the last part of the decade was that the word “celebrity” got totally fucked. Anyone with a YouTube video or a spot on a reality TV show or a song on MySpace thought they were entitled to their 15 minutes of fame. And, the public and TMZ gladly obliged, creating disposable personalities for consumers to chew up and shit out. No longer are Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts the big fish in a small pond. We have created a culture of retards so obsessed with fame and its trappings that in their pursuit of selfish goals, they have in turn made this nation dumber. This is why the terrorists hate us.

I first heard of Facebook from a friend during my junior year of college. The social networking site started at Harvard and grew rapidly to other universities (and eventually high schools and the general population). The site was originally a funny way to see what old friends from high school were up to. But in a matter of a few short years, the site eclipsed MySpace as the preferred social network of the world and really changed how people talk, schedule events, share information and essentially communicate. “Facebook” became a verb in addition to a place, and it seemed like your life on Facebook was far more important than the one you live in reality.

I think Facebook was easily the invention of the decade, but I think the virtual, self-promotional ego-stroking community that the site has created has fucked the 30 and under generation, possibly beyond repair. Social networks are a good thing. Connecting people around the globe is a good thing. But when a social network erodes interpersonal communication and places more value on online conversations than face-to-face interactions, we need to re-evaluate things.

Facebook allows users to be a celebrity within their unique social circle, only the title is self-proclaimed and determined solely by the number of “friends” you have and the amount of content you share. David Fincher is directing a movie about the founding of Facebook and I saw him speak this fall. When asked about Facebook and it’s effect on the world, he said it’s a great tool, but he was worried about how readily people share their private lives with the world. Personal privacy is no longer something we keep sacred. We’d rather have people know everything, or at least something about us, than nothing at all. This, I feel is a problem. We could tie this to the cult of celebrity or the rise of the Facebook overshare generation or the “everyone’s special” mantra and ‘everyone gets a trophy’ rule in youth sports, but I don’t have the time or the desire to get my Masters in Sociology and write a second diseratation.

Facebook and TMZ and papa razzi aren’t going anywhere. If anything, they’ll only get bigger and more popular. I don’t have any answers, I just know it’s only taken a few years for the world to change and we’re moving forward at an alarming rate. There’s only a couple hours left in 2009 and the decade. Who knows where we’ll be in another ten years. For now,

Have a fun and safe New Years.

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Filed under Amateur Analysis, Cultural Criticism

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