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The Social Net-Working Rat Race

February 24, 2010


Bleak, Shallow and Repetitive

(Editor's Note: I'd like to hear from readers who have insight into the Facebook/MySpace phenomenon. Do you agree with what Irene is saying? I know people who have shut their Facebook accounts because they were addicted to the social caresses. )

Now that the thrill of our hyper-connected existence is gone, virtual life has become a depressing daily grind. We toil late into the night, unleashing an endless stream of status updates and tweets in a desperate attempt to keep ourselves relevant, desirable and in.

There's an ominous irony in FarmVille, a Facebook application that enables users to build and maintain a virtual farm. It's more than a game: It's an allegory. Virtual existence is feudalism for the modern age. Those who hold the information are kings and those of us toiling in the virtual fields are the servile peasantry: selling our souls for the mind-numbing comfort of an online existence.

Social Networking Sites (SNSs) promise limitless, boundless friendship - a phenomenon that should make us happier than ever. But our optimism over connectivity has gradually morphed into cynicism and resentment. It turns out virtual life is less about connectivity than self-branding.

SNSs entice us to divulge and update, stroking our fragile egos with filtered ads that utilize our personal information to reap huge profits, as our hundreds of "friends" perpetually rate our online popularity.

Paranoid about how we'll be perceived, we spend hour after hour trying to avoid the virtual consequences of being deemed uncool. We have more to worry about than our online acquaintances deleting us after we're tagged in an unflattering photo.

Sites like Lamebook, devoted to reposting cliché status updates and socially awkward wall exchanges, humiliate those virtual personas who are unfamiliar with the web's mores and codes.

Bleak, shallow and repetitive, virtual life seems increasingly less worth living. Users are beginning to realize that it's not leisure, it's work that borders on servitude.

But there's a resistance growing among those tired of their virtual subjugation. In response to the electronic world's rising indignation, virtual suicide sites like and have started a countermovement, provoking users to kill their online selves and reclaim their real lives.

These programs assist our virtual deaths by hacking into our profiles, completely annihilating our online personas and leaving no trace of our former selves behind.

It's social revolt for the online age: a mass uprising that will shatter the virtual hierarchy and restore order to our actual lives.

Comments for "The Social Net-Working Rat Race"

Jo Anne said (February 25, 2010):

The problem with the analysis in this article is that people use social networking sites for different reasons. I'm a stay-at-home mom and facebook helps me keep in touch with far-flung relatives and friends. It also provides me with an direct link to public officials (and other activists) where I can find out about legislation, vent my concerns or opinions and other community events.

I can understand the need for some people to unplug from their computers and "join the rest of us" in the real world; however, not all of us have the luxury of having endless hours of time to sit on the computer. We are busy with real life and these sites help us renew and develop friendships/relationships that we might otherwise neglect.

Bill said (February 25, 2010):

While the Facebook experience can be "bleak, shallow and repetitive," it CAN be fun and connective. Before there was FB and MySpace, there was Hi5 and Friendster. I met my current girlfriend (and many past girlfriends) on Friendster. I wasted many hours chatting on EyeBall, Yahoo IM and MSN IM. Don't have time for that anymore. The thing is, I don't like to go out to bars. I no longer attend church. I work at home and live alone.

Although I hate the commercialization of SNSs, it does provide social opportunities in spades. Because people are promoting their thing, I get invited to a plethora of events. Occasionally I attend one and it gets me out of the house, gives me somewhere to go and I meet new people - real people. So it does serve a purpose for me - similar to Meet-Up groups.

Another thing I like about Facebook is the surprise factor. When I add a new friend, they know many people I don't. Now I have access to all those people. It's the networking principle. Whatever my current need, there is someone out there who can meet it.

Finally, for those who claim "Social networking appeals to undeveloped personalities" (Vano), I suppose it does, otherwise it would not have wide appeal. But you, sir, are arrogant and judgmental. We are all doing the best we can with what we have, right? How "developed" can your personality be if it is bereft of humility?

Shane said (February 25, 2010):

As way of background, I have a facebook page with over 3200 "friends" (any number over 1000 is meaningless), so I think I might have some perspective on the whole facebook issue.

While the article is true in that Facebook promotes a fake life, what the article misses is that Facebook tracks all of what you do (see this and then uses that to build a "marketing" profile so that targeted ads will be shown to users.

With the widespread partnership of private companies and the government for data collection (see, it's fair to assume that the profile that has been built by Facebook about a person is something that whoever has the "right" connections will also have.

Let me put it another way, Facebook KNOWS how long it takes a person to react to different stimuli, what stimuli produce the most rapid response, and other things that people have no clue about. It even knows how long you "read" an email before clicking on something, in other words, Facebook is WORSE than what people think Google is.

Virtual suicide does NOT remove the footsteps from the internet, rather they just hide the footsteps from the masses. But the masses are not the real problem, it's the puppet masters that we should be concerned about.

Chief Apathetic said (February 25, 2010):

This old Indian had to laugh as I always laugh when someone refers to your world as the Rat Race. There are stories from within Tribes that the one you call Jesus lived with them long ago in this land before the European Rat Race Civilizations were even in this land. The Mormons in their book say he lived with Tribes in this land long ago, too.

Those stories may be true. They may be far more true than you even know?

Prophets of Native Tribes even foretold the coming of the Europeans & the insane world they would build in this land as they referred to the world to be built in this land as the Snake World. Animal symbology using the term Snake.

Jesus taught his original disciples that his Kingdom is not of the world of man, this world, even though man keeps fighting over this world for power & control of this world. Jesus did not teach religion, nor gave any indication he came to start a new Religion. Jesus did not turn himself, nor Creator/God/The Father into a business especially the business of Politics & Religion.

So whether your Rat Race world is the Snake World Native Prophets foretold or not is unknown, but if it isn't then it sure isn't far away. The history of this land goes a lot further back than 1491.

Bruce said (February 25, 2010):

Virtual life? Balooey. I use Facebook very minimally, primarily to keep an eye on my younger, far-flung relatives. I'm appalled by the garbage they (and most others) seem willing to post for all the world to see, and largely bored by the trivial nature of the content and the constant "what-I'm-thinking-now" updates. I often wonder what a prospective employer would think if they were to read some of this stuff. It's easy to see how the whole thing is so easily manipulated by data-mining operations and advertisers. It's an online strutting contest for immature egos, and a sad comment on where society is today. Too bad.

Bob said (February 25, 2010):

I thought today's article, though brief, serves
the Makow site well. It shows breadth of
perspective and balance.

(Though I certainly appreciate the
site's thoroughness in exposing
some of the extremes of goings-on,
particularly in circles of elite power, it was nice to have something a little more moderate


p.s. As an afterthought, I blame mainstream
Christian organizations for the grim isolation
in which most suffer. Though in a way it's
innocent, the simple thing of
vibrant living never comes up on planning
calendars of most Christian Churches.
When was the last time you were offered
food by Christian clergy? Answer: Never.
Christ had the humility to offer his brothers
food. Maybe Christian clergy of today are
such heavy-duty theologians, they have
more important things to do.

Ernie said (February 25, 2010):

I think most people are just as smart as you portray yourself on you Internet self help site. And that they don't want to be tracked by this crazy security apperatus that the CIA is quietly trying to build around the World population with these sites. We know that the 500 million dollars of investments all came from CIA sources and that this is a way to gather intel for selective assassination and co intel pro operations. This has almost nothing to do with the mumbo jumbo you've tried to present.

Vano said (February 25, 2010):

I haven`t spent a minute on social networking sites. I do spend way too much time on political forums where I discuss things like your articles:). Social networking appeals to undeveloped personalities. I`ve first learned about its existance from people whose emptiness was so obvious that I avoid like the plague anything they would recomend. Now many years later I realize that my merciless instincts served me right again. Social networking is a poisonous substitute for life similar to aspartame that these same people consume instead of sugar.

Henry Makow received his Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Toronto in 1982. He welcomes your comments at