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Facebook is the message inside humanity's envelope

Luis de Miranda
22 May 2009

The live-stream experience of Facebook is tragic, beautiful and painful. Sartre wrote about the impossiblity of communication between beings. And that is exactly what is now immediately visible at every moment, with our every post and status update: the desire of living things to discover their analogue, their double, anything that will vibrate and resonate to their own special frequency. But however much there are forces in society trying to make us all similar (language, culture, shared entertainments and rites), our radical difference still stands out: we are all, as Bergson and then Deleuze would have it, shoots of creation, always springing forth into being and constantly being reconfigured; similarity is only found on the surface of things. So Facebook is the real time enactment of a human impulse: individual beings, strangers to each other, each in the impossible quest for a double.

 

Luis de Miranda is a Paris-based philosopher, novelist and editor. This article is based on his book Une vie nouvelle est-elle possible? Deleuze et les lignes

It was originally published at Libération's philosophy blog and was translated by Tony Curzon Price

Each of us is a planet, a baroque monster made up of a thousand points of experience assembled into a unique and transitory thing. We are not just seeking our second half, but really a double--whoever or whatever will resonate with the sutures that define us--each of us a unique Frankenstein pursuing the fantasy of a bride. In the face of the disappearingly miniscule chance of finding anyone like yourself, your Facebook stream is a testament to the wasted effort in discovering this monstrous brother.

Some have understood this radical loneliness of the human condition. They are no longer on the quest for the double. Instead, they seek to transform others through the exercise of influence--to bring the other a little closer to oneself by attacking their constructed identity piece by piece. If, as Deleuze and Guattari would have it, we are each of us made up of a thousand plateaux--moving structures--then, when I post a video clip  to Facebook that has grabbed my attention, I am trying to force a posting into the result of another's mechanism. I hope, in the end, that if I bring my taste to the other's attention sufficiently persistently, then, even if I fail to meet my monstrous brother, I will at least transform the other to the point of reflecting my own patch, my own bit of territory. This is still quite illusory. As Alfred Korzybski warned, the map is not the territory--to think so would be to reify symbols. We are in permament flux; our mechanisms are recomposed by various changing influences at every moment. Even if at one moment I had the impression of coming together sufficiently with someone to vibrate with a shared passion, this union in love will be short lived. More often than not, it will be defined by its anticipation, not its realisation.

Is it our inescapable fate to be each of us just lonely seekers of Frankenstein's bride? No. We can stop looking for the double. We can in fact go for the exact opposite--we have everything to gain in interacting with mechanisms as different as possible from our own (note that I am talking about micro-difference here--not the cliches of difference that are used to define this or that so-called minority). So, for example, a less sad approach to Facebook might be to post only videos that we dislike, or to write status-updates that are the opposite of what we are feeling. Some already do this out of derision. Other ideas? Use Facebook neither as a tool of expression, nor yet as a network of promotion and influence, but instead to create new values, new concepts, new ways of seeing. Why not turn Facebook into one laboratory amongst many aimed at creating a new set of tools for being human and fully in the world, discovering arrangements more conducive to exchanging intensity?

Play knowingly with appearance; do not seek a human essence within-- a soul that can never hope to find its kin except in unkindred sharing of the diversity of possibilities; an unpredictable and formless monstrosity. If humanity is a screen and Facebook its message, let us be attentive to how we appear on it. Our status-updates of today can become our statues tomorrow. Either we can choose the raw materials today that will be un-moveable in the future, or we can construct a more fluid world, more deliciously monstrous--that is, more real. "Difference is the monster," wrote Deleuze. And that beautiful interior monster has always brought forth in us a desire to suppress, to control; a desire for rules, that we all too easily think of as civilisation. We re-enact this pathetic pattern every day on Facebook when we allow it to simply reproduce homogenising norms. If Nietzsche were on Facebook, he would want to be added as an enemy. Not for the antagonism, but rather for the surprise.

 

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