I remember a discussion from an English class in high school where we were discussing if Man invented God to fulfill a human need, or if God actually exists. Now, most comedians I know range from ambivalent to hostile towards God and religion, which if you have seen and heard a lot of comedians seems to be pretty justified on their parts. But if humans did invent the concept of God I think the most compelling evidence of this may be the Twitter and Facebook explosion on the Internet. It is clear that humans, at least Americans, like the idea of some larger presence observing their actions and thoughts to give them relevance. Now politically we cry out for privacy and independence, but Twitter and Facebook seem to reveal our true nature, at least the nature of the shallow and enlightened people we have become. We still need relevance bigger than ourselves, so if God and religion cannot provide it, we will simply invent something to give us that sense of cosmic community. Of course I think this is incredibly stupid and would prefer to believe in an invisible man or force than in the insecurities of people, sublimated into social networking and technology, but to each his own.
So with that in mind I propose a 10 Facebook/Twitter Commandments:
1) Thou shall not put RIP messages on social networking. I remember George Carlin talking about how our culture is obsessed with death and he was probably right. Funerals may be entirely useless, but at least they have more gravitas than a Tweet or a Facebook status. When people write RIP messages on social networking sites I really believe what they are saying, perhaps subconsciously, “I’m a thoughtful and caring person and I need people to know this about me, even if it involves a modest exploitation of the loss of a loved one.” Stop doing it, your deceased cannot read anymore, so your thoughts and/or prayers are sufficient. And if you write messages on Facebook pages of deceased people (seen it a few times) the only dignified thing to do is have the page taken down – he/she cannot “like” you comments anymore. And lastly, a website where I describe movies and masturbating probably isn’t a sanctified enough place to honor someone.
2) Thou shall stop telling people how the weather is. Pretty self explanatory, but next time you think of updating something mundane like that, stop, think and try to appreciate it and feel it without looking for validation or to feel like people out there now know how you feel so you have some increased validity.
3) Thou shall not make awful jokes. There are some really awful jokes being shared on these websites. Compounding the problem is that there seems to be no shortage of stupid people willing to “like” or comment with a “brilliant” on these jokes. You probably don’t know who you are, but perhaps I will let you know in the future. Here’s a hint – if your jokes read like a mediocre joke for Jay Leno, stop.
4) Thou shall not observe the sabbath. “Follow Friday” is a huge circle jerk on Twitter. It is where people tell other people to follow certain people that they are friends with or find funny. It is the prosthelytizing of social networking.
5) Thou shall not demean compliments. I always enjoy when I see the news feed on Facebook and someone has wished 8 people in a row Happy Birthday. It somehow manages to demean the insignificant wishing of a happy birthday on the Internet. Another one, specific to comedians, is when someone who runs a show rattles off “great set” to every comic on the lineup. Thanks for that – now I know that I am equally as great as everyone who did you show. Greatness and quality are relative terms and although I have been part of some great shows, not every show taking place in every bar of NYC is “great.”
6) Thou shall step aside on the sidewalk when you are using your mobile device. A year ago if someone walked into me while staring at their Blackberry they would apologize. Today they look at me as if to say, “huh?” In another year I assume they will say (imagine bitchy NYC 20-something, “What the fack?” I will be in the wrong for not getting out of their way while they send LOLs. Your tweets, bbms, etc. can wait. You are not that important, at least not important enough to walk slowly through crowded streets slowing down pedestrian traffic and walking into people.
7) Thou shall treat photograph-taking with the same importance that you did when you needed ato actually get photos developed. For selfish reasons I carve out a comedy exception to this (in Catholic terms think of it as a dispensation), but can people stop using every moment of the day as a moment worthy of preservation? We have already managed to cheapen dead people and birthdays and compliments through social media, and now we have cheapened nostalgia. “Grandma, do you have any photos of your friends when you were younger?” “Why yes in fact I have 4,566 photos – here are the 97 of us drinking Smirnoff Ice.” Awful.
8) Thou shall not say “hit me up on Facebook” – self explanatory.
9)Thou shall not give more weight to texting donations, Twitter rumors and Facebook groups/Friends than is appropriate. The real story about the millions of dollars that texting raised for Haiti after the Earthquake is whether or not young people would have been nearly as involved for a tragedy if t had not been so easy to donate. Technology like that allows us to do some good, but more importantly it has removed the desire or need to be proactive and actually be involved or care. I know dozens of people who texted donations, but it was a middle aged couple I met in Cleveland who were headed to Haiti to voulnteer. And let’s not forget the most important thing Facebook has accomplished was to get a woman near death a chance to host a television show that died 7 years ago.
I should mention that I have almost 1600 Facebook friends, but a relatively small group of actual friends. I have been tempted when my cell phone contract is up next year to get rid of my blackberry. I now have a land line phone in my apartment because I don’t want brain cancer and I told a friend of mine – how many pithy conversations, flirtations and communications would there be if people had to call my home phone. He responded, “then most people would not have contact with you.” And he is right, the question is – have we already become a society that values quantity of contact and “friends” over actual quality of friendship.
10) Thou shall follow me on Twitter. www.Twitter.com/JLCauvin I am a comedian and not famous so I am forced to play the game. But rest assured, 95% of the time I obey the Commandments.