“A game of chance where your identity is the grand prize”: LAUREN CHAPLIN checks out the new internet fad that forces us to re-examine what Facebook means to us.
A friend once made the observation that, upon meeting a girl in Fresher’s Week, she had believed her to be cool until realising that this perspective was simply due to “a well curated Facebook profile.”
A term conventionally applied to museums, to the organisation of art and ideas into a perfectly realised aesthetic and intellectual collection for public consumption. How curious, then, that we should curate our online lives, investing so much time into these bastions of self, when in reality they are anything but.
“Have you uploaded the photos yet?” and “prof pic material” have become such common refrains that we scarcely pause to question the premise upon which we utter them, and this is where Social Roulette comes in.
Described as “a game of chance where your identity is the grand prize”, there is a 1 in 6 chance of the website deleting your Facebook profile, should you choose to gamble it. This concept of betting social capital amounts to what many view as social suicide, and has thus been quick to court controversy. Facebook have already blocked the app, developed by Kyle McDonald, for violation of ‘platform policies’.
McDonald has described his creation as “a gift to everyone who feels like they can’t delete their Facebook account”, yet for many, myself included, this is a gift horse to instinctively be looked at in the mouth. Even with an awareness of the prevailing artifice of Facebook interactions, the dependence of most on this social network is so ingrained that to live without it is a horrifying thought. We may often claim only to use Facebook to because it’s useful to keep up to date on events and birthdays, but within many of us there lies the insecurity that, in missing out on one funny inbox, one witty wall post, the tenets of our friendship will gradually erode.
In actuality though, it is my best friends whom I inbox or stalk the least, our wall-to-walls as barren as the Cindies dance floor in exam term. If I haven’t seen their latest selfie or ‘Like’, I don’t feel as though I know them any less; the reverse, in fact, is true. I know them well enough for their internet idiosyncrasies not to matter.
Yet beyond my nearest and dearest, the notion of having the perfect profile is still all consuming. Fashion, as a form of self-expression, has always been utilised, from Mary Quant to the hippies to Gaga; yet for Generation X, clothing (and indeed tastes in music and lifestyle) have become secondary to letting everyone know, via the Internet, what clothing and music and club nights they enjoy.
A Facebook profile has transcended the technological to become an outright statement of identity. As Kierkegaard said, “the crowd is untruth”; and yes, I put my Spotify settings on private when I listen to Taylor Swift, because that’s not the image of myself I want to project to my peers.
No wonder, then, that the ultimate statement of cool, rather than having hundreds of likes on your photo, is to have none; deleting your Facebook is an outright refusal to buy into a culture which promotes ‘Friends’ over meaningful relationships. The West may often claim democratic superiority to the East, but before we condemn the Chinese for censoring Facebook, we should question the extent to which we already utilise it to censor ourselves.