What’s with this Website? (Part II)

I don’t have much opportunity to write in the first person, since most of what I write is rather formal and/or business-related (if it’s not actually a formula in MS Excel). But here in this corner of cyberspace, I’m supposed to write in the first person. Nice!

Not only can I use the word “I”, I can use exclamation marks however I please and even some sideways-facing smiles if I feel like it 😉 Of course, most deliciously, I may be expected to write a few things-in-cheek, so-to-speak (since my tongue-typing caused an electrical short on my last laptop, considerably enriching my eccentricity). Unlike most of the things I spend most of my time writing; here I can write with something approaching carelessness, at least WRT colloquialisms, slang and ‘memes’ – whether or not I’m being serious.

Also; I might not spell as accurately or handle acronyms as formally on this personal website of mine, as I do in RL. I will assume additional leeway to invent new words, whether via portmanteaus of my own creation (like my favourite one here) or my personal brand of messy word-pastiche-making. My grammar may also get ‘creative’, and my style will almost certainly be inconsistent (perhaps even with mixed-tense mistakes, which I am prone to commit). Dear reader, whoever you are, you’ll just have to live with it, because I’m not going to edit myself as closely here as I would elsewhere.

Another thing I should mention: I might ramble (a scramble). This is because I can really lay-down the text, and where I spend my time is with editing my stuff down (but I’m not inclined to invest all that time up-front on this stuff, since it is what it is, if you know what I mean).

So please, no one reading should take these words as comprehensively indicative of the quality of my writings, ‘coz dem ain’t!

I point-out the above, because this web space needs some explanation. I know this from the outset, because I’ve already been asked to explain myself on this subject, a number of times, even though I’ve really only filled-out this website of mine in mid’13.)

You see, this isn’t just an opportunity for me to enjoy the informality of some added literary leeway (which I will do). The fact is, I have ‘missed’ writing in the first person. Sounds like an odd thing, I know, but you’ve gotta understand: I don’t have a Facebook. I never have. So, unlike most people nowadays (who seemingly ‘enjoy’ Facebooking as an outlet of writing in the first person, I suppose); I have only really made good use of the first-person style of writing, while corresponding, or making the odd forum/thread post, all these many years.

It’s not that I’m a Luddite, technophobe or anti-social person that I’ve stayed-away from Facebook. A good part of it is down to the fact that I already spend a great deal of time in front of a computer, and the idea of spending even more of my life’s time ‘online’, in lieu of actually being with a friend-or-other-RL-person…. it’s just one step too far into an impersonal realm of de-natured ‘Friends’, ‘Contacts’ and ‘Connections’. For me, in more ways than one, this whole ‘social media revolution’ is just not where I want to go, personally (socially)-speaking.

Don’t get me wrong: I have long-since embraced infotech as second nature, having received my first email addy on my first day of Uni back in ’90; not to mention (since then); maintaining my own websites (w/o any WYSIWYGing); analysing, designing and developing numerous, novel IT systems (using MS Excel+++); collaborating professionally with people all around the world; and being an electronic publisher and a data miner and analyst in my own right). You could say that I am generally ‘good’ with the responsible use of new technology, being a science-loving nerdy-geek at heart myself (albeit, with some added qualities…. so you know, in case we’ve never met).

It’s just that the whole concept of ‘Facebook’ itself (from what I gather having seen user’s ‘Facebooks’ and the movie ‘Social Network’), the very notion of ‘Friending’ someone… (?)… To me this seems essentially the same as holding-out a RL person as some kind of online credential denoting one’s ‘social success’. This whole business just seems so gauche to me, particularly in the genuinely social realm (while you’re purportedly among your true friends and actual family).

If you’ve got some sort of business, professional, advocacy or educational purpose to serve or pursue on Facebook (or SecondLife or wherever), then you may have cause to Facebook (or SL), regardless of whether you are being directly paid to do that. I get it, that’s where the eyeballs are. (Although, in my opinion, for such purposes you’re probably better-off on Linked-In or on Google+, then you are on Facebook.) Business is business, and that’s as it should be. But to actually try to conduct virtually any aspect of a genuine interpersonal relationship via *or alongside* Facebook with RL peeps you genuinely care about? …… (?)……. I can see many more ways it can hurt rather than help, and if it ain’t helping, why spend the time?

Perhaps more importantly, why waste the effort and energy and computing power? Why waste the internet bandwidth? Most of all, why mis-purpose or mis-use the ‘rare earths’ that those grotesque wars in Africa are fought over and paid for with? CONSIDER: The semiconductors and other microelectronics that you use to ‘compute’ your Facebook experience; the gizmos you will eventually scrap (having used them largely to Facebook or otherwise futz-around)… Did you know that people die for that stuff? Did you know that? (Yes, I know, I too have (mis)used semiconductors to burn time for frivolous and/or even lowly reasons with no productive purpose whatsoever; but I did feel guilty about it. I am mindful about the broader implications of ‘disposable’ electronics, and so this has motivated me to attempt an offset of sorts; if that’s even possible (which it isn’t, which you’ll realize if you follow my next link…)

Yes, I know that it can be entertaining and even sometimes ‘fun’ to ‘Facebook’ while having a cup of freshly-brewed coffee-or-tea (or chowder, if that’s your pleasure). Yes, I know I shouldn’t be such a killjoy never mind the hypocrite that I am; that I should let people enjoy their Facebook without me throwing a guilt trip on them over war-slave miners sloshing and panning for coltan at gunpoint. Leaving aside that grim reality; the plain truth is (speaking for myself); If I’ve gotta be sitting in front of a computer (never mind if I’ve gotta irradiate my body with BlackBerry juice), then I want more ‘payback’ for my computer-screen time-spend (and exposure, and expense). This is why, if I’m not actually somehow being paid to sit in front of my computer and do something specific; the last thing I’d want to do is sit in front of my computer and fool-around doing nothing in particular on Facebook.

Honestly; if I’ve gotta stare at a screen for some reason, either I want to be working productively on something that pays, or otherwise; that serves some worthy purpose, or that matters to other people somehow, or that will otherwise last as an expression (or dare I dream, perhaps even a work of art). If not for any of these worthy reasons, then my screen time has gotta contribute to my gaining a new understanding, perspective, insight or ideally some new skill, somehow. If it doesn’t measure-up to any of these standards (and most ‘Facebooking’ doesn’t); then I really don’t see the appeal. It’s not a matter of discipline, of isolating myself or of denying myself Facebook (as some have suggested). Rather, Facebook is just not as appealing a time-spend for me, given the medium and how the content is prepared and presented; who is preparing and presenting it (i.e. not ‘you’ but that Zuckerberg guy); and most especially how I think and feel about this constellation of all these things (which I’ll try to explain below).

First, you’ve gotta understand that my shunning Facebook is no reflection on the people who’ve mattered to me in my life, the people I think about from time-to-time and the times we’ve shared; the people who essentially say they ‘miss’ me on Facebook; and it’s certainly no indication of how I feel about these very dear people (my “peeps”).

Second, for the sake of disclosure, I must admit that I do use computer screens for entertainment purposes; mostly watching news and newsworthy events, if not video streams that include movies, documentaries, proceedings, testimonies, interviews, discussions, call-in shows and anything else interesting from places like PBS and C-SPAN out of the US, and C-SPAN’s Canadian equivalent CPAC; not to mention lots of Al Jazeera English and many other things I find here or there online. (Now that I have this website to provide link-outs to those kinds of things, I’ll be sharing plenty of links). But, IMO, this is quite different from turning to Facebook for entertainment purposes, which isn’t my thing.

What bothers me about Facebook, in addition to the whole gaucheness of using one’s peeps as credentials who are ostensibly needed to validate one’s aspirations within the electronic milieu of social media networks (blah, blah, blah)… What bothers me is the fact that Facebook essentially seeks to extract the entertainment value from our interpersonal relationships and disseminate it electronically; all in an effort to maximize how much time you spend with your eyeballs fixated on Facebook’s web pages. This raises a number of very important questions that are scarcely thought of (in no particular order)…

  • How has Facebook altered (or distorted) the way Friends (and Family) relate?
  • Does sitting alone in a room with a computer actually qualify as ‘social activity’?
  • Are you relating to your friends via Facebook (or are you observing them and putting on a show for them), and how is this different from how you related to your friends in the past? Which feels friendlier?
  • Is it even ethical to ‘render’ the entertainment value out of our friendships and other close interpersonal relationships; all while making less and less time for each other and the things and causes and concerns we actually share in RL, collectively?
  • Since much of what gets communicated over Facebook is utterly trivial, often hyper-stylized, simultaneously self-censored and somehow self-serving in some way and always essentially dis-embodied from the actual person one might genuinely enjoy in RL… I’ve gotta wonder, is a person’s ‘Wall’ or ‘Timeline’ or ‘Avatar’ or whatever, really a meaningful way to ‘connote’ or embody a *relatable* person? (I don’t think so.) Therefore, I’ve also gotta ask…
  • If your friend is _______ at the moment, despite the impression given on his/her Facebook, would you be able to tell? If you could tell, what does this fact imply/ entail/ invoke for your friend, and for you? If you can’t tell, then what’s the point of ‘following’ your friend through Facebook? (IMVHO, Facebook is at once waaay too little, and waaaay too much; never really right, therefore usually ‘wrong’, IMO.)

Speaking about collective effects: What all does it portend for our societies today; that vast numbers of people are routinely clocking enormous amounts of screen-time serving what are essentially entertainment purposes (sometimes even tinged with vanity and/or envy)?

Sure, peeps have been staring at screens for entertainment purposes since the dawn of motion pictures; but never before has the ‘content’ on those screens been ‘produced’ en masse by users themselves; all in an effort to (see above); which has been monetized and severely discounted, all to the comparatively meager economic benefit of an atrociously select few….. So I’ve gotta wonder ‘What are the broader psychological and sociological implications of all this, on us as individuals, on us vis a vis one another, and as members of our organizations, communities and societies – on the whole of humanity?

Is Facebook as bad for yourself and your Friends and Family, as it is for your eyesight? (Peeps’ peepers weren’t meant to be fixated in a barely-moving stare focused on a screen mere inches away; and this ain’t good for either your peepers or your peeps.)

This whole Facebook (and SecondLife) nonsense seems to me to be inherently dehumanizing. IMO, these ‘social network’ technologies might be useful as a business tool or otherwise in the service of collaboration (work); or they can be used to span a very small bridge across the wide divide of distance between people who already know each other but who must spend time apart. As for a means to keep-up with those who are actually within reasonable traveling distance; I think that spending all that time with the computer in between “us”, instead of having a beverage or a bite or whatever other common interest we might have between us…. It just seems so alienating, and in fact, I feel that it is indeed *isolating*).

The illusion of connection, is isolation.


The use of technology as a social interface (between family and friends) is a step very far in the wrong direction, IMO. If the technology is a necessity because of distance, that’s one thing; or if it facilitates a valuable purpose, whether or not business/work-related, that’s a good thing too. But, to ‘Facebook’ our friends and family with the minutia and mundane goings-on of our lives never really seemed like a worthwhile pastime to me.

If I had to pass that time in front of a computer, I would much rather spend that time creating something that will serve a purpose and endure (last) with that purpose. If I’m gonna turn to a screen for entertainment; believe me I can find something more intriguing to watch than Facebook. It’s just that IMO, social interactions aren’t supposed to be Facebooked, and trying to conduct social interactions via Facebook is distorting things between people, and in some ways I fear it may be distorting people too.

The very thought of using a computer as a social interface has always seemed backward to me… and indeed, it was this very thought that I found so dispiriting I had to turn my back on my first career choice: Martian Terra-former 😉

Yet, given the soup we’re swimming in these days, everyone seems curious to know why I don’t have a Facebook. (Many people, anyway.) Some have even leapt to the erroneous conclusion that I must have deleted my account for some (presumably scandalous) reason. FOR THE RECORD: I, Ravi Karumanchiri (originally) from Toronto, Ontario, Canada; have never opened or maintained a Facebook account in my own or any other name, for any purpose whatsoever.

There are many reasons for this, in addition to the ones conveyed above. If you’re still reading, perhaps you’re still wondering, so I’ll elaborate….

I remember reading on the back of the ‘Art of Noise’ album (the one with ‘Moments in Love’)… It says “Familiarity breeds distress” or is it “Familiarity breeds contempt”, I dunno (can’t find mine – haven’t seen that cassette since forever). Either one is relevant in this context since I can see both factors ‘working’ quite feverishly on Facebook.

On top of which; I have always been well-aware of at least two important insights that most people online today seem clueless about (if you’ll all forgive me for making that generalization).

The first insight concerns the fact that with every keystroke and every photo, Facebook users are adding ‘content’ and that stuff is what draws-in eyeballs and it is those eyeballs seeking-out that content… That is how Facebook makes its’ (pittance of) money. (That’s right, I’ll go on the record and proclaim that Facebook’s share price has nothing at all to do with revenues, which are simply pathetic considering all the time-spend; which should be obvious to anyone paying attention. (It is waaaay over-valued.) As things stand now, investing in Facebook is more of a fashion statement than it is a bona fide investment in a productive enterprise. After all, what is Facebook producing? Nothing.

Facebook derives its revenues by providing very thinly-monetized eyeball-time; and people are a herd animal, and peeps everywhere can very quickly, all at once turn their gaze towards something else better or newer. The peeps may just simply tire with it all, like so much of what was once worth waiting for. (NB: It’s probably the first truly non-PC thing I’ve written; that people are a herd animal; the “sheeple” as I’ve sometimes called them (us) in conversation but never committed to text. Well, I’m gonna be genuine enough to ‘own’ that statement; but I want to be clear about it: I’m not trying to dehumanize any individual or group of people anywhere, but I can’t help but notice, everywhere I look, large groups of people working diligently against their own best interests, because in one act of social engineering or another, ‘We the People’ are being herded quite effectively, often in deadly directions, and it makes one wonder sometimes if we’re all destined for…….. I should say… ‘Invited to dinner.’ ……. (but I digress…..)…..

Here’s my problem: Facebook ain’t making that (slim slice of) money for Facebook users, they’re making it for themselves (and presumably their shareholders, which excludes me). The real money deal is perversely picayune. If you do the math like in this very worthwhile article about Facebook you’ll discover that for every Facebook user, the grand total of $3.79 in ad revenue is generated for Facebook. Now, if you divide that piddly sum by the number of hours spent, what you’ll realize is that Facebook has arguably caused the greatest effective price discount on human labour, since the advent of slavery (an’ this homie don’t play that!).

The second insight that I think is important to grasp, concerns the ‘Facebook technology’ itself (such that it is). To understand my concern, first ask yourself if you’ve ever typed something into your Facebook, but then decided against it because it was too bombastic, politically incorrect, too revealing or just a step farther than your sober self would normally intend. If you can remember doing this, perhaps you can remember the last time it happened or even the couple of times prior. Well, what you need to consider is that Facebook can remember all of that – every instance and even every keystroke that didn’t make it past your own sense of self-censorship. This is because, every few moments Facebook effectively ‘auto-saves’ what you’re typing on your computer, onto their servers.

A comparison of your working drafts could be quite revelatory, and don’t think for a moment that I’m the first person to think about that.

No doubt, it is quite ‘fruitful’ to trap and map all of the things that people type into their Facebook, but then subsequently delete before they actually post. Further consider that regardless of whether or not Facebook stores that data (let-alone mines it), the fact remains that it travels across the internet, and that’s well and enough opportunity for some (alphabet soup-type of) folks to have a chance to use their new fandangled equipment for the creepy purposes they’ve taken it upon themselves to serve(eillance).

Not cool, IMO, and I could opine on this point forever (as some of you may already know); but that’s not what this particular page is for.

Luckily, I can avoid most if not all of these aforementioned pitfalls if I just go about ‘doing my thing’.

So therefore, this website will serve a number of purposes, including;

1. This will give me somewhere to write (often informally) in the first person, (perhaps ridiculously), where I can write about whatever I want to write about (rather than my writing only in response to a discussion thread post or newspaper article or whatnot, like correspondence).

2. I think having this outlet will help me overcome the inevitable moments of [BLOCK] that can sometimes halt my actual work-related writing (whether that’s as a consultant, a ghost writer or an author of my own works; or even if I’m writing code).

3. When I do write here, I’ll be adding ‘content’ to my own personal website, and not to Facebook’s. Effectively, this means that I might have some remote hope of perhaps capturing some (meager) value from my content; particularly if I host ads and you good-natured folks click-through those ads. As far as writing gigs go, this will hardly be my most lucrative; but at least what little value might conceivably be generated from these particular keystrokes… This value will flow to me.

4. The very way this will be done (by myself) will avoid the security/ privacy/ ownership/ utility/ impacts concerns that I have.

5. This website will give me a place to host some outbound links pointing to my other websites, which is always nice.

6. In addition, this website will give me a place to post other links, so that (as often happens) when some article comes-up in conversation; I can say “go to my website and click here, there and there, and start reading that and follow the link to the article…. yada, yada, yada”.

7. Once I get enough content up and hosted here, then maybe…. Perhaps…… If I can find some more spare time…. If it helps me draw-in some Facebook eyeballs…… and I can get those eyeballs to visit within close proximity of some ads…. If I can get these ducks lined-up in a row…
I may finally set-up a Facebook of my own one day.

8. LOL!

9. Thanks for visiting, dear, dear Reader! (Whoever you are, and YES, I MEAN IT!)

…. and since I missed you all those times, HAPPY NEW YEAR!….


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