Wednesday, 8 June 2011

facebook ‘places’ and why it’s evil

The pointy plectrum of doom

Picture the scene. It’s an uneventful, typically ordinary day. Perhaps you’re on the bus or train, commuting to work; or perhaps you’re sitting at home, feeling your soul slowly leak out of your ear holes as you watch another episode of Britain’s Got More Talent.

For the fifth time in as many minutes you gaze wistfully at your obligatory iPhone and/or Blackberry, hoping that someone somewhere will validate your existence by calling you or sending a text. You feel a vibration somewhere in your immediate vicinity and for a brief, shining moment you think it’s your phone – but no, it’s just the bus. Or the washing machine. Or the cat.

But wait! There it is! The unmistakable sequence of beeps that means you’ve received a message! OMG! Someone loves you! Life is worth living! Notify the Pope! You pick up your phone, a smile blossoming on your face, a thousand witty replies just waiting to erupt from your fingertips – and the message reads:

Such and Such is at Totally Cool Venue with Some Next Person – OMG FIESTAAAA tonight is gonna get MESSY lolzzzz

You sigh. Disappointment crushes your poor, withered heart. It wasn’t a text. It wasn’t even someone posting something charmingly pointless on your wall. It was a Facebook ‘Places’ notification.  

Now, for the benefit of anyone that has been living blissfully under an enormous rock, let me first begin by explaining what Facebook ‘Places’ actually is. Basically, it’s a feature that allows you to ‘check in’ to a location, thereby notifying all your ‘friends’ that you are having more fun than them – oh, and that they weren’t invited.

There are obvious flaws in this concept. The first is that it is bloody annoying and I feel I have covered that ground quite enough already. The second is that it could lead to all sorts of upset and misunderstandings. Imagine your horror at learning via your News Feed that your besties are at your favourite bar and they haven’t invited you.

They clearly hate you and they want you to know it – but why? You haven’t done anything! Perhaps you should confront them. Interrogate them. Maybe in a secure location. Maybe in an abandoned warehouse. You’ve got some rope in the car – and so on as you spiral into madness and the plot for Saw XXI is born.

The third (and possibly more pervasive) consequence of the ‘Places’ feature is that it leads to a constant meta-commentary on life. A virtual voiceover. We can’t simply live our lives anymore; we have to make it into bite-sized bulletins. We can’t have fun without pulling out our phones to tell the internet that we’re doing it. Surely, if we were really having that much fun, we wouldn’t have the time to whip out our phones and compose a status update?

You have to wonder where it all ends. Will we start checking in every time we go to the loo? ‘Lauren is at Toilet –  LOL IT’S JUST A NUMBER ONE GUYS, DON’T GET EXCITED.’

Or when we get it on? ‘Lauren is at Her Bed with 4 of your friends – Disappointing performance so far tbh.’

Perhaps it’s symptomatic of modern times that we simply can’t live our lives without constant attention from others and ‘Places’ is just a natural fulfilment of that craving, but I can’t help but find that it bugs the shit out of me.

And, on that note, I’m going to post this to my blog. Then make a status update about it. Then cry myself to sleep.