It’s true, I want to wrap myself in his words of compassion for the horrors of the modern world; I want to snuggle my small copy of This is Water every time I pick it up; I want to coo at and kiss with the passport-sized photograph of his most excellent face on the back cover of A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again; I’m still considering a burnt offering and clothes of black-mourning for the completion of Infinite Jest, and the knowing that it can never be completed…
But what I really want to talk about is a small bit from his grand essay E Unibus Pluram: Television and US Fiction and why I am so disturbed by social networking sites in general, and Facebook in particular.
“…It’s not paranoid or hysterical to acknowledge that television in enormous doses affects people’s values and self-perception in deep ways. Nor that televisual conditioning influences the whole psychology of one’s relation to himself, his mirror, his loved ones, and a world of real people and real gazes. No one’s going to claim that a culture all about watching and appearing is fatally compromised by unreal standards of beauty and fitness…(53-54)”
So…sub out Facebook for television, socialnetwork for televisual, and experience and friendship for beauty and fitness (though in the realm of fb-cum-yoga-practice, you may as well add it instead of substitute)…et voila!
It’s unsettling that the words “posted it” are synechdochic to a Facebook entry. Or that it’s more likely than not that you’ll be standing next to someone at a concert or a poetry/literary reading who is watching the whole event through the tiny window of their cellphone screen…
(I’ve seen a person smash their cellphone on a marble counter cuz they were unable post pix to fb…)
I long for David Foster Wallace at this moment, for his compassionate and kind reflection, for his reminders–hidden plain as day in the common, in the simple–that this is it. All of the time we are choosing the kind of world in which we live, and to what we give our devotion.