Facebook’s Fight Against the Reality of Death

Okay, so the title may be a bit hyperbolic, but I think there’s something to it if you’ll grant me some space here.

At yesterday’s F8 conference, Mark Zuckerberg unveiled what the newest features of Facebook — a new feed dubbed “Timeline” — will look like and how it will operate. I couldn’t help but notice that littered throughout his presentation were really interesting claims about how the social realities of Facebook are impacting our lives. With the new features, Zuckerberg claims that Timeline will be the most user-friendly aspect of Facebook and will allow users to maintain control of their entire online social experience.

“You have complete control over your timeline.”

This is the line that Mark kept repeating as he was presenting this new format. The more often he said it, the more frequently I found myself cringing. After thinking about it a little bit further, I realized what was bugging me about it. What Mark was essentially offering was complete control over our lives. If we can control our timeline, we can control what happens in our life. It offers a safety net from the unexpected things in life.

Now granted, nobody actually expects a social network to prolong their lives. In fact, some people may expect the direct opposite. But implicit in his presentation was that we can have complete control over our lifespan. It gives us the assurance of autonomy and independence that people need to feel in order to be secure in their very existence.

“Complete control of our timeline” gives us permission to assert ourselves over and against the reality of death.

Social networking and identity construction has always been an interesting correlation to me. But never before have I encountered such a concrete example of a denial of our non-existence through the means of social technology. I’m really interested to see how something as innocent as a feature named “Timeline” influences our subconscious notions of ourselves in daily life.

Maybe I’m way off-base here. But I think there’s something to this. What do you think? How would you respond if a social network promised you “complete control over your timeline”?


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