What my Facebook profile says about me.

June 17, 2011 Comments Off on What my Facebook profile says about me.

Facebook has gradually removed most of the fun from having a Facebook profile. It used to be that you had enough freedom in your profile to put whatever you wanted in whatever field you wanted. If you wanted to put “live opera performances from the Met” under your favorite movies, you could. But now that Facebook has sold its soul to advertisers—which is particularly frustrating for people who use Firefox and therefore don’t even see the ads that are being so conscientiously tailored to us—everything you put has to be a pre-defined “page” that links to that artist or movie’s Facebook site and simultaneously informs advertisers what you like, and if you have the gall to put something down that ISN’T a pre-defined page, Facebook tries to make it into one. Everything is logos and links now. Every bit of everyone’s information is right at the top where you can see it all at once. It’s like if someone took your favorite mystery novel and made it into a rebus.

The way it used to be, I might happen to think of someone I went to high school with, and I’d wonder how they were doing. I’d go to their profile and see what they’d been posting recently, then I’d go look through their Info and look at their entire list of favorite books, then scroll down to their address to see what city they’re living in, then find their Work info to see what kind of job they had. Then I’d switch to their Photos and maybe page through a few, and check out their collection of Bumper Stickers or their Extended Info page (where you could make your own fields, like “Animals I would like as pets: walrus, tiger cub, cuttlefish”). It was like a scavenger hunt. And the real fun lay in creating your own scavenger hunt for other people. But Facebook in its overly helpful current format has taken all the fun out of it.

Let’s fast-forward to today. To do the same thing, I’d go to someone’s profile, and right at the top would be their current city and their work information and their most recent few photos and what they’ve been posting recently. Then I’d switch to their Info page and look at the covers of the first three books on their list of favorite books, because apparently I can’t read well enough to look through a simple written list on my own, I need BIG PICTURES. To see the whole list I have to click on “See More…” which, given my internet connection, is not something I’m willing to take the time for. And Facebook has entirely removed the option to display your Bumper Sticker collection and your Extended Info page.

So…what’s the point? I had carefully arranged my lists of books and movies, and took pride in the weird stuff I put on my Extended Info page. I was proud of all of it. It said a lot about me, all the good stuff I wanted people to know. And that was the beauty of Facebook: creating your own face to present to the world, and knowing that whatever you saw on anyone else’s profile, it was what they wanted you to see, what they wanted you to think of them. It was interesting. It was fun. Then one day Facebook asked if I wanted to convert all my favorite everythings to links to Pages, and I said no. And it deleted it all. Now there is very little on my profile, because it’s no fun anymore. And that is why I’m angry at Facebook.


What there is on my profile, even now, is my collection of quotations. And, looking through them today, I was surprised by the accuracy of the picture they painted of me. It’s good to think that there’s still something worth finding.

“People think it must be fun to be a super genius, but they have no idea how hard it is to put up with all the idiots in the world.” (Calvin) Even if you’re not a super genius, it’s still tough. Especially living near the Wisconsin legislature at the moment. And of course I had to include something from Calvin, one of my major life influences.

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” What can I say? I’m an optimist. This is Psalms 30:5, but I stopped crediting it because the crediting said something about me that I didn’t want to be said. It’s a great quote, but I don’t want to look evangelical.

“No, no, don’t give up hope! Here, have a chocolate.” This makes me laugh because I said it out loud to myself while studying for my Calc II exam that I had a very real chance of failing. And it’s something I like about myself: whenever I’m down or sick or despairing, I pamper myself. All thoughts of “well, I really shouldn’t…” go out the window as soon as I can convince myself I need a little cheering up. I like that. Even though it frequently leads to too much chocolate.

“Faint heart never won fair lady, my dear, and, without wishing in any way to condone the employment of physical force, there are times when a woman may secretly wish… Hmmm. Let me think how to put this. She may hope that the strength of a gentleman’s affection for her will cause him to forget his manners.” (Amelia Peabody Emerson) Best character ever. And well-put. I think for many of us that’s at least part of the meaning of romance. At least for me.

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Amen. I believe in weird stuff.

“Trust in Allah…but tie up your camel.” (Sinbad) This is from a terribly politically incorrect Sinbad movie we had when we were younger. It’s a good expression of my philosophy. Things will take care of themselves, but you should still make an effort. And finally (no, really, read the whole thing):

“You should know this about me. My father was a learned man who owned one of the finest libraries in Leipzig. He died when I was very small. Consequently I knew him only as a jumble of childish perceptions—between us there were feelings but never any rational connections, perhaps somewhat like the relationship that you or I have with God.”

And he related a story about how he had, for a time, been locked out of his father’s library, but later re-admitted.

“So I ventured into that library which had been closed up since the death of my father and still smelled like him. It might seem funny for me to speak of the smell, but that was the only connection I could draw at the time. For the books were all written in Latin or Greek, languages I did not know, and they treated of subjects with which I was completely unfamiliar, and they were arranged upon the shelves according to some scheme that must have been clear to my father, but to me was unknown, and would have been beyond my ken even if someone had been there to explain it to me. Now in the end, Monsieur Fatio, I mastered that library, but in order to do it I first had to learn Greek and Latin, and then read the books. Only when I had done these things was I finally able to do the most difficult thing of all, namely to understand the organizing principle by which my father had arranged the books on the shelves.”

Fatio said: “But Doctor Leibniz, how many persons, dropped into a library of books written in unknown languages, could do what you did?”

“The question is more than just rhetorical. The situation is not merely hypothetical,” Leibniz answered. “For every human being who is born into this universe is like a child who has been given a key to an infinite Library, written in cyphers that are more or less obscure, arranged by a scheme—of which we can at first know nothing, other than that there does appear to be some scheme—pervaded by a vapor, a spirit, a fragrance that reminds us that it was the work of our Father. Which does us no good whatever, other than to remind us, when we despair, that there is an underlying logic about it, that was understood once and can be understood again.” —Neal Stephenson, The Confusion

Talk about a statement of philosophy! The more I read this, the truer it seems, and the more it seems like something I can call my philosophy. This is why it’s important to keep learning. Because the more you learn, the more you can glimpse of the order and meaning of the universe, and it is a grand thing that is worth seeing, even piecemeal. I don’t believe in a Meaning of Life. It’s just life, and that’s that. But if there is a point, this is it.


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