So I have decided to deactivate my Facebook account. It is slightly depressing, because I have a huge Facebook addiction, one of the reasons I must expel it from my life, and I will miss it deeply, but alas, the time has come.
There are a number of reasons I want to do this and I think my exploration into empathetic narratives has fuelled my aspiration to be Facebook free.
Recently a friend of mine (check out his blog on dumpster diving here) suggested I read a short story called The Machine Stops (it is online in full) by E.M. Forster (1909), and I did, and it moved me beyond words, both in the way it was written and in it’s subject matter.
The Machine Stops explores a world where humans no longer live on the surface of the earth, they have gone underground, isolated in individual ‘rooms’, serviced by the ‘Machine’. Every thing is artificial, every thing is detached from humanity and human connection. Interactions are fast flowing through the ‘Machine’, individuals communicate with 1000’s of ‘friends’ through technology, but “the Machine did not transmit nuances of expression… the imponderable bloom, declared by a discredited philosophy to be the actual essence of intercourse was ignored by the Machine, just as the imponderable bloom of the grape was ignored by the manufacturers of the artificial fruit… something “good enough” had long since been accepted by our race” (Forster, 1909).
This is what triggered my initial pulse of “I don’t want to lose connection with humanity”, that blood pumping connection with what I love, what holds me to people, that “imponderable bloom”, that rosy flare of heart strings pulled by mechanisms all things unexplainably beautiful and human! I don’t want to be accepting superficial “good enough” connectivity.
E.M Forster shares the story of an interaction between a mother, Vashti, and her son, Kuno. They are in their separate ‘bubbles’, one in the Northern Hemisphere and the other in the Southern Hemisphere. The story begins with Kuno wanting his mother to visit him. But Vashti feels no need to leave her ‘bubble’, she feels it is a waste of time and that they can connect “good enough” through the ‘Machine”. Eventually she does visit him, and finds he has visited the surface of the world… I don’t want to say too much more, because I feel you should all read it. An hour is all you need, for it is only 25 pages. 25 pages of words woven beautifully.
An internal discourse has lead me to feel I am frustrated by the lack of meaningful ‘feeling’ connections. I long for dialogue that excites my neuronal firing, that triggers memories, interaction that is evocative and emotive. Maybe I feel a disconnection from a love life, maybe I have been too caught up in study and poetry and performance, but I feel it is that I am too caught up in a world where external stimulation guides us too quickly through life’s course. I feel I am being sucked into the void of Facebook and while I used it to try to connect and reach out, share my passions and yearned for a ‘like’, that connection and ‘like’ buttons clicked, hasn’t been enough. I shared on Facebook things that excite me, things I am passionate about, things that trigger in me human responses and I wanted to trigger those things in other people. And maybe I did. But what was lacking was the mutual dialogue, debate, discussion. The face to face, watching some one blush with excitement, or frown with discontent, or nostril flare with anger. I want to see the tears that swell in peoples eyes, I want to hear peoples joy in the heightened pitch of their utterance. I want to touch, enjoy the warmth of flesh and that delight in the tactility of my finger tips.
This is why I have left Facebook. This is why I want to return to my humanity.
I want to leave you, with some of the quotes from The Machine Stops that truly moved me.
“Man is the measure. That was my first lesson. Man’s feet are the measure for distance, his hands are the measure for ownership, his body is the measure for all that is loveable and desirable and strong.”
“But I had got back the sense of space and a man cannot rest then.”
“I felt, for the first time, that a protest had been lodged against corruption, and that even as the dead were comforting me, so I was comforting the unborn. I felt that humanity existed, and that it existed without clothes. How can I possibly explain this? It was naked, humanity seemed naked, and all these tubes and buttons and machineries neither came into the world with us, nor will they follow us out, nor do they matter supremely while we are here.”
“Cannot you see, cannot all you lecturers see, that it is we that are dying, and that down here the only thing that really lives is the Machine? We created the Machine, to do our will, but we cannot make it do our will now. It has robbed us of the sense of space and of the sense of touch, it has blurred every human relation and narrowed down love to a carnal act, it has paralysed our bodies and our wills, and now it compels us to worship it. The Machine develops – but not on our lines. The machine proceeds – but not to our goal. We only exist as the blood corpuscles that course through its arteries, and if it could work without us, it would let us die.”
Much love humanity, I will see you in person.