Friday, January 02, 2009

As a communications director I can assure you I’ve had some real dooseys when it comes to cyber experiences over the years but nothing even comes close to what I was witness to a few weeks ago.

I was invited to attend a wake through my Facebook page. You read that right. Facebook has now become the new medium to express sorrow and grief.

Perhaps it has something to do with the departed. Tragically, he was only 23 years old. The magnitude of the devastation many members of my own family had to endure at the horrible news of his demise was heartbreaking. I should know, as many were constantly updating their profile “what are you doing right now” fields practically every hour on the hour with some of the most profoundly sad expressions of loss that I’ve ever read outside of a Russian novel.

I’m not saying it’s wrong. I’m saying it’s weird.
I would be lying if I didn’t admit feeling overwhelmingly uncomfortable as I hit the “will attend” button right next to ads for Oprah’s Acai Berry Diet and Colon Cleansing. The tackiness aside, it was as if I were replying to an invitation to happy hour after work or an acquaintance’s upcoming baby shower. Still stranger were the photos of all the Facebook friends right up there on the page, those planning to attend, not to or still thinking about it, the plethora of images - each one vying to be most unique or funny in a sea of everyone else attempting the same - each with their own individual perspective that when taken as a whole is exactly like the next and the next and still the next.

Our tireless efforts at nonconformity are the cruelest joke of all when it comes to the 2.0 phenomenon. We all look the same to the advertising jackals. The minor tweaks that need to be executed to customize our collective consumer experience are laughable. The consequences, however, may very possibly be catastrophic.

Have we as a society become so immune to advertising that we’ve accepted it as a part of our deepest moments of despair and elation? Have we fallen victim to its audacity and intrusion so completely that its offense is suddenly palatable? Perhaps through generations of conditioning our racing minds have learned to acknowledge an image with the tag line, “Tired of Waxing?” for a nano-second, store it and return to experiencing real human emotion.

Maybe my status as a cyber immigrant has something to do with my unease at this latest trend in grieving. The sympathy card has been replaced with a poorly written text message complete with misspellings and painfully free of grammatical punctuation. What’s next? Starbucks gift certificates in place of the Mass card?

The younger generations, the cyber natives as I like to call them, those born into the computer technology age, in many ways are the biggest dupes of all. Although Facebook is an excellent means of communication and has become absolutely essential to so many of us who rely on it to stay in touch with friends and family, the degree of personal information people willingly offer to virtually anyone is profoundly disturbing. And worse still is the inconceivable gullibility of the age.

Then again, Scarlett Johansson recently put her snot filled Kleenex on EBay. It was a top entertainment headline. Bids topped $2,025 by 9:00 a.m. the next morning. The lunatics are now running the asylum.

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