Concerning Digital Narcissism

Games“Games” like this get on my nerves.  They’re one of the most self-serving aspects of the Facebook universe, and furthermore, they take up space in a timeline that’s already cluttered with ads, suggestions, and extensions.  The social aspect of the network, in other words, gets clogged up behind a hairball of inconsequentiality.

Allow me to explain: you post a “game” like the one in the picture one day.  Okay, now it appears somewhere in my news feed, this bigass graphic and/or explanation (and if I’m very unlucky, a mile-long list of one-word responses that make no sense to anybody but you).  You ask me for information we both already know, in a format that’s not conducive to any sort of social experience since the one-word deal makes it the equivalent of an inside joke.  You then ask me to repost and start the whole cycle over, and for what?  The game says it’s to see who reads and who scrolls, but to me, it begs a question.

Who cares?

Here’s a truth about me.  I scroll, and I’m not ashamed of it. I’ve got 200-odd people in my lists, some of whom I know professionally, some of whom are my friends or family, and then there’s the vast majority of distant relations, old high school acquaintances, people I met once at a writing event or a party or really anywhere.  For the vast majority of these people, the minutia of their online existence – the “Spent the afternoon baking bread,” or “Traffic sux in the snow!” updates – don’t merit commentary.  I don’t see the point.

Furthermore, I “scroll” the same way one would read a newspaper or hunt for interesting stories on a news site.  CNN junkies aside, most people don’t read a site/paper word-by-word, end-to-end, without skipping past the stories that aren’t interesting.  That’s been the way since news was printed; unless it’s a hobby, it’s a skim-for-interest affair.

And then these “games” pop up.  They remind me of e-mail games from a decade back, the pseudo-spam everybody sent around entitled “20 Questions” or “Get To Know Your Friends.”  They were full of inane time-wasting queries like, “Do you eat chicken fingers with a fork?”  Honestly, who cares?  I’d rather make my interactions about quality, not quantity.

All of which brings me to the point: these games are nothing more than digital narcissism.  They serve no purpose to the greater social spirit or community, they don’t further anybody’s understanding of themselves, their friends, or humanity.  These games are self-serving, and let’s face it, there are tools out there to find out who’s reading your wall, how long they spend on it, and so forth.  Get ’em.  Install ’em.  Use ’em.  It’s a way to make yourself happy rather than looking for a stroke-job, and if I scroll right past the game, please remember that I scroll past all sorts of posts because, simply, they don’t interest or engage me.

And remember: that’s not an insult.  Think of it as challenge.