The United States of Facebook: A defeat in cultural paradigm through the command of social lexicon

The function of Facebook as admitted by its creators is to ferry onto the Web activities that can be described in brief as social categorisation and passing adjudication of the ‘college’ years of our lives. It is not an admission as such but is made ideologically via the trailer for the film The Social Network (2010) soon to be released. This comes as no surprise, as these characteristics, and puerile profiling, are observed in the article by Maranto and Barton (2009). They discuss the function, of this wonder-site for American college media audiences; ‘that Facebook emphasises the practice of behaviours associated with high school students and extends them into emerging adulthood.’ Facebook and the now waning MySpace also preeminently make available personal profile development¹ which can be observed as merely one distorted view of “…how that person wants to be perceived by his or her peers.” (M&B 2009, 38)  I wish to emphasis here that it is difficult for me to look beyond the tendentious activity of Facebook users as being like what I witnessed in high school. For some, highschool feels innate and comforts those who achieve popularity or are moderately good at avoiding ridicule, but for others (not necessarily me: I was described by one peer as having my head in the clouds) it can be a scarring time – perhaps for its ruthless ordering and classifying of status inside an artificially exclusive social grouping.² Maranto and Barton also make a clear statement that emphasises an important concept for us this semester, that New Media isn’t always primarily new in kind and Facebook is not short of this its own recursive meanings:

Although online social networking technology might seem new and revolutionary, sites such as Facebook and MySpace are remediating older high school traditions: cruisin’, the high school yearbook (or annual), and courtshiprituals (love notes, “going steady”). (2009, 39)

The evidence suggesting that these SNSs are highschool tendencies territorialising our young adult lives is disturbing to me but maybe not for you. For the sake of those mentioned above as faring badly from the experience of passing through mid to late teens, these SNSs may provide an opportunity to relive and undermine some of the damage done in that time. One primary reason for the oft maddening behaviour of high-schoolers is their lack of contact and understanding of the ‘adult world’ at a time when they are biologically ushered to acquaint themselves with it. In that way university life is also a pro-longing of and bridging with high-school modes of socialising. So it follows that these  needs can be met in new and innovative ways on-line likened to when American teenagers first had access to drive their parents’ cars to malls, drive-in cinemas or fast-food outlets as a modus operandi of social cohesion.

“…pro-longing of and bridging with high-school modes of socialising.”

An important research question may have to do with the hegemony represented by these seemingly convenient ways to categorise while you socialise and how their explicit structures (those created for the use of American college students) impart a world-view and so become just another vehicle for furthering American cultural imperialism of capitalist enterprise and frequent material consumerism. Appropriately, we can see in the diagram below that Facebook is bigger than America and growing. Evidence that American Media is bigger than America itself or was it coincidental that it emerged from its superlative Harvard Business School and spreads to this day across the globalising markets its entertainment and industrial methods aim to exploit? As far as the film goes (or any Hollywood cinema), I am reminded of the recurrent triumphant who possess the power to write history after the fact. In which they can gloss over their failings or insidious retentions (thanks to technology, in increasingly sophisticated ways) and glorifying their actions as success more than as victors of a bitter defeat. A defeat in cultural paradigm through the command of social lexicon.



Notes
1.Far from identifying a profiler's actual personality, profile creation is a highly mutational identity defining practice.
2.The reason for the persistence of such arbitrary groupings as high school societies for so many years has to do with many factors that are irrespective of mere national, geographic or cultural social sets. A point for further discussion must be the institutional apparatus of status in relation to projective parental hopes and dreams on children. Facebook as high school mediation represents a considerable academic drift from New Media toward Sociology.

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