"No..." was the 'official' answer to the question posted in the advertising section of the Facebook help center, "I don’t want to see ads on Facebook. Can I shut them off?" The ads are what turned turn me away from Facebook before. They disturb me by associating me with what they sell; even when I find them less than distasteful, I don't want to be used to sell someone else's stuff or to hawk his or her services. It's not that I'm against the concept of advertising, I'm only against that advertising which associates me without my choice to what is being sold. If the ads were text only I could easily ignore them but my eye is drawn to the photos (on a recent page: head shots of women offering themselves as dates) and I assume the photos attract many people who spend time on Facebook. This targeted aspect (from information you've furnished about yourself) of Facebook advertising is insidious.
But the sheep could care less—more human silliness I expect they think, if they think of advertising or me at all. They have more important business than only my concerns according to Michael Pollan.*
Even evolution evolves. About ten thousand years ago the world witnessed a second flowering of plant diversity that we would come to call, somewhat self-centeredly, "the invention of agriculture." A group of angiosperms refined their basic put-the-animals-to-work strategy to take advantage of one particular animal that had evolved not only to move freely around the earth, but to think and trade complicated thoughts. These plants hit on a remarkably clever strategy: getting us to move and think for them. Now came edible grasses (such as wheat and corn) that incited humans to cut down vast forests to make more room for them; flowers whose beauty would transfix whole cultures; plants so compelling and useful and tasty they would inspire human beings to seed, transport, extol, and even write books about them. This is one of those books.
So am I suggesting that the plants made me do it?
Design in nature is but a concatenation of accidents, culled by natural selection until the result is so beautiful or effective as to seem a miracle of purpose.
By the same token, we're prone to overestimate our own agency in nature. Many of the activities humans like to think they undertake for their own good purposes—inventing agriculture, outlawing certain plants, writing books in praise of others—are mere contingencies as far as nature is concerned. Our desires are simply more grist for evolution's mill, no different from a change in the weather: a peril for some species, an opportunity for others. Our grammar might teach us to divide the world into active subjects and passive objects, but in a coevolutionary relationship every subject is also an object, every object a subject. That's why it makes just as much sense to think of agriculture as something the grasses did to people as a way to conquer the trees.
The sheep have plural concerns, not just mine, in their seemingly insouciant fashion. Not only are they coevolutionary in my regard—it's bigger than that—they pair with the entire human species. But let's make it simple, let's make it personal, let's talk about how they work with me, and if you like, you can interpolate these evolutionary dynamics and apply them to how they influence the lives of others from how you understand their relations with me.
So they want me to front a Facebook page for them; and you know what, I'm going to do it.
To like something is to judge it favorably. Let's look at how a Like in Facebook operates; and secondarily, we might better understand the liking and unliking that goes on in Facebook when we look at it through the eyes of Immanuel Kant. His Critique of Judgement and Facebook seem to be related in the way that one is a topic of the other. I will use Facebook's Help Center language that is supposed to be comprehensible to a person 13 years old—the age at which one can legally use Facebook.
Trying to come up with a page that pleases me, I've been skimming the Glossary in the Facebook Help Center and that seems to be of some help in undertaking this new learning curve but what worries me, as I move forward toward having a Facebook page, is that users lose interest and abandon Facebook as if it were a video game, a play of counting unqualified likes and doubtful friendships, not unlike viewers who get bored with American Idol and escape into their own world to become that winning crooner at least while the shower runs.
I make time to be with the sheep for more reasons than one; when I'm around them I get ideas, I have new thoughts: this is how they talk to me. How they talk to you is how you talk to yourself in your own voice. Maybe you think I'm crazy but but with them I think creatively. Not all these thoughts or ideas are good or trustworthy. I was going to say they are human but they are sheep and they can be as fallible as humans beings. My latest revelation when I was out walking with them was more of a correction and a total surprise: I didn't know they had knowledge of Immanuel Kant and his aesthetics but they do as well as death knows infinity.
Sheep don't have the sense of beauty that humans do—they are beautiful—at least to me anyway. The revelation I had with them was that I was mistaken about likeing. In holding Facebook to a beautiful standard, I had set the bar too high; even though you may find beauty to like on Facebook when you click a Like you usually indicate that you have found something agreeable, and certainly pleasurable, as when you say 'I like doughnuts'.
Beauty involves disinterest, according to Kant; by liking something on Facebook you are not disinterested, you find what you like agreeable in the aesthetic sense. When sheep look at you, their look can be of disinterest; then, are they telling you they find you beautiful. You're never sure, but rarely would I say that sheep find me agreeable no matter how nice I might be to them. Facebook likes would certainly be less if sheep were moving the mouse.
Saturday I told Mark at the stand that I'd activated a Facebook page and he described how I felt when he said, "Facebook is sad," shaking his head. But when he said that, I brightened because I didn't completely understand how it was sad. Yes, there is a component to that sadness that I must learn; I've resigned myself to having an active Facebook page or one for the farm anyway.
What gladdened me about Facebook, or my lack of understanding of it, was I remember a friend telling me on St. Mark's Place years ago that you like your friends for their faults. I always loved that saying because to this day it questions me about my understanding of it. Last night when I thought I'd write about the sadness of Facebook I searched for that saying and I couldn't find it. The closest I came was a quotation by Herman Hesse, “When you like someone, you like them in spite of their faults. When you love someone, you love them with their faults.”
It's not quite the same, is it; but maybe it truly was this quote by Hesse and maybe my friend was wrong or maybe I remembered it wrongly—does it matter—the quote, or misquote as it may be, is of continuing value to me.
I don't think I've had a friend as defined by a friendship that I've ever understood. I like people who are different from me in the sense that they go beyond who I am and who I strive to be, these are people who amaze me—they are people who are kinder, smarter, prettier, crazier and more interesting than I am. I respect people who have talents that I don't. They make me forget my faults as I celebrate theirs; I feel kinder, smarter, prettier, crazier and more interesting. Are these people that I admire friends—I don't know—they make me proud to be around them. And if the truth be told, there aren't many of them, not that I should be noted for my high humanhood, it's that maybe I should get out more, go different places, meet new people. But I confess, in the past I'd tried to be more sociable and found not the admirable people that I sought but many more reasons for my compassion. I really shouldn't condescend, I'm a winner after all, albeit friendless by the common definition.
On Facebook maybe I'll feel like I'm looking out of a Hallmark greeting card that happy people open on joyous occasions but maybe I won't think about that; it's more than sad, its rather lonely, but loneliness, isn't that a part of what a creator cherishes to make things anew. Maybe we can put loneliness on the side to temporarily forget its occasional benefits while we abate it with Facebook friendships.
Now that's where Facebook is supposed to come in—one of its functions is to gather friends. I have been asked to be a friend be several people using Facebook. Some friend requests I honored and some I ignored; but no matter how I responded to these requests, I have this feeling of an amoeba-like creepiness coming over me that originates with the casual befriending (or unfriending or ignoring) that 500 million people on Facebook use and accept.
Next: The likes of Facebook