Monday, August 6, 2007

Attn. national media: Nothing on Facebook means anything

There's been a lot of buzz today about how Rudy Giuliani's daughter Caroline, a Harvard pre-frosh, belonged to a pro-Barack Obama Facebook group. The national news outlets have taken this as an endorsement, and another sign that Rudy's kids hate him.

OK, maybe. But here's the thing: What people say in their Facebook profiles isn't necessarily true. Especially among neurotic, pseudo-intellectual East Coast types, it's common to select fake interests and groups, usually as an expression of irony or a reference to some inside joke. People who Facebook this way tend to dramatically change their interests and groups on a whim, which is another way to signal that they're to be taken with a grain of salt.

(The media usually portray Facebook and MySpace as signs that our generation's narcissism has obviated our sense of privacy, but the reality is that young people withold far more than they reveal about themselves on social networks. Irony is just one popular method. I'm reminded of an older guy who added me as a Facebook friend recently -- his profile was completely sincere and exhaustive. It was striking because it was nothing like any college student's profile I've seen.)

With Caroline Giuliani, it's sort of a toss-up. I don't doubt that she's actually a liberal, as she listed in her profile, or that she has problems with her dad. But if she does support Barack Obama, would she join his Facebook group in all sincerity, effectively flipping Rudy the middle finger and airing out her daddy issues in public? Especially for someone just starting college life -- a time when most are especially self-conscious about how they project their developing image -- that would be pretty emo, wouldn't it?

I'm not saying that's not what she did. But it's just as likely that she joined the group whimsically -- as an inside joke, say, or on a dare. You just can't take these things at face value.


Anonymous said...

You make a very good point... :) That was written very well.

-Kristin Kalakay

km said...


Anonymous said...

Just a question.

If she is just starting college, would she really have the intellectual irony that you mention?

I feel that irony is developed, whereas most Freshmen have a deer in the headlights, not quite sure what's going on mentality.

Just a thought.

~Mike Radtke

Donn said...

She went to Trinity School, and her dad is one of the most famous politicians in the country, so I think it's a safe bet that she considers herself pretty sophisticated.

imk said...

"obviate" -- nice word choice.

Melissa said...

I think my fave part is your link to wikipedia's emo entry.

Anonymous said...

Your remark concerning narcissism and facebook troubles me. My question is, whether our irony while denying a superficial narcissisum betrays a deeper narcissism. Of course, this question pertains only to the our generation's sharper minds, for the rest, though charming, are useless.

I should say first that I love irony, and moreover that the serious person takes few things seriously. However there seems something dangerous in our irony, namely that it does not recognize those few serious things. (I am thinking back to that man most famous for irony, who used irony to affirm those serious things.) It is doubtless insane to call evidence of this those trifling remarks about those insipid popular novelties -- but that doesn't matter, since that irony is the irony of the useless minds. Acute irony comes from acute minds, and it seems that acute irony, understood today, must be directed toward serious things. Take for example the various reactions, more often than not by acute minds, to religion and politics. (What the fuck is Pastafarian?) That these are the most serious matters should be obvious, afterlife or not. One of two things, it seems to me, would follow from this. If they are not serious in their irony, then they are shamefully fearful in their irony. If they are serious in their irony, then they are not serious in the irony. Only the latter concerns us.

I cannot explain the prevalence of irony among us. Its popularity, though, would seem to suggest the desirability of irony. So just as big tits are to brutes, sophisticated irony is to our generation. If irony were only to hide something of ourselves from others, it is either playful or fearful. But if it is something to distinguish ourselves, especially the sharper minds, then the more sophisticated the irony the more distinguished the person. And let it not be forgotton that the more sophisticated the irony, it would seem, the less serious the person. This I think is the narcissism at the heart of our irony, namely that it is the advertisement of proudly hollow souls. (It is curious to think that useless minds prove more serious about serious things.)

The biggest possible exception to this is Jon Stewart. He is serious in his irony because he are not serious in his irony. I do not deny that it is possible for the ironic to be serious (I am talking to you after all) but I am anticipating their increasing rarity. Nonetheless I have to doubt whether Stewart is responcible for bringing our generation into politics (a serious matter), for it seems that our generation is honestly political only when we watch his show. It is a nice effort but not enough.