Three thoughts on not having a Facebook account

Now that an anti-Facebook backlash seems to be gathering momentum, I feel increasingly vindicated that I’m one of those lucky few who never signed up in the first place. I will never be able to capture my objections to Facebook with the Adornoesque rigor of Rob Horning, but I would like to put three semi-related points forward:

  1. The last thing I need is another thing to “check” constantly. I know I’m basically an internet addict, and my initial reason for not signing up was precisely that people were finding Facebook so engrossing. I’m sure I would have enjoyed it, at least at first, but I also know that it would have crowded out things that are more important to me — or at least made me less attentive and focused while doing them. So to this extent, my initial choice not to sign up was driven by my recognition of personal weakness rather than by any overarching principle. BUT:

  2. I want to have control over how I present myself. It seems like every two weeks there’s a story about Facebook arbitrarily revealing things you thought were private, etc. This possibility always disturbed me. I am probably an over-sharer in many contexts, but at least when it comes to blogging and Twitter, it’s pretty clear what’s out there or not and how to keep things from getting out there — I’m not going to wake up one morning and find out that WordPress has arbitrarily published all my drafts, for example.
  3. I don’t want to be continually reminded of my past. Some relationships are for a certain time, and then it’s okay for them to drift away. I’m grateful for the friends I had in high school and college, and I’ve kept in contact with the ones I wanted to keep in contact with. I can understand the desire to see what people are up to, but it seems like many accounts of Facebook arguments, etc., are a product of putting people back together who don’t belong together anymore — so that all it produces is needless friction. This is compounded by the fact that I was largely miserable between elementary school and grad school. I’m sure everyone has turned out to be a wonderful person and I’m so happy for all of them — but my mental health is largely premised on not thinking about past eras of my life all the time.

I’ve been told that Facebook is a great way to do marketing and to get to know other academics — i.e., it can be future-oriented — but the concerns I list above incline me to just wait until it inevitably flops and we all move on to the next thing.

Close reading: A classic Weblog post reposted

[This afternoon I was inspired to look up this post and thought I would share it with you all. The original comment thread is, in my opinion, also worth reading.]

Nancy’s often poignant disquisition on freedom is perhaps the most robustly philosophical aspect of his expansive speculative vision. It strives to divest philosophy of recalcitrant notions of freedom that have been informed by ideological requirements. It offers two crucial arguments, each of which attempts to collapse the thinking of freedom into the open immanence of the circulation of sense.

–B. C. Hutchens, Jean-Luc Nancy and the Future of Philosophy

This disquisition we’re talking about — you’re saying it’s both poignant and robustly philosophical, right? Am I with you here? Read the rest of this entry »

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Nietzschean Christology: A Life of Its Own

Back when I was a junior at Saint Vincent College, in Latrobe, PA, thinking about graduate school, vocation, etc., I took a Christology course with one of my favorite professors, Father Tom Hart, O.S.B., a Benedictine priest and then chair of the Religion and Religious Education department.  The course was, as one would expect, fairly Catholic–in a good way–and was a genuine attempt at simultaneously introducing multicultural and spiritual approaches to the subject.  Me being me, I presented as my final paper for the class something neither Catholic nor multicultural, “Nietzschean Christology.” 

Earlier in that semester I actually got locked into the lower level of the library late one Friday night–this was before the library had a major renovation and brought up to fire code.  St. Vincent has a phenomenal library right in the center of campus, and I had my favorite spots on the lower levels that were generally uninhabited. Read the rest of this entry »

Against persuasion

Particularly since reading What is Talmud?, I have been thinking about the goals of conversation. As often happens with me, my initial impetus in thinking through this issue stems from annoyance: I’m always very annoyed when someone proposes abandoning a conversation because persuasion is unlikely, particularly when they cite the problem of incommensurable presuppositions. Those kinds of declarations always weirdly instrumentalize conversation, which is an activity that I enjoy for its own sake. It’s fun to talk about ideas, to come up with new ways to defend or explain ideas, to hear new criticisms — or at least it can be, when people aren’t uptight and don’t take a challenge to their statements as a personal insult. My ideal of a night out is sitting around a table with people shooting the shit, and that’s the way I approach blog conversations, at least when I’m at my best. I have no idea why it would occur to me that such a night out would be more fun or more worthwhile if only I could get someone to have the same ideas as me.

The emphasis on persuasion seems to me to err in at least two ways. Read the rest of this entry »

Citation style

I was a TA in the English department in college, and most of my efforts were devoted to correcting grammar, punctuation, and citation style for freshman comp, with the professor providing the actual overall grade. After several years of this, I came to be regarded as the foremost authority on documentation styles on campus — for instance, when the department chair called my citations into question on my honors thesis, literally everyone else in the room said I couldn’t have gotten it wrong. That was a proud moment, akin to when the office manager at the chiropractor’s office where I worked after graduated told me that I was the best data entry clerk she had ever met.

That experience has produced two results:

  1. I have very firm opinions about citation styles.
  2. I realize that it’s an issue not many people pay close attention to.

I would like to discuss these points in turn. Read the rest of this entry »

Justifiable Inequality

In a co-authored Comment Is Free piece, Phillip Blond and John Milbank aver that we need the right kind of inequality. We can reportedly achieve this by carrying out a synthesis of traditional Tory and Leftist ideals, which would allow us to distinguish between justifiable and unjustifiable inequality. The unjustifiable kind is based in race prejudice or in the nihilistic application of skill in socially useless activities such as investment banking — surely we can all agree on that. The justifiable kind is a form of class privilege that serves as “a way of providing the appropriate resources for the wielding of power linked to virtue. By virtue we mean here a combination of talent, fitness for a specific social role, and a moral exercise of that role for the benefit of wider society.”

Presumably we are to believe that there is some way of implementing this political program, despite the fact that no qualified judge of what is justified or unjustified equality seems to exist — unless we’re to imagine Rowan Williams or, probably even better, Benedict XVI handing down these moral recommendations — nor does actual existing class privilege serve to equip leaders for the exercise of virtue in public life as far as I can tell. The gesture is the same as with “Catholic social teaching”: bring together elements of left and right in some unprecedented mixture to prove your brilliance and ability to think “outside the box,” and provide no concrete means to get to this supposed utopia other than hoping that people’s hearts change and they suddenly start doing the right thing. It’s a pose, not a program, and its only possible concrete effect can be to support the right wing.

Overall, the article reminds me of a quote from the Communist Manifesto that I’ve used before in this connection: “Christian Socialism is but the holy water with which the priest consecrates the heart-burnings of the aristocrat.”

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