Sunday, December 05, 2010

This Week's Face

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Hamlet is a little vague. Things. Presumably these things include faces. As in, what face are you wearing this week? A question with special meaning on Facebook, where you can look like whomever you please for whatever reason you want. Some reasons are political.

The Face of the Week phenomenon came to my notice a year back or so, when the idea spread, phage-like, that everybody should change their profile picture to whatever celebrity they most resemble. Response was surprisingly swift and widespread. It was amusing to see who looked like whom. The only rule, if you could call it that, was to keep the pic posted for one week, an arbitrary length of time. Not as fleeting as a day nor as trying as a month (a lifetime on Facebook) and just long enough to register on the newsfeed.

Then it was childhood pic week, and then favorite author week, and on and on. What I thought a one-time deal turned into an outright phenomenon. Things (that word again) turned a corner when changing your profile pic meant showing solidarity for a political cause. When the Mavi Marmara was attacked off the shores of Gaza, wearing a protest sign as profile pic displayed your sympathetic support. A long way from Let's Pretend We're Celebrities.

This week's is to fly an image of your favorite childhood cartoon character in opposition to child abuse. I can get behind that, yet the impact of changing your pic is so limited. What purpose does it really serve? I'm against it, but solidarity doesn't fight child abuse or even address it. The only people who will see your profile pic are friends, none of whom (we hope) are abusers and who are therefore already in agreement with you. Some of my friends have railed against the stupidity of taking part in such a pointless exercise; others, instead of changing their pic, posted links to get actively involved in fighting abuse against children. I did both. Does it matter?

Facebook is a self-perpetuating experiment in groupthink, where unanimity is preferred over quality decision-making, a heaven-earth mashup teeming with Hamlet's things, philosophical or otherwise, wise or foolish, altogether human. Which is not to say I take it so seriously that I believe my profile pic is of any consequence outside the arena of faces. Still, it's more fun to take part than stand apart... when it comes to things dreamt of in my philosophy.


Lin said...

This is only fun if you know it is happening. I couldn't figure out why everyone was a cartoon character this week! I'm so slow on this stuff. :) Oh well, will you please clue me in on the next one so that I don't look like a total idiot???

James MacAdam said...

Good point, Lin. If you don't know what's going down, where's the fun in that. I'm in the dark about these things until somebody's status shines a light on what profile pics mean this week. I believe this kind of dissemination is called "tribal knowledge" or "I heard it on the landline."