Drop Facebook and Imagine Something Beautiful

Drop Facebook and Imagine Something Beautiful by mikey and wendy
Drop Facebook and Imagine Something Beautiful, a photo by mikey and wendy on Flickr.
lllustration by Rachel Soloman, excerpted from The Good Life Lab
Doug Ruskoff announced today that he is dropping his Facebook account because, "participation on the site is simply too inconsistent with the values I espouse in my work." His statement prompted me to reflect on my start on Facebook and first introduction to Doug. This summer I asked Doug to write a foreword for my book because of the feelings we share about how people are affected by the commodification of the world.

Intrigued by stories of gathering community I signed on to Facebook. Later when I learned about the site's real goals and my role as a data provider for corporations that Facebook sells my information to, I stayed. Like Doug I saw FB as a tool to promote the book I'd just written.

I met Doug in NYC in 2001. I was Creative Director for a pop-culture marketing company, he had a new book out. We lunched on Avenue B and discussed him becoming my client. I was realizing that my job was inconsistent with my values. I knew I was about to quit so I never tried to close the deal. It was during the frenetic dot com days when the firm recruited me having noticed my work. I produced a variety of events in the city like a Free Mumia benefit, a think tank exploring art and commodifcation of culture, and I did community development that sometimes gave young artists a start. Once part of the firm my creativity was aimed at promoting MP3 players, DJs, trendy magazines, and occasionally a great author like Doug. My job shifted from developing culture to commodifying it. I saw that my life was off course and I quit.

Given that everything I've done since then has been focused on the goal of decommodifying culture, self publishing my book would have been consistent with my intentions. But a first time author I figured a publisher gave me a chance at reaching the mainstream where I might have an affect. With book stores disappearing I chose one with expertise in non-book retail, Storey gets into feed stores and trendy clothing stores like Anthropologie. Meeting art director Alethea Morrison presented the exciting possibility that my book could be art. Then came reasons to print in China, these having to do with details like the book's stitched bind. Each small compromise had a reason. Little by little I moved nearer to being commodified. I thought about how writing a book turns me into a product. When it comes out in June in the pages I ask readers to contemplate the idea that we are the problem and the solution. It is a time of paradox. Mikey and I run a PV solar system that generates clean power. We use the power it creates to run manufactured tools that caused destruction to resources to produce. They aid us in transforming waste into domestic goods that allow us to consume less resource intensive new goods. Problem solution. I'm partly bound by the world I inherited. My interest is in what is being born now, tomorrow's options. The commons and open source are examples of the good thinking of some in our generation. I like facebook, but I wonder why I must be betrayed by it. It's like learning to take poison. Our common sense knows better. What exists tomorrow comes from what is imagined today. We can imagine something beautiful and then build the way to get there.

In the past decade my life has gone full circle. When my book comes out in June I will go on tour. I'll burn jet fuel to get from here to there and eat out instead of making food from my garden. I'll consume in ways I haven't in a long time because it'll be easier to do so while traveling. The day that I signed a contract I detached from my garden and a of projects that I meant to start: a workshop, humanure set up, evaporation pond for hot mineral spring water. I've been clawing my way back to the lifestyle that I wrote about ever since. Now I know that a book is never done. There is editing, art, marketing, distribution, and selling. I get a day even a few to inch back then I'm pulled back into the tornado of business. Too often my gaze is a dead stare into a bright computer screen. A pain in my neck reminds me that this use of my body is not natural. I notice a gap between my life and the life of this world. For a while nature did not seem out there. Under a vast desert sky building a homestead it was a source of wisdom and it was in here. Facebook can't be that. It'll always be out there. I'm not complaining as much as you might think. This is all meaningful to me, a wish fulfilled. A gift, a blessing. I like stating the compromises as I am making them. I've decided that it is OK to make them for the gain of something that matters to me. Being separated from what I learned to love helped me remember the preciousness of what I discovered since leaving the commodified world. Value has been restored.

One day after the book has had its day in the world I hope to follow Doug's lead and quit Facebook. It will be a good day. Meanwhile Mikey and I have been transformed into cute silk screen images that are about to be squeegee'd onto used clothes gathered at Swap-O-Rama-Rama's around the world. People who attend will have prevented those clothes from hitting landfills, they'll reclaim their creativity from industry too, even though many will have driven petroleum burning vehicles to get there. Maybe some of what is learned will shape what is to come. Is it time to revolt against trend as a measure of conformity and trigger to waste still good materials? Is it time for makers to take back the world and refuse to let their creations be diminished by something as cheap and common as money? I sure hope so!


Jay said...

Compromise is not negative or positive. It simply is.

Compromise is an inherent force of nature. It surrounds us each and every day.

In the laws of physics, compromise is called, "equilibrium." It is a condition where nature tends to balance the various forces acting on a system.

When a person completely refuses to compromise at all, they are condemning themselves to live an unbalanced life.

That is not to say that all compromise is productive. Sometimes upsetting the natural balance is exactly what creates productivity and advancement.

I encourage you to treat compromise as a natural force of nature just as powerful as the sun, rain, wind, gravity, photosynthesis, love, fear, joy, sorrow, life, death, decomposition, rebirth, confusion, and wonder.

The key is to recognize the choices each of us make, and how they interact with the balance of forces that surround us. It is not always easy to see the connections or understand the impacts. However, recognizing that they exist is always the first step.

I wish you the best as you explore how you have created unbalance in an effort to create a different balance of forces to create a new equilibrium.

In fact, I wish you joy as you surf the waves of unbalance around you as you search for whatever calm pool of happiness that best suits you.

Wendy J. Tremayne said...

thank you jay! : ) for a yummy comment.

Wendy J. Tremayne said...

I just noticed that Burning Man's web site now has a "burner profile registration." Seems to me that this could one day grow into a social networking tool. I would hop from the commodified FB to the org that publishes its annual spending in an after burn report wouldnt you?


Jay said...

That's odd.

Far to often in the past I've had to eat my own words, and it always left a bitter taste.

I'm glad you found these words yummy. Now I wish I would have licked my fingers after typing them to enjoy what you did.

Sigh... I guess I'm just another guy that lacks good taste.

(Translation: The above lame attempt at humor was my way of saying, "You're Welcome.")