For my 20% project, I have made Facebook pages based off of Jack Kerouac and his iconic crew from “On The Road” (however, using real names not the ones from the book). I will make a page for Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassidy, William S. Burroughs, Joan Haverty, and any other people that seem to be able to contribute to making his Facebook page/ wall as biographical as possible.
Throughout the compilation of the 20% project I kept feeling a sense of disconnect from what I was doing. It was a struggle for me to sit down and think about what to share on the Facebook walls of the people that I had chosen to create them for, and I by the end of it, I really didn’t love what I had agreed to do as my 20% project. I realized that more and more as the other kids presented their projects. Each seemed to have put in so much work, and was so passionate about what they had done–even if it did take them hours, and a lot of money.
The reason for my feeling of disconnect was the obvious fact that I do not know Jack Kerouac, and am not like Jack Kerouac; therefore, it is impossible to try and be him, or even, as I discovered, mimic him. The issue of authenticity was my biggest road-block, because regardless of how much I read about him, or how many personal letters I came across, anything I wrote was not going to be authentic. This reason also gave me a completely lack of agency also which was a frustrating inner turmoil I dealt with throughout the project. There is a quote by Audrey Hepburn that, although maybe completely overused, is pertinent to how I felt about this project: “It’s better to be a first rate version of yourself, than a second rate version of somebody else.” I realize that entirely now, and I feel like I truly was a second rate version of Jack Kerouac because his Facebook ultimately did not embody him.
What it came down to was the fact that after all was said and done, Jack Kerouac would never have had a Facebook. That point, however, leads to the more positive realization of my project, which is how strong of an autobiographical agent Facebook can be. When someone says that they don’t have a Facebook, there are certain reactions that are provoked. The social network has become such a major form of communication that everyone from 80 year old grandparents to high profile political figures has them. Therefore, for someone to be without one entices the speculation that for whatever reasons that person feels that they can go without something that is gaining popularity the way cell phones once did. It may be because they find it completely unnecessary for their lives, which to many would indicate that they don’t have a very large network of friends. Or, and would probably be the case with Kerouac, they find Facebook to be superficial and superfluous to their relationships with the people around them.
If a person does have a Facebook, the information which they include on their pages, even though not explicitly penned by the “author,” holds the ability to inform the reader, or potential friend, of what kind of person they are about become technologically acquainted. Between what the person “likes,” their photo albums, and their Facebook status’s, a viewer can learn more about the person than spending a week with them. A person can learn the type of music someone listens to, the books, movies, t.v. shows they like. Even the places they have traveled throughout the world. It is a technological memoir that eliminates the necessity of extensive reading, and can be authored by anyone.
The other important fact if it is being approached as a kind of memoir is that Facebook pages have multiple co-authors. Facebook is one of the most dynamic forms of collaborative autobiography. Between the hundred or so friends that actually will write on someone’s wall over a period of time, each offers a little more insight into the person’s life. With the newer capabilities of creating a fluid dialogue on a person’s page by posting and responding beneath an original comment or question on a wall, all the Facebook friends that a person has are capable of finding out the answer to questions like, “what have you been up do.”
If I were to take a different approach to the 20% project, but stay in the realm of Facebook, I probably would have toyed with the idea of Identity. Since Facebook and other social networking sites have become big, there have been privacy issues. Specifically, and most pertinent to college students, is the dual idea of identity and privacy. Potential employers are capable of vetting a candidate via Facebook, and can deny that person a job based on what they see on their page. I think that as a college senior, who is going to have to do some serious editing to her Facebook pages in the coming months, it would have been interesting to show the class a comparison of a college appropriate (or as is in most cases, inappropriate), and work appropriate Facebook. This would give me a chance to toy the idea of audience, identity, and embodiment, which I was unable to do while making a Facebook page for Jack Kerouac.