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Jeet Heer is a senior editor at the New Republic.
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Can I be your Facebook Friend?
Friendship's new reality
And we'll celebrate our union
For all cyberspace to see

Can I be your Facebook Friend?
Cause this friendship is unique
We can hold a conversation
And we never have to speak

If you add me as your friend
I'll accept of course, and then
I will sit here on your profile
You won't hear from me again

This poem nicely catches the nuances of the ‘Facebook addict' type: an anti-social, agoraphobic, ‘low maintenance' lurker who is also a passive-aggressive and voyeuristic stalker accumulating useless social capital.

For example, one familiar set of worries concerns the sociable personality and what it ought to be doing in the writer's world; does Facebook impair our ability to enjoy life and care for others off-line? Extensively debated in relation to manifest sub-cultures such as Hikikomori (see Jodice and Karmen) and Otaku (Lamarre) in Japan, anxiety about what it should mean to be human on an average day is hard to formulate plausibly now for larger populations. Thus an early grizzle by Bugeja about the implications of Facebook for university life (distraction in class, unwitting self-disclosure, inappropriate pictures, surveillance, commercial data gathering and identity theft) suggests in the course of a generally moderate discussion that there is a direct link between the size of the university IT budget, a corresponding loss of faculty jobs, and a Facebook-driven proliferation of distracted, ‘egocasting' student personalities: ‘unless we reassess our high-tech priorities, issues associated with insensitivity, indiscretion, bias, and fabrication will consume us in higher education' (‘Heads Up'). The night of the living dead is close at hand.

Hua Hsu began contributing to The New Yorker in 2014, and became a staff writer in 2017.
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And then there is the Terminator franchise, with its eschatological framing of a girl's moment of contempt for a cosy little house, cold sodas and Facebook pages. The film series temporally stretches the mundane double consciousness of consumer modernity (knowing this way of life is not sustainable into the future, we want this way of life to survive) into a war over history's direction between contending forces in both the present and the future. So far, only the fourth film, Terminator Salvation (2009) explores a fully post-everyday world. Terminator (1984) and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) are ‘wrenching out' stories, with Sarah Connor dragged in the first film from her big hair and ankle-warmer ordinariness, never to know everyday life again, while her son John is hiding out in Los Angeles at the start of the third. However, in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) everyone except the monomaniacal Sarah (and, of course, her liquid metal T-1000 enemy) is immersed in the everyday; under the tutelage of John Connor as a child, even the T-800 helper (Arnie) learns some of its routines. Linking to this film in particular, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series makes John Connor's adolescence a study in psychic conflict between longing for an ordinary suburban life and knowing that (as Riley puts it) ‘it's all going to burn'. What sets John apart as a leader here is not his awareness of the fire to come; in a fuzzy way, there is common knowledge around him of the unsustainability of our world. Rather, this version of John Connor stands out from his helpers (with the partial exception of Cameron, his studious Terminator guard) because he knows why people care, none the less, about cold sodas and cosy houses, ‘like it all matters'. I doubt that John Connor could risk having a Facebook page, but I'm fairly sure that he'd want one.

(Riley in ‘Strange Things Happen')

Nothing flourishes for people who join Facebook and do nothing with it; passive or un-giving use of any network is rewarded in kind (Strohmeyer). As Thompson points out, a depth dimension to ‘ambient awareness' accumulates only with time and aggregation. It does grow over time; Facebook has increased my affective quality of life, and not only because it offers a break from my academic service work. The collective stream of posts brings me word of books, articles, music, films, video clips and news that I would otherwise never discover. At a time of life when new involvements become more rare, I suddenly have digital penfriends with whom I exchange old-fashioned letters through Inbox (one of the least remarked features of Facebook), while an acquaintance from decades ago has become a dear friend whom I contact almost daily. Retrieving a joy of my childhood, when my father would bring home a ‘two bob' chocolate on a Friday night and we'd listen to The Goon Show and My Word on the ABC, I play variants of Scrabble with friends on four continents throughout the day. Facebook also nudges me to remember more of my past than I am wont to do, as other people's actions unpredictably pull bits of our scattered lives together. There is more to this aspect than the nostalgia decried by Susan Dominus (‘sometimes it seems like Facebook is the most back-ward looking innovation ever expected to change the future') and Steve Tuttle (‘Goodbye, William and Mary alums I barely remember from 25 years ago'). Facebook has utopian force for me because it gently undoes the dissociative patterns I learned as a girl in pugnaciously ‘real' Australian country towns; it lets me have family on the same plane as my ex-students, my friends who talk books, my colleagues in Hong Kong and Australia and friends who also post in Italian, French and Chinese. Directly because of Facebook, I was able to speak by phone to a much-loved cousin just before he died. If Facebook vanished overnight, I would experience grief.

My thanks to Russell Smith for this formulation.

Berlant, Lauren. ‘Faceless Book.' 25 December 2007.  Accessed 30 October 2008.
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In examining Trump as a product of our unique epoch, one of the sharpest analytical tools available is the theory of postmodernism, developed in the 1970s and 1980s by a host of theorists—perhaps most famously by ,

Davies, Nick. Flat Earth News. London: Chatto & Windus, 2008.

That final phrase is a reference to , a 1972 by Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour that critiqued “heroic” modern architecture and instead

The Anti-Aesthetic: Essay ..

In Baudrillard’s terms, Trump is a simulacra businessman, a copy of a reality that has no real existence. All sorts of simulacrum and decoy realities now flourish. Consider the popularity of conspiracy theories, evidence of a culture where it’s easy for fictional and semi-fictional narratives to spread like wildfire through social media. Trump about his enemies, and his enemies about him.

A continuing best-seller -- with more than 60,000 copies sold -- The Anti-Aesthetic is a touchstone volume for postmodern debate and theory

Another recent example shows how easy it is to fall into a farrago of absurdity when reporting on Trump. Last weekend, the president tweeted a wrestling video showing him pummeling a man who had a CNN logo superimposed on his face. A As often happens in political battles of the Trump era, his supporters took a few random facts at the margins of the story and constructed an alternative reality, so that the story became not about the president’s endorsement of a threatening video created by a political extremist, but about a powerful news network harassing a private citizen. The entire spectacle shows we’re living in a Baudrillardian funhouse where the firm ground of reality has slipped away.

Wiki for Collaborative Studies of Arts, Media and Humanities

In an attempt to make sense of Trump’s vertiginous presidency, critics have made comparisons to contemporary autocrats like and , or pillaged the history books for analogies ranging from to . Others have looked at imagined futures, as Trump has fostered a vogue in dystopias such as George Orwell’s and Margaret Atwood’s . However illuminating these parallels might be, they ultimately fall short by failing to consider Trump in his immediate context. The president is best understood not as a figure who harkens back to the distant past, evokes other lands, or foreshadows the future, but one who is representative of this very moment in