Are You Friends on Facebook?
20" x 16" analog collage on matboard
The above piece started as a small paper sketch in my sketchbook. I have seen a lot of collages that use the idea of scale as a starting point. You know, the ones that show a really large baby and a tiny mountain or a huge cougar and some small people looking on. My sketch involved a tall woman leaping and a much smaller series of skyscrapers. It reminded me of that B movie, The Attack of The 50 ft Woman. I thought the movie reference would be a good start for an idea.
I started to enlarge my sketch and I quickly ran into trouble. It happens often that something that looks good small just doesn't work on a larger scale. I had to rethink my idea. At the same time, the movie reference reminded me of something that I had read a while back. NY Times columnist David Brooks wrote a piece on mass shooters and what might be motivating their actions. He talked a lot about loneliness and isolation and a lack of good social/medical/mental health infrastructure. The emphasis was really on social isolation and how a person could be seemingly well connected, socially, and still be lonely. He cited the case of Yvette Vickers. She was an actress who played a part in the above mentioned movie, Attack of the 50ft Woman. She passed away in her home and her death went undiscovered for nearly a year. At the time of her passing, she had a crazy amount of followers on Facebook, some number in the thousands. Despite that, no one seemed to notice that she wasn't around posting and to try to actively find out why.
My remembering David Brooks' column got me thinking about a question I have been asked repeatedly: am I friends with so-and-so (fill in the blank) on Facebook? The query has always irked me because invariably, the person in question, the one I might possibly know, is someone I have never met or spoken to and could not pick out of a police lineup. I always feel like the person I am talking with (presumably a friend who knows me) would know already that I don't know someone. It strikes me as a not-so-well-thought-out question. I would rather be asked if I know someone, period. I hate that FB is in the mix as a qualifier. That question, to me, sounds more straight forward and reasonable. You either know someone or you don't or you have heard of them but have never met them. I think semantics are pretty important. And I hate mindless assumptions. I feel like we have gotten sloppy in our communication somehow. This isn't to say that I don't have friends on FB that I have never met. I do. They are people that I have interacted with over the years exclusively online. (They are also relatives, and neighborhood friends, and friends of longstanding from high school onward. Maybe people that I don't see terribly often but friends nonetheless.) I feel though that if I went missing, someone online might notice (I hope). And I feel that if I traveled to another state and let one of my online friends know I would be in the area, that an invitation to get together would be easy to obtain. And I would feel safe in doing so. I really dislike FB and what I think they have done to the ways that we communicate. In any case, I digress.
So, to wrap it up, I brought together several ideas for the collage: the idea of the movie, Yvette Vicker's death, and the inane phrase/question which became the title of the piece. I needed a spokesmodel, so to speak, and I didn't really have a good female image on hand. That's how Barbie became my model. She is actually my own personal Barbie bought quite a few years ago. And she is, after all, long legged, beautiful, and just a little wacko in concept. Seemed like she would fit the bill. The images of the people are from my own junior high school yearbook. I created all of the papers myself using images I already had. The orange circles are actually from my Ernst Haeckel book. The image is a phaeodaria, a type of unicellular plankton made in part of silica (a kind of glass). If you zoom in it looks a little web like in design which for me represented the web of contacts on FB. I made a kind of circle connecting those plankton images. The only image that isn't mine is the one of the freeway. It's of Los Angeles in the 60's and I lifted it from E Bay. I chose the color blue because it's an FB color and I made the numbers paper to highlight the concept of the number of friends that people have on FB.
I am really pleased with the outcome. It nearly didn't get off the ground and almost fell apart a few times. It takes a lot of energy sometimes to just sit with an idea and roll it around in my mind to search for a solution. Many days pass... Eventually I can solve the puzzle. With any luck, I will like the results for a long time to come.
I know there may be people reading or who see the image and won't understand or will be perturbed or offended or will feel bad about the number of FB friends that they have and will think I am making fun of them or calling their judgment into question somehow. I am not. I am not maligning Barbie either or making any direct commentary about her intelligence, the intelligence of people who use FB or who ask questions or any other connections or interpretations. Draw your own conclusions here. View FB and your time on Earth however you want. And it isn't lost on me that I will post this piece on FB shortly. I get it. Use social media carefully, choose your words wisely, and make discerning distinctions.
Thanks for reading.