You may have been tempted recently by a meme asking you to “occupy Facebook” with art or poetry.
Please resist the urge.
Facebook’s latest chain-mail-style fad, which emerged over the past week, operates much like the “25 random things” that have come before it. If you’ve spent any time on Facebook, you probably know the type: someone posts a call to action, you like it and repost it, someone likes and reposts your post, and the whole thing spirals out into the boundless Facebook void. The occupy art version reads something like this:
The idea is to occupy Facebook with art, breaking the monotony of photos of lunch, sushi and sports. Whoever likes this post will receive an artist and has to publish a piece by that artist with this text.
It’s a nice idea, in theory: We could all use a bit more beauty in our lives, right? (A complementary meme, also popular this week, encourages users to “occupy Facebook with poetry” — not a bad thought, either.) So far, in my personal Facebook feed, I’ve seen images from Banksy, Joel Peter Witkin, Jean-Michel Basquiat — and Thomas Kinkade. That assignment didn’t go over well.
“Seriously, you got Thomas Kincaid? That’s amateur hour.” One commenter wrote (the misspelling is his.)
“This is a great post, but Thomas Kincaid???” wrote another.
Their complaint, essentially, is that Thomas Kinkade falls below the occupiers’ taste threshold, and thereby ruins the whole game. Occupy Facebook is supposed to elevate the social network from its populist concerns — but Kinkade belongs to the masses just as much as baby pictures or Buzzfeed quizzes do. On New York magazine’s approval matrix, his paintings would fall somewhere between lowbrow and despicable.
The problem with Occupy Facebook, of course, is that it isn’t much better. In an attempt to liberate Facebook from “photos of lunch,” that circa-2009 shorthand for all things annoying and self-promotional on the Internet, Facebook “occupiers” are actually engaging in the exact same behavior — posting self-indulgent poems or images to show off how sophisticated they are.
But posting a painting to Facebook doesn’t necessarily make you sophisticated, and posting the score from the latest Nats’ game doesn’t necessarily make you unsophisticated, either. In fact, dichotomizing low and highbrow culture that way isn’t just snobbish — it’s also arbitrary and historically misguided.
Besides, I would much rather casually scroll upon a photo of your tuna sandwich than an image of Witkin’s dismembered corpses. Bring back “25 random things,” please — at least we engaged each other that way.