February 20, 2013 by Marcus Speh
I’m interested in the concept of time that dominates the user interface of Facebook. Unless I’m very different from everyone else, I don’t live my life along a ‘Timeline‘. If I live my life at all (rather than being lived by it) then it is because I manage to forget time. And where time is important and relevant (apart from preparing food, picking kids up from school, attending meetings and so on) it certainly doesn’t seem linear at all. When time itself is of the essence (not just time’s starved cousin, the minute), it goes all over the place: any memory (and how can you do anything without memory, isn’t that part of the Alzheimer tragedy?) leads time astray. Our mind is a curious monkey. And the future! It’s not a line, it’s a messy bundle of multicolored threads, just like the past is a bunch of black and white rubber bands. That’s why I don’t do “linear” on my timeline. That’s why I focus on photos accompanied by meager descriptions: when you gaze at visuals, your brain feeds on nonlinearity information. The pixels wank you well. Only archived records and polished junk prose are linear: they’re dead leaves, that’s why no one really reads them.
Outside of science and the marketplace, in the real world, time is what happens between birth and death. Facebook’s Timeline makes all of it look like a book, while in truth it’s more like a mud bath, just as hard to analyze and sometimes hard to appreciate. Only when you accept that time can be dirty and unreliable, fancy and fertile, only then can time become your friend. This is not the kind of treatment that time gets get from the real philosophers, who worried about the nature of Time (Heidegger, Bergson, Nietzsche, Whitehead, Wittgenstein, Einstein, McTaggart etc.), but this is also just a post that will end up lost on my blog and later on Facebook…
What I really wanted to say, and what I always wanted, and still want to do, is of course to travel through time. We all know it’s possible, and we all know it happens all the time. I can show you: close your eyes… no wait, read this first and then close your eyes. When you’ve closed your eyes, think about yourself as a 10-year-old. Walk around your image in your mind as if you believed it was real. There you have it. Don’t even think about putting a picture of your 10-year-old on your Facebook Timeline: a picture is a time machine only for the person in the picture. But when you write a story about this 10-year-old, you’ve built a time machine for every reader.
And feel free to surf my or anybody’s Facebook as if it was the real thing, just for fun. As Nietzsche says: «You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.» Just like a time-line.
More: profound stuff in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Whitehead and Nietzsche had opposing views on the nature of becoming: article on “the evil of time”. Like me, believed that the nature of time eluded science and mathematics; he wrote about duration; Bergson and Marcel Proust to whom he was related by marriage, influenced each other with regard to the ideas on time and memory. Wittgenstein was easily troubled. All of these folks built exceptionally shiny time machines with their outstanding writing.