Why Album Covers? Why Facebook?

The meme is simple. You use wikipedia, quotationpages.com and flickr to randomly give you words and images, and then you assemble them to make an album cover.

Really? I mean… that sounds both complicated and boring, why would I do that? Why would you do it, and tag me in it? Why do people who do it, then do it again three or four times?

About two years ago, Ian and I were talking about the different levels of intimacy that our modern world affords us, and particularly the amount of non-intimacy we can have. It used to be that if you wanted social interaction, you had to write letters informing people of visits, and then show up with several large trunks of stuff and stay for a month.

Then, a lot of this got replaced as we got phones. You don’t have to do your hair, you don’t have to wrestle into a bustle, you just call your friends, have a chat, then call someone else and make fun of whoever you just talked to. Then move on to a third and fourth person, talk shit about everyone, and try to pretend they aren’t doing the exact same thing.

Pretty soon, this gave way to email. Now, you don’t have to do your hair or your bustle, and you don’t even have to clear your throat. There’s no social pressure AT ALL, and *getting* email is even better than sending it. You just shove it into a folder and answer it when you want. Or don’t. Let it sit in your inbox for months until, too embarrassed to admit you never got around to it, you archive it or delete it and pretend you never got it.

So… cool. We’re all talking to each other, we still have some social standards set up, and we don’t have to deal with people we don’t want to.

Then… fucking Facebook.

See, all the people who are your friends now, both of you guys had friends earlier, and only one of you is still friends with those people. There was a girl you dated in high school, and her best friend ended up in college with a guy you’re still friends with. That guy who used to sexually harass the waitress when you were doing that show in Nebraska? You’re still friends with the artistic director…

One by one, you line up the people you WANT to be friends with on Facebook, and they accept your invitation and everything’s cool… and then that little “Friends You Might Know” dialogue box pops up at the bottom right. You see those people. Some of them invite you to be their friends.

It’s scary. It’s actually kind of awful. That one girl in high school who’s mom was super-hot and divorced? How did you end up being facebook friends with her twenty years later? Especially since that girl in high school now has three kids, and one is in junior high?

Well, if it really sucked, then Facebook would collapse. But it doesn’t. The truth is, most of the people who are friends with you remember you as a total prick as well, and they don’t actually want to be in touch with you. It’s really hilarious, there are people you would go out of your way to *AVOID* in person, if they were at a party or on the street, but you’ve INVITED them to be your friend on Facebook.

A close friend and I were talking about an old mutual friend, a guy who is extremely difficult but also really fun. She said, “I just wish I could be Facebook friends with him, y’know? So I could see that his profile was being updated and he’s still doing stuff, but I wouldn’t have to ever *talk* to him…” That’s what Facebook is about. If you’re on there, just throw up a new picture every once in a while, and comment on other people’s awesome shit.

So… why the albums?

Well, here’s the thing. Facebook was for college kids originally, but it has totally wiped the floor with crap like Friendster and Classmates.com and the rest of those assholes. Facebook is now for people like *me*. Creepy guys with slightly too much time on their hands who are always wondering whatever happened to 1986.

Well, 1986 was a fun year. There was a lot of drug use, a lot of hair, a lot of sex… it was a great time to be 16 because it seemed like AIDS was something old people got (people who were 23) and you could wear eyeliner and fishnet stockings to school and still get girls to like you. We were listening to the Cure, or maybe Ratt, but whoever we were listening to, they were having fun and feeling feelings. But mostly, we were listening to tapes that we had recorded off of albums.

The covers used to be your first introduction to the music. Would you like it? Man, the cover of Nirvana’s Nevermind made me think I would like it. I still remember the cover of Prince’s Controversy, that image was burned into my eyes so bad that I can see it on the inside of my eyelids 25 years later.

Ours is the age of irony, and we do everything we can to make sure that these memories we hold so dear are actually a little bit absurd to us. The cover of the Fables of the Reconstruction album? Yeah, I know, it’s totally pretentious. Maybe the album was as well. We were retarded, we were ridiculous…

We walked through the woods. We-eee- walked…

Anyway. We’re always gonna kill and eat our own gods, and the album cover game is a public sacrifice of our most sacred cow, nostalgia. Album covers don’t even exist anymore, our introduction to music now is usually satellite radio or internet-streaming. Yes, there is cover art, but it’s not gonna end up any larger than a postage stamp next to the song on your ipod, or, at best, the size of a CD wallet. It isn’t worth investigating.

But your facebook friends don’t want to know who you are *now*, for the love of God. If the people you knew when you were 18 were introduced to the people you know when you’re 40, think of how many stories would get eradicated. You’d have to come up with an entirely new story of your life based on these OTHER assholes’ memories, instead of living the life based on the lies you’ve invented for yourself.

(Look, maybe you don’t know you’re lying, but you are. When you’re all “we played so much golf my junior year that I actually failed biology”, believe me, the guy you played with will be like, “What? Yeah, I mean, we played twice a week, which is a lot, but, um… I mean, I still ate lunch every day. I don’t think that’s why he failed biology…” Trust me, the people you tell your melancholy stories about don’t remember it the way you do.)

However, your Facebook friends *do* want you to continue to create nostalgia. And, by making the joke album cover, you’re essentially saying “remember when this meant so much to us? The cover of Houses of the Holy? The Banana Peal? Freeze Frame? Its’ funny that we can generate these randomly, right!”

I know this because I friggin’ love them too. I’ve looked at about 80. Every single one of them cracks me up.