Courtesy of NASA

Courtesy of NASA

February 12, 2016

GOOD TASTE ALONE | Spacebook

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It’s the year 20-something-or-other. We’ve made contact with the aliens. We still call them “the aliens,” even though it’s quite possible they’re not the only aliens out there — even though we too, are space creatures, whether or not we choose to think of it that way — and even though “the aliens” has long been a conceptual colloquialism rather than a scientific label. (“Kind of like the word planet,” says Pluto.)

So, we’ve made contact with the aliens. They tried to dodge our calls. They even turned on their read receipts for the plaques on the Pioneer 10 and 11 space crafts, hoping we’d get the message. Finally we’ve established contact with them, though, and as is custom whenever anyone thinks a relatable thought, sells their soul to the system (starts a company), or has a child, a Facebook page was created for them.

“Poop emoji,” one alien correspondent comments, which — though we could not explain the cultural irony of the manifestation of his native language — loosely translates to, “How is this supposed to be useful to me?” or, in other words, “Lol, what do?”

So we have to explain Facebook to their primitive, foreign minds (which first involves, of course, explaining the concepts of both a “face” and a “book”). The easiest way to do this is by showing them all the wonderful things we can do with Facebook. First, we show them how we can always see what our friends are up to because the ticker on the side of the screen shows every minuscule little action as it happens. The alien tells us that working hard to maintain social harmony over many centuries has allowed his kind to develop telepathy in order to better commune with their brethren, so they have no use for such technology.

So we introduce the alien to sharing. “This is a Buzzfeed article,” I say. “You can find a list of relatable things here and then you can share it to your Timeline so people know what you’re like.” He says that if they’re his friends then they should already know what he’s like. I decide that the meaning of friend must have gotten lost in translation, so I ignore it and move on. “Sharing works both ways,” I tell the alien. “Watch, someone else might share something that you identify with. Then you can read it.” The alien asks why he has to read it if he already knows it’s vaguely about him. “So you can experience yourself,” I tell him.

“But I’m always experiencing myself,” he says, and I laugh.

“Well,” I tell him, “that is not how things work here.”

Finally, the alien is ready to post its first status. The humans are doomed, it writes. I like the post to show him the proper online etiquette among friends, which is to like all content indiscriminately regardless of how you actually feel about it in the hopes that they will do the same for you. “You aren’t the only one who knows about harmony,” I tell the alien.

I post my own status. The aliens are #doomed. The alien likes the post.

I marvel quietly at our ability to coexist, despite our opposing opinions. Maybe Facebook really is great; maybe it actually sucks. But only through Facebook can we focus on the half-dozen mutual interests that unite us across space and time, and either ignore or harmlessly judge each other and our differences from the comfort of our home( planet)s, where the devastating vastness of the cosmos between us mediates our colliding passions almost as effectively as the internet itself.

Sarah is a sophomore Psychology and Performing & Media Arts major in the College of Arts and Sciences. She likes to exist sometimes, but mostly just recite lines from The Office. Her favorite food is oatmeal raisin cookies dipped in curry sauce, and she can usually be found using the words “film” and “movie” interchangeably, highlighting her favorite words in the dictionary or trying to transcribe feral cat noises into the next groundbreaking Twitter trend. Good Taste Alone appears on Fridays this semester. She can be reached at sec262@cornell.edu.

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