The temporality of the status updates operates on a number of levels. Against the backdrop of a-personal cosmic time, the writer’s status updates can be seen in Ricouer’s terms as an attempt to ‘make time human’ (1984:52) by selecting particular events as worthy of narration while other material is not. However, the human time depicted in the updates themselves is far from a linear string of dates. Rather, as Ochs and Capps put it, human time is ‘sensed holistically’ (2001:157) where the past and future are brought to bear on the present moment.
We might interpret the significance of the ‘pull of the present’ in terms of the particular context created by the social network. At one level, the significant of the present moment in status updates might be interpreted simply as a result of the immediate discourse situation. The prompt for the status update after all, asks the writer what they are doing ‘right now’, not what they were doing at some point earlier in their life. As such, the stories in the status updates are a far cry from the canonical examples so influential in work on life story (Linde 1993) or narratives of personal experience (Labov 1972) where the speaker is narrating past events that have since been completed, and are usually retrospectively distant from the present moment. The significance of what is happening ‘right now’ to a writer is clearly appropriate to the technology of Facebook, which is driven by the RSS feeds that promote recency as a driving organizational force.
Returning to the Chronotope of the status update, we are reminded that FB is not a collection of updates that exist in isolation to each other. Instead, there are two parameters (the time of the individual's narrative and the space of the social network) where updates are distributed across and form intersections in the social network of Friends. Within the framework of Newtonian time imprinted by the Facebook timestamp, a framework which is linear and unidirectional, the present moments narrated in the status update construct an elastic temporality that generates a sense of ongoing-ness that transcends objective measurement. Hermeneutic approaches to time are useful here. Drawing on Heidegger’s (1962) concept of Dasein, time is not defined in individual terms, but profoundly contextualised by living with others. Status updates are an apt vehicle for realising this idea, for they project an illusion of a present moment that carries beyond its point of articulation (it remains in the archive for longer than the moment it is written) and which is instantaneously shared with all others in the Friendship network. The effect of this ongoing present is one of intimacy, “through mutual embracing of the temporal context (Dasein) we come to understand one another and our own being as well” (Bennett 2000:13). The present tense quality of the status updates’ narrative is not just one that humanizes time (Ricouer) but also is inextricably linked to the social dimension of human reality.
Labels: Facebook time statusupdates