Enchanted Facebook.

The most characteristic features of human being is its curiosity, the everlasting need to explain the world around. People look for different tools to achieve their goal – gain the knowledge – within various areas of reality. To follow Malinowski’s assumptions, our way of thinking works in three orders. The first one is related do the science which gives objectively and empirically verifiable explanation for different processes. As he wrote: “it is based on the normal universal experience won in man’s everyday struggling with nature for his subsistence and safety, founded on observation, fixed by reason” (Malinowski, 1948). The second one – religion – assures general philosophy which embraces main people’s concerns and existential questions. It arms people in believes and hope that help to maintain the feeling of stability. Malinowski described faith as an important factor of establishment of “valuable mental attitudes such as reverence for tradition, harmony with environment, courage and confidence in the struggle with difficulties and the prospects of death” (1948). Magic is considered to be the most focused on practice. Frazer defined it as “a means to an end” and gave it etiquette of fake-science (Frazer). Whereas Malinowski claimed that not only “savage societies” were able to produce magic but even we these days, who like to describe ourselves as civilized, are using this kind of logic. As he wrote, magic consists of “certain acts which are means to a definite and expected end” (Malinowski,19498). Malinowski saw its function in ritualizing “man’s optimism” and enhancing his fate in the victory of hope over fear (1948).

Those three orders: science, religion and magic organize human’s thoughts and deal with main concerns of this species such as source of physical and psychical pain, questions about life and death or causes of bad luck and failures. Today we are facing fast development within science. It became possible to explain problems that only few years ago were inscrutable. One can follow Weber’s perspective and call it disenchantment. Weber defined it as “an undergoing process of rationalization which gives empirically objectified results and assured people that there always is an answer to their problems” (Jenkins, 2000). We can easily perceive that even science remains powerless when it comes to existential questions. In that case religion comes with help and hope. However one can still argue that some problems stay without solution, that both religion and science cannot give suitable answer. This gap is usually filled by magic, which can be understood in at least two ways. According to Frazer as “fake science”, after Malinowski as an universal feature of human’s mind or as a practical branch of religion.(Frazer, 1994) As Jenkins wrote, magic and magic understanding of the world in modern societies is perceived as “at best charming, at worst, ignorant and backward”. Also Favret – Saada, while doing her field work in France, notices thet current tendencies involved in the official discourse consider “witchcraft to be the superstition of backward people”. (Favret – Saada, 1989). The activity of the healers and magicians is marginalized and rather avoided or treated as some kind of exotic or local folklore by public media. Jenkins found the idea of progressive disenchantment highly arguable. He connected it with other two closely-coupled processes: enchantment and re-enchantment, which are both present these days. He wrote that at the same time we face “secularization and decline of magic, but on the other hand the increasing scale, scope and power of the formal means-ends rationalities” (Jenkins, 2000). Jenkins linked those processes to two tendencies: “one which insists that there are more things in universe that are dreamed of by the rationalist epistemologies and onthologies of science, and the other which rejects the notion that calculative, procedural, formal rationality is always the best way” (Jenkins, 2000).

I will focus on the latter tendency related by Jenkins to the “existence of escapism of television, computer games and internet” (Jenkins, 2000). I follow his assumption that we are under constant enchantment process. I would like to focus on social networking websites such as Facebook, analyze its mechanisms and find proves of its enchantment.

Internet has become the most important mean of interpersonal communication. It is perceived to be a great data basis and source of latest news. Within Internet people share their opinion and participate in a web-discussions. They can take a part in social initiatives and have audible voice about current problems. Internet can be seen as a substitute or at least alternative for face-to-face communication. Thanks to the technological development people have broken the barrier of distance. Internet gives also a ground for presentation of the self in a way that wouldn’t be possible in reality. The electronic communication established new possibilities of self-presentation. They can be discussed especially in the context of social networking websites. According to Wikipedia’s definition they are the example of “interactive websites in which users can add friends and send them messages, update their personal profiles and notify friends about themselves” (Wikipedia).

 

Facebook.

Facebook is probably one of the most famous examples of such social websites. Its users are estimated in millions and every day more and more people create new web-accounts. Facebook provides various ways of self-presentation. Typical account contains photo-albums and personal details. Users can become members of certain groups which gather people with the same ideology or life experience. The information about the membership is published on the profile and plays a role in self-presentation. As Hugh Miller wrote: “for the most people it is difficult to establish yourself as a whole person through the self description. There are other resources that can be mobilized: show me what your links are and I will tell you what kind of person you are”. (Miller) “Facebook’s entertainment” refers to the great number of applications and on-line games. Observation of this kind of web-site brings many conclusions about current social processes and trends.

Facebook can be perceived as enchanted space. It provides its users with tools that help in creating parallel world. It gives a chance to change or improve the image. Thanks to the applications one can become a farmer or the restaurant’s owner. He/she can read his/her future by filling the quizzes or asking for help one of the available on-line fairies. We can see that mainly these tools serve the entertaining purposes but some of them reveal the hidden human’s tendencies.

The greatest advantage of using Internet is that one feel relatively anonymous. The personal details can be replaced with various nicknames that are less recognizable. This opportunity gives people courage to do things that would not be possible in their every-day-life. Miller wrote that what “people need to do in their interactions with others is present themselves as an acceptable person: who is relatively unblemished” (Miller). Within the Internet self-presentations is considered carefully before any personal information is updated on-line. Electronic communication reduces the first impression effect which is important in face-to-face contact. Miller quotes Goffman, who saw “embarrassment as an important indicator of where people fail to present an acceptable self”. Embarrassment acts both in physic and psycho. It is clearly perceptible when one made a mistake in self-presentation esspecially in the specific body’s reaction. In case of electronic communication this factor loses its influence because it is usually preceded with scrupulous preparations and the crystallized concept of my-self.

Some of the Facebook applications are directly related to the magic, astrology or future predictions. They are very popular among the users, some of them gathered millions of fans, who added them to their profile. I haven’t found strict researches about why people chose this kind of Facebook’s entertainment. However, what can be expected, is that fun would have been one of the main reasons. Contrarily, some of the people seem to treat it as a respectable source of information. Despite of lack of this important information I would like to analyze some of these applications by looking on their authors and methods which they use to create the quizzes; I will also focus on their fans’ attitudes towards Facebook’s magic.

Links to the applications can be added to the personal profiles while one becomes a fan of certain site. Then they take a part in self-presentation. One can also use daily notification about his horoscope or biorhythm. The results of certain quizzes can also be added to the profiles or published on the wall. They seem to approve distinctive personal features and because of that become a part of self-description. When we consider social constructed attitude towards magic we will notice that when it is dressed in entertaining frame it is no longer perceived in terms of backward tendency, even if it works through similar rules.

 

Guide spirits.

I used “spirit” as key word while searching for the enchanted applications on Facebook. As a result I received three pages with quizzes that respond the question about guide spirits. Users can gain the knowledge about their animal and embodied spirits by filling certain quizzes. Basically we can divide the questions in three groups. The first one is related to the personal features like for instance most characteristic behavior in stressful situation. They often ask to choose the word which in the best way describes one’s personality, strengthens and weaknesses. The second group of questions is more related to the social sphere: relations with intimates and strangers. The last one is connected with senses: perception of colors, scents and sounds. The most frequented, within this area, quiz is entitled: “What does your spirit guide want you to know?”. According to the Facebook’s statistics it has 60 488 active users per month, while 6 768 have decided to add this site to their profile. Each application can be evaluated. The highest mark is 5 while the lowest 1. This quiz received 3.1 which based on 27 opinions. The users are also able to write their comments. The opinions are divided. For some the main reason was to have fun so that they did not pay much attention to the results but the others found them related to reality. “Wow this really hit home and knows me really really well”, “It said my spiritual guide was a little girl maybe it’s my dead sister Kelly”, “This answers a lot of questions for me” – those opinion prove that for some users quizzes reveal the part of reality.

Rene Willerslev, who was conducted researches among the Siberian Yukaghirs, found the special relation between hunter and his prey, based on the idea of bodies’ exchange. Hunter intercepts useful features that help him during chase. Sometimes thoughtless hunter can be carried away by the alien body and only self-awareness or reflexivity help to avoid such perdition. However, some of the animal’s features are still recognizable like for example “the fox-woman is said to keep her strong smell and the bear-man can be recognized by his jog-trot way of moving”(Willerslev; 2004). The quizzes are less related to the body characteristic but more refer to the habitat and group structure of certain species. Their questions are constructed in accordance to the rule of similarity. If someone prefers to work in groups it is more probable that his animal spirit lives in herd like wolfs.

 

Aura, biorhythm.

According to the one of the authors, aura is invisible glowing field of energy that surrounds our body, reflects how one feels towards something, sense of strength an weakness, state of emotion and mind. The same author offers to teach how to read aura and assures daily information within these area. Other quizzes will reveal its most visible layer, shape and color. They are based on quite similar questions: about actual state of being, colors, strengthens and weaknesses. The biorhythm applications use only date of the birth to create diagram of intellectual, emotional, physical condition. Their authors emphasize its usefulness in planning the forthcoming day. Both aura and biorhythm applications attract thousands of people who usually evaluated them very well. The rates were no lower than 4. While in quizzes about spirit guides do not provide sources of information, Aura and Biorhythm application give a full explanation, definitions and theoretical basis. The author of Aura Reading added link to the Barbara Ann Brennan’s book “Hand of light” which was a basis in her quiz construction. The biorhythm application usually refers to the achievements of the scientists from the beginning of 20th century such as Austrian psychologists Herman Svoboda, German biologist Wilhelm Fliess.

 

Fairies, on-line predictions.

I will use two applications as examples in that group. The first one is named Fairy (Wróżka). Its authors come from Poland and it is originally written in Polish but there are also other versions: in Spanish El Hada and in English Fairy. The Fairy offers unrevealing the karmic number, provides with daily biorhythm and makes Tarot predictions. It gathered 6 568 fans and is visited by 112 104 users per month. Opinions and comments are mostly positive: “Fairy is great”, “It’s amazing. Here is written everything about me”. It received high 4.8 rate.

Another example is application “Anita’s predictions”. It is specialized in foretelling. One can use the everyday prediction, as well as special ones about love, money and life. It also offers a Free Psychic 2010 within which one can learn what to expect during this year. People published their questions on the main wall as well as they are able to contact with feries individually to get more detail information. Users usually ask about the future: “How’s my job overseas going to work out?”, “Tell me about my future with precious David”, but they also concern personal problems like: “How will my good friend who is angry with me come back to me? When? Will we be friends again?”, “I’m in problem with my husband he don’t love me like he do plz tell me what I do”. The notes “Thank you Anita you’re great” prove that users receive answers for their questions. However, it gained only 3.7 rate. This application gathers 42 859 fans, number of average users per month is estimated to 2 848 332.

 

Conclusion.

People’s curiosity forces them to use different ways of gaining knowledge about future events. Even if some methods offered by Facebook are perceived as naïve, they still in a certain way deliver information that deal with people’s concerns or seem to reveale hidden parts of personalities. The existence of such magic applications and people who both create and use them is sufficient proof that we are under enchantment process. Internet is a space whithin which magic logic, uderstanding and practice are not marginalized but somehow protected by annonymity from the social condemnation.

 

Literature.

Favret-Saada, J. (1989) Unbewitching as Therapy. Am. Ethnologist 16 (1): 40-56.

Frazer, J. (1994[1922]). Chapter III: Sympathetic Magic. In The Glden Bough. London:

The Bath Press. pp. 11-48.

Jenkins, R. (2000) Disenchantment, Enchantment and Re-Enchantment: Max Weber

at the Millenium. Max Weber Studies (1): 11-32

Malinowski, B. (1948) The art of magic and the power of faith. In Magic, Science

and Religion. New York: Anchor Book. Pp. 69-92

Miller, H. The presentation of Self in ElectronicLife, Goffman on the Internet

paper presented at Embodied Knowledge and Virtual Space Conference

Goldmish’ College, University of London, June 1995.

Acces [on-line]:

http://www.docstoc.com/docs/2168575/The-Presentation-of-Self-in-Electronic-Life-

Goffman-on-the-Internet/

Willarslev, R. (2004), Not Animal Not Not-Animal: Hunting, Imitation

and Empathetic Knowledge among the Siberian Yukaghirs”, Journal of the Royal

Anthropological Institute vol. 10: 629-652.

Facebook’s Applications:

http://apps.facebook.com/whatisyourau_zgzlvq/?retake=1

http://apps.facebook.com/whatcolouris_vqzjxg/?retake=1

http://apps.facebook.com/aurareading_pgwjxl/?retake=1

http://apps.facebook.com/whatdoesyour_aysmtj/?retake=1

http://apps.facebook.com/whatsmyanima_qswicc/?retake=1

http://apps.facebook.com/whatisyourtr_durfha/?retake=1

http://apps.facebook.com/whichanimali_zziytg/?retake=1

http://apps.facebook.com/whichisyoura_mlxrbb/?retake=1

http://apps.facebook.com/whatdoesyour_nbgrzg/?retake=1

http://www.facebook.com/apps/application.php?id=222992306431&ref=ts

http://www.facebook.com/apps/application.php?id=348276678746&ref=ts

http://www.facebook.com/apps/application.php?id=331297769012&ref=ts

http://www.facebook.com/apps/application.php?id=403603786203&ref=ts

http://apps.facebook.com/predictions-online/psychic-reading.php