Posted by: facetothewind | January 24, 2011

About Facebook

Reposted from 2009:

When I was 16, I had 2 friends: Jim and Millie. They were both fat. Jim had man boobs. Millie had a front butt. I was a 90-pound weakling with a big nose and glasses. None of us fit in with the popular people in our sweaty little gene-choked high school. The one thing we could count on was each other. And we counted. One. Two. We each had two friends.

Fast forward, oh about 30 years to Facebook…the digital version of my high school. Lately it seems my friends have been stepping up to the Facebook plate and creating accounts and stroking my ego by “Friending” me. This temporary boost to my self esteem, however, seems thin – like eating a whole bowl of popcorn for dinner. It feels good but you know there’s got to be something fundamentally wrong with it.

What is it that’s so deeply disturbing about Facebook? Until last night I was only collecting my distasteful data, but finally I came to the conclusion: it’s time to close my Facebook account. While everyone else is signing on with glee (or is it to “get with the program?”), you might ask why am I signing off? Am I being gratuitously contrarian? Allow me to pick their peccadilloes for a moment…

FIRST

A couple weeks ago, I received a request to become a friend of a man who had been my lover for years. I sneaked a look at his list of friends totalling 24 and then read through his conversations with the prurient zeal of someone discovering a lover’s diary left carelessly on the bed. You don’t want to read it but you can’t help yourself. As I read his public conversations, I tried to piece together some reasons for the failure of our relationship. Truth told, I wanted to confirm that our demise as a couple was actually HIS fault and not MINE. For the record – our relationship ended 15 years ago. Why in God’s name is it necessary to dredge up these old memories now?

What I discovered from my Ex’s Facebook account is that he in fact had developed a social life all his own – a startling fact since I always thought he was a loner and hated computers even more than he hated people. Yes, he had developed a social network of his own – that is if we consider Facebook to be a legitimate accounting of one’s sociability.

My next thought was, hey Ex, if you can keep in touch with 23 others, why not write me a little note once in a while, huh?

NEXT

My friend Tommy, a man I consider to be one of my best friends, recently added me as one of his “Girls” indicating that I was considered one of his closest buddies. Though I didn’t at all object to him throwing his virtual arm around my shoulder, I did wonder how all those who viewed his inner circle who were NOT invited to be his Girl would feel. I felt simultaneously honored and embarrassed to be so publicly picked as one of his best friends. (Tommy – where were you when I needed to be picked for the middle school softball team?)

Then I looked to see who his other Girls were – and there were 10 of us neatly graphed out on a little sidebar extending from his photo. What? Ten of us? And I don’t even like a couple of them. Uh oh, a virtual bitch fight for Tommy’s attention. I want to be Tommy’s best friend. I want another category – my AAABFoATF&E – Absolute Above All Best Friend of All Times Forever and Ever.

THEN

Scanning through what my friends have been up to, I noticed that another close friend recently had a dinner party and didn’t invite me. This began a whole stack attack – an emotional dump…like a gastric explosion of Facebook resentments. Let’s look into the Facebook crystal toilet bowl and see what I found…

• I noticed that our choral conductor had acknowledged her undergraduate choir for their good work but not our choir. (I added a note of praise about ours to her conversations and it was promptly deleted. I guess we sucked but she didn’t have the guts to say it.)

• I noticed that another friend had just posted something on his account, which meant he had been on line…which further meant that he was ignoring an email I sent him about a pressing issue.

HARUMPH!

Okay, let’s just stop this little emotional diarrhea attack and take stock of the facts: has Facebook brought me any joy since I signed on? Perhaps an immeasurably small amount of joy was found wasting time late at night when I was too tired to read and there was nothing but infomercials on television.

Facebook has connected me to a handful of people I had lost touch with. By the same token, it has connected me to some people I’d like to remain out of touch with, but who now can keep a sharp eye on my whereabouts, my innermost thoughts and activities. It’s like Big Brother. Let’s call it Big Friend. For every time I tune in to Big Friend and watch my Ex racking up popularity points, I know that everyone can be watching my list grow and shrink, read my conversations, and observe my Internetting patterns. What on earth are you doing up at that hour? Can I just please have my insomnia to myself?

Most importantly, Facebook has not yet led to any invitations to anyone’s private Carribean island party. No one has read my conversations and deduced that what I really need is for them to send the private jet to take me away to the Amalfi Coast of Italy for a weekend. And for all the social agita I’ve endured on line, I haven’t even gotten laid one single time.

EPILOGUE

After logging off in a huff, I cozied up to my lover Sebastian by the fire tonight, and asked him if he has gotten any real value out of Facebook.

“I did notice that my class picture was posted on Facebook,” he said, “and I was left out. But I’m not the one to ask, because I really don’t pay much attention to Facebook.”

I think he’s EXACTLY the one to ask. Ask the people who are not on Facebook if they need a friend counter and tracker? Sebastian is a joyous and well-adjusted person. He enjoys real adventures with real people. He has no use for Facebook. Sebastian did ask me how many friends I had on my account and I said I really had no idea. I struggle with the whole idea of quantifying my social life – calculating my popularity, my desirability – by how many people have “Friended” me while heinously turning a noun into a verb.

I had never counted my friends but damned if I wasn’t going to go to bed without a count. So I logged on one more time to find out if I had in fact exceeded my childhood friend count of two. Well, yes I had, by 106 people. One hundred and eight friends. Wow, did I go to bed feeling popular!

If I were to have lunch with each and every one of my 108 friends, that would mean roughly two lunches per week for a whole year. Could I even manage to have that many friends? Could I possibly keep up with their lives in any way that is meaningful? Could I offer a compassionate call when each of their fathers died or they lost their job or their boyfriends?

Since I have no way to keep in touch with that many people with any sincerity or specificity, what has Facebook become to me? Simply an index by which I gauge my popularity held up for comparison against those of my other…well…friends. For example, I have 84 more friends than my Ex. Therefore I must be five times the person he is.

With Facebook I can quickly dispatch a witty what-do-you-know or a brief summary of my deepest thoughts to my best 108. And when my father dies, do I put a notice on Facebook’s “What’s on your mind?” What would I write? Maybe, “I’m wondering which suit to pick out for my father’s funeral. Should I choose the striped one or the navy blazer?”

Would all 108 respond by writing on my wall, “Gee, I’m sorry your dad died. Wishing you the best. Here’s a link to an online sympathy card with soothing musical accompaniment. Love you. Muah.” I HOPE NOT! Would I want all 108 to call me on the phone? Heavens no, I don’t have that many daytime minutes on my cell phone.

Have our lives been reduced to what we can sum up in a tweet, a text, a quick chat session or what someone has written on your wall? I’m sorry, I just won’t be corralled into the superficiality that these admittedly wondrous inventions dictate. For now I am going to choose the grittiness of flesh time…or at the VERY least, a phone call, but please make sure you call me on weekends or after 9 pm. ~Wink.

Goodbye Facebook, hello face.

POST SCRIPT

I couldn’t find a way to cancel my Facebook account, but when I searched on Google for “how to cancel facebook account,” up came 105 million entries. There is hope for humanity.

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