I recently saw “The Social Network”, thought it was well written, well acted, but certainly not as good as all the hype. My love for Justin Timberlake is embarrassing and ridiculous, but that’s not really what I came here to talk about. What’s compelling about that story is that a guy fired up on wanting to get revenge on a girl who snubbed him used his computer brilliance to make a website that, in theory, brought people together. He made friends along the way, friends that he would eventually betray and get sued by. The last scene of the movie with Zuckerberg, alone, looking at the Facebook profile of the girl that started the whole thing, was strangely chilling and got me thinking about this thing we call “social” networking.
Originally I thought FB was one of those things that only idiot twenty somethings did, I chalked it up as Myspace 2.0. My former boyfriend was on FB years ago as many of his students told him it was their preferred method of communication, which sealed my disdain. I used to tell him that he had to be the oldest person on Facebook and that the whole thing was stupid. One of my shittier qualities is that I pass judgment on things without getting the facts, which I will readily admit to. A few years back I got a Facebook invite from a gal I knew in my twenties and figured, all right, let’s see what’s going on here, in an attempt to not fall into my usual hater hole. As time went on, I found loads of people from the past, most of whom I was thrilled to see to get the current scoop on, and I took some satisfaction in seeing that people I chose as friends long ago were still really wonderful people currently leading (seemingly) happy lives. But what lies beneath? I feel the need to BREAK IT DOWN.
Things I enjoy about Facebook:
1) Fun quips from fun people. It’s a snark circus and I enjoy an opportunity to have a sass volley. Plain and simple, I like to make people laugh, it makes me happy.
2) Music videos. I love tunes, old and new, and I don’t listen to the radio currently, so I get a lot out of my musically inclined FB friends.
3) Seeing photos/getting updates on people who live far away, as well as people I work with that I don’t see enough. It does make them feel a bit closer.
4) Asking a wide range of people’s opinions on practical matters, like buying a new blender.
5) Getting info about goings on around town, etc.
Things I seriously don’t get:
1) Checking in everywhere. I’m happy you’re getting a burrito/working out/going to work, but unless you are someplace really impressive, I’m not sure I need to know about it. Again, there may be some bigger picture answer to why people do this, and my mind is open to hearing about it.
2) Bitching/looking for sympathy. I am not against either of these things, I do a good deal of both of them, but I really feel that you need real people in real time for this. Again, your mileage may vary, I suppose if you don’t have access to talking to someone on the phone or meeting them, then FB solace is better than nothing. I just don’t feel comfortable reading people’s private matters in most cases. Those who know me know I am the queen of TMI, hell, I told a hundred plus strangers about a one night stand I had recently….I really have no shame. But it was person to person, I guess that’s the distinction I’m making here.
3) The weird friend collector people. I have three people I have blocked on FB, one of whom I considered to be a friend until he did something unspeakably douchey (in person), the other two I didn’t know, got sucked into discussions of music (oddly, in both cases, discussing David Bowie) and ended up going down some weird interpersonal friendship/romance rabbit hole that crashed and burned. No major repercussions as in both cases our relationship wasn’t based in reality, just a general waste of time and energy, fueled by loneliness/boredom. But it was an eye opener to what’s out there, people who spend their time in some strange fantasy life….apparently it’s not enough to play Farmville or Mob Wars, they need to play emotional games with other humans. Creepy.
Here is my friend breakdown. I have 193 Facebook friends as this moment….a pretty standard amount. There are very few people I don’t actually KNOW in real life, at least to some degree. I am “friends” with one Top Chef, one member of the Fastbacks, one fabulous lady comic who used to be married to a guy I worked with….that’s the extent of my FB starfuckery. Oh, and I’m friends with a friend’s dog.
Friends from work = 84
Friends from elementary/high school = 28
Friends from my past life as an adult = 46
Friends of friends that seem great but we don’t actually hang out = 20
Other folks of Chicago that I’ve met through 2nd Story, etc = 11
Family members = 4
That brings us to 193. I put a star by everyone that I talk to regularly; either in person, or by phone/text/email, if that’s not possible. Stars = 19. People of those 19 that I would feel comfortable calling at 2 am with an emergency = 9. I used to refer to this as people you would call if you got a flat tire, but I no longer own a car, so let’s just say there are 9 people who I would feel comfortable contacting with one of life's metaphorical flat tires. Then there’s the real world. My BFF is not on FB, she tried it and proclaimed it was a party she didn’t want to be at, that it didn’t make her world better, just louder. I recently made her the beneficiary of all my assets in the event of my death, and she is the person I list as an emergency contact when I do things that require such a thing. Should I ever find Mr. Right and get married, I guess he can have all my dough when I kick the bucket, but until then/if that doesn’t happen, the girl who has loved me unconditionally for the last ten years has earned every cent of that money if I were to be hit by a bus tomorrow. Although she might be secretly trying to poison me….that’s why I always switch drinks with her when she’s not looking. The only person I seriously dated over the last two years wouldn’t be on Facebook if you put a gun to his head, and since his house is full of guns, this wouldn’t be hard to prove.
Am I bashing Facebook? No. I like what it provides. But in some ways, it’s relationship junk food, to be enjoyed in small quantities, in addition to real quality human interaction. As my super wise friend Colleen says, “it is what it is, and it ain’t what it ain’t.” Food for Facethought.