Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Facebook: I Don't Get It

I've been be-Friendstered. I've been 'Spaced. I've been Linked In and
Twittered. And now, I guess, I'm Facing yet another social networking

But even as I build up my profile and choose my "friends,"
I know that in a few short months I'll have completely abandoned this
"community" that now occupies so much of my time.

I have joined
Facebook, the social networking site that had previously been available
only to college students. Initially, I ignored all invitations to join
the site, but then Kate started a page for me (thanks, Kate), and so I
ventured online to see what, exactly, I was up to.

Back in the
Stone Ages of Friendster, I was gung-ho about social networking. I saw
it as a natural extension of the increasingly immediate, connected way
people were communicating. Why call someone on the phone when you can
convey a message to a whole swath of people that includes video,
graphics and sound? It's like you're saying to your friends, "Take a
look at the inside of my brain."

But as these sites progress and
morph and compete, I'm finding that the content of my brain has become
dull and stupid – as has everyone else's. A quick run-down of the
Facebook messages I've gotten recently:

"You have one Vampire invitation!"

"Your friend Anne sent you a Hot Potato!"

Victim, you have been bitten by Luke! Click the 'Start Biting the
Chumps" button to become a Werewolf and start biting other chumps! You
can also fight other Zombies, Vampires and Werewolves now!"

Great. Now I'm going to have to show up at a vampire party, looking like a werewolf with potato-seared hands. Thanks, Facebook.

least on MySpace the silly garbage I got came from musicians that I
like a lot. And yet, Facebook is being portrayed as not just the Next
Big Thing, but the Future of All Things.

News stories hail
wunderkind Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, 23, as the next "Bill
Gates or Steve Jobs." The guy is worth about $3 billion, and says he
expects Facebook to evolve into the biggest database in the world – a
populist spreadsheet of all that is popular.

Kate says she thinks
Facebook is an invaluable tool for a freelance writer – which is why
she signed us both up. And a Wired magazine columnist predicted that
one day your Facebook page will serve as be-all identity document, with
hospitals logging on to check your medical records and the IRS "poking"
you for your 1040s.

It's hard to reckon all this hype with a site that suggests I while away my time posting "graffiti" on a friend's "Super Wall."

Bee may have the best explanation for the current Facebook frenzy:
She's on it because all the young people in her office are on it, and
she doesn't want to seem out of it.

"I work in an office full of
whippersnappers, and many of these people do not have MySpace profiles.
This makes me feel old," she says.

She has a "Facebook tutor," a
twentysomething co-worker, who walks her through the vagaries of Super
Walls and Compare Requests, a woman who wonders why Lisa Bee doesn't
use her real name on her home page.

"It's like, the Internet Igrew
up on? Mean streets, kiddies. Mean streets," she explains. "And
Facebook is all about getting every last piece of information about
you. At least MySpace felt fun."

I contemplated her response
for a long while. When we're pining for the "fun" days of MySpace
(which was all of, like, three months ago), it's clearly time to
declare social networking dead. We're not being social. We're not even
really networking. We're just typing in bits of data about ourselves
that one day will be sold to the highest bidder in a giant
direct-marketing campaign.

But because I feel some kind of
generational obligation, I, like Lisa, will continue to "poke" my
friends and to chug along until it's finally no longer cool to do so.

There are only so many werewolf bites one girl can endure.


  1. Oh, I already know I'm too much of a fogey for this stuff. I was convinced to sign up for Friendster years ago and couldn't ever see a reason to pay attention. After all, aside from a few people here and there, I'm in relatively close touch with the people I want to be already. And those whom I've lost touch with over the years--hi, Mayrav!--nearly always seem to eventually turn up somewhere that's more my speed. Like blogs. Or my living room.

  2. The problem with all these social networks is that they appeal to the people with shortest attention span. Yes maybe Facebook will be the be all end all. It's more likely that next year the opinion will be how "Facebook is so 2007."
    What I need is something to track all the networks I'm in.