Friday, February 15, 2008
“Welcome to the biggest time-suck on the planet.”
That was how a friend welcomed me into the virtual netherworld of Facebook. But by the time I got her warning, it was too late – I was hopelessly addicted to the constant twittering of the self-described “social utility,” with its daily stream of announcements, friend requests and notifications.
It all started about a month ago, I guess. Morgan Jenness -- a different friend than the latter-day Cassandra previously mentioned– inveigled me into joining. Morgan is spiritually fearless, and when she bids me to follow, I do. Little did I know that Morgan and I were just about the last people in the theater troposphere to join up. Everybody was already waiting there! People I see everyday, and people I hadn’t thought about for ages. People from way back in the 20th century! People that I….well, let’s be honest, people that I never expected to hear from again.
That’s the wonder and horror of it, you see. When you set foot in Facebook cyberspace, it’s as though a bell sounds, and the vibrations it sets in motion ripple endlessly out through the virtual galaxy.
You learn quickly to set limits. Otherwise you’re assailed by silliness – endless requests for vampire bites, good karma points, the smartest person contest, the “you’re a hottie” race, the packrat invitation, the movie quiz, the what kind of dog would you be poll, and lalalalalala on it goes ad infinitum. All this is controllable, though; information feeds can be suspended or ignored or even expunged out of existence.
There are endless little applications you can tinker with, such as playlists you can share with your colleagues. And this is the reason Facebook is free, really. By participating, you agree to the constant collecting of information about you – information that can be and will be shared third parties to the thirteenth power. This worried me briefly, till I remembered this is already constantly going on anyway. What’s the diff if Facebook lets Blockbuster know of my sweet tooth for French New Wave flicks or tells Amazon about my taste for overproduced muzak of the late 60s. You know?
And now….look, I’ll admit it. It’s fun being in touch with people spanning four different decades of my life. I like taking a minute out from my insane workday to discover that Wendy is teaching a directing class, that Megan is worried about Kristan and that Norman is attending a Civilians performance. I love it that if I report I’m in bed with a headache I’ll be flooded with sympathetic notes from New York, Omaha and London within hours. And it’s fun playing Scrabulous with Enrique and Todd long-distance, even if they are trouncing me mercilessly.
It’s all kind of . . . sweet. Check it out. You’ll be sorry you did. And glad, maybe, too.