facehook: a facetious finale for the letter F

**Postponed from an earlier date due to fa la la, falderol, et. al.

                   

On the world’s most popular social networking website, I’m just a face.

My life (i.e., the gospel according to Facebook) is one big F: friends, fans, followers, feed. I can face the facts, face the music, lose face, or face off. It’s fun fun fun, and absolutely free!

There’s more: With a click click here and a tap tap there, I can instantly be in your face. "Like" my fan page? Be my friend? Isn’t it simply fab? No need for fuss or formality. Because now, I am famous. My profile page says so.

         

When I first joined Facebook fifteen months ago, I was all a-flutter with the possibility of coming "face-to-face" with faraway family members, long lost classmates, neighbors who’d moved away, all kinds of awesome people associated with books and publishing. I could scroll through my News Feed and get the latest skinny on all the fads and fibs in my carefully circumscribed FB world. Who wouldn’t covet "the power to share, to make the world more open and connected"?

Definitely an introvert’s fantasy come true! One could actually socialize without having to don the little black dress and million-dollar smile! One could chit or chat, focker or fiddle — the petty, the ponderous, hard news or soft — it was all Facegood! And what a trip peering at the fit and the fat, marveling at killer lines delivered by flirtatious femme fatales, consoling hardworking souls sidelined by flu or food poisoning, ascertaining who was chronically finicky, subversively flippant, or infinitely faithful! Oh, the horror power! To like, share, comment, update, or link! 

                        

I had avoided FB for a long time. I was happy with the online friends I’d made via blogging, and without a new book to promote, did not have an urgent need to broadcast myself. But all of a sudden, it seemed everyone was more interested in a bigger, better party happening down the street — actually two of them, one with faces, the other with feathers. It was definitely a "be there or be square" kind of thing. So I flew with the flock.

Flock mentality = Facebad.

Also bad? The selling of friendship — trading off one’s privacy to satisfy the need to be "seen," heard, validated and/or popular, which can easily prompt compulsive oversharing that elevates the banal and blunts true, meaningful discourse. Open communication is a good thing. It’s fun and interesting to peek into the dark corners of other people’s lives broaden our horizons. Human beings are naturally curious and love to connect. But every other minute?

How can we live our lives if we’re so obsessed with reporting every single second of it?

And how chatty would we be if we had to pay a dime for every one of our status updates? Maybe just a little more discerning, a little less likely to tell everyone we hadn’t washed our hair in five days? There are thousands of things I love reading about my friends (bring on the good news, funny anecdotes, uncanny observations, inspiring words to live by), but just as many details I’d rather not (probably should not) know. What happened to mystery and mystique? Leaving something to the imagination? 

Free words = cheap words = Facebad

At first, in all my naivité, I actually believed people were sincere about wanting to "be my friend." To be fair, some of them were, and I’m all the richer for having met them. Good friends have always been my greatest treasure, and I’d like to think that I’m open-minded and open-hearted enough to give people the benefit of the doubt. 

On Facebook, the very essence of friendship has been redefined. Business is pleasure is business. All kinds of ego stroking and spying goes on, and (gasp) ulterior motives drive many of these "friendships." You’ve got everything from true blue forever friends to kiss-ups to snake oil salesmen. It’s much easier to lie about who you are online, to pretend all is well when it’s not. After all, everyone takes you at face value. It’s the name of the game, and now, the way of the world.

The devaluing of friendship = Facebad.

                               

What about this: you decide to attend a real-life party with the sole purpose of meeting new people. What’s the best way to introduce yourself and make a good first impression?

Tap someone interesting on the shoulder (that’s what everyone else is doing)! No need to say, "Excuse me" or "Hello." Wait for him to find out who you are. He’s probably thrilled for the privilege of getting to know you! Now, just smush a press kit for your latest book in his face. Congratulations! You’ve now got a new fan follower friend! Wasn’t that easy and expedient? It’s the modern way!

Isn’t this the same as getting a FB friend request from a perfect stranger who doesn’t take the time to say hello? The onus is placed on the recipient to click through to the sender’s profile, perhaps to his/her website to make sure the person isn’t a nose picker, stalker, spammer or serial killer. Still, you just never know. I always send a brief message with any friend request. I always thank the person for accepting my request. I know — it’s not FB standard practice. I can’t help it. Even though the rules for making friends online are different, they should never preclude common courtesy.       

Are people becoming so accustomed to clicking, typing, texting, and talking into machines, that they sometimes forget real people are not machines?

Pretty strange, that FB is all about communication, dialogue and interaction, yet when many people first want to "meet someone," they don’t say anything.

              

Inflated sense of self-importance = Facebad.

Unfounded sense of entitlement = Facebad.

I’ve tried different things. Sometimes I’ll just friend people back (who’ve just tapped me) as long as their profile shows a connection to writing or books. Then I’ll get fed up and stop friending anyone who doesn’t include a message. I’ve even added a little note with my profile, asking potential friends to please include a short message (hasn’t worked yet). 

When I friend back, I always post a thank you on their Wall, and 80% still don’t respond. Then you never hear from them again — no likes or comments or signs of life, NOTHING — unless they want you to like their fan pages or they start blitzing you with promotional emails (how is this different from spam?). But I’ve helped them up their friends total. Now I’m not even a face anymore. I’ve been reduced to a number, which feels like zero.

Tell me again how this makes the world more open and connected?

It may be flattering to receive a friend request, but it’s also a request to spend time reading all kinds of stuff about yet another someone, all the more unfulfilling if he/she never reciprocates your attempts to connect. It doesn’t make sense.

I do not believe in randomly collecting people like loose change. 

A tad superficial? Things are getting so shallow around here, even ants can’t get their feet wet.

Big Faceirony: The more friends I add, the more cautious I am with my status updates, the less willing I am to "share." At first, it felt like a comfortable, intimate gathering of people I actually knew. Now it feels like I’m sitting in the corner at a huge party, muttering a few feeble words now and then. I keep asking myself, "WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? WHAT DO THEY WANT FROM ME? AM I NOTHING MORE THAN FB BLING TO HANG ON THEIR WALLS?" I begin to second guess my updates, not wanting to burden others who must also scroll through hundreds of bits and bobs every day. 

How is it that strangers have the uncanny ability to make me feel so invisible (Facebad)? I’m back in high school all over again. But now, I don’t have to imagine what all the popular kids are saying to each other, because I can hear everything from the sidelines. I learn just as much about my friends from what they don’t say and what they say in their comments to others. So I’m eavesdropping, right? When I scroll through my friends’ updates, trying to process the unending flood of news, photos, gripes, tips, opinions, jokes, observations, questions, good wishes, asides, anecdotes, snarkity snark remarks — my head spins with, "yes, I want to know, no, I don’t, yes I do, no, I don’t!"

A crash scene. Wanna look away, but can’t. I’m sucked into the huge don’t wanna miss anything gotta keep up if you’re not on FB you’re not a real person hoodoo voodoo vortex. Whoosh!

And yet . . .

FB is where I hear from and see really fabulous photos of people I genuinely care about. Where I’ve been able to connect with folks I never would have been able to meet otherwise. Where I can ask for help or opinions on certain things and get instant responses. Where I sometimes get news faster than I could from radio or television. Where I have an unobstructed, uncensored view of a great cross-section of people, who like me, are just trying to live their lives as best as they can. FB is the world’s largest collection of humanoid flotsam and jetsam.

It’s too little and too much at the same time.

Facebook seems a necessary evil for writers, who need exposure, who are trying to build a platform and establish the all-important online presence. The jury is still out about whether I’ll keep adding "strangers" to my friends list or not. I don’t want to alienate anyone, but there is something to be said for prudence and discretion, learning to use social media to one’s ultimate advantage, examining one’s true intentions, establishing a suitable comfort level regarding privacy, and coming to terms with how "friendship" is currently regarded and drawing one’s own parameters.


gianlucacostantini/flickr

The opportunity to participate in the greatest social experiment of our time = Facegood.

Connecting with those you’re truly interested in and widening your friendship circle to enhance your personal and professional lives = Facegood.

A free platform to promote one’s work or business = Facegood.

The fact that some people are making billions of dollars because we’ve chosen to share our personal information = Facecrazy.

It’s new, still evolving, ever maddening, quite challenging to get right. In theory, an awesome idea. In practice, enjoyable, frustrating, baffling — an addicting time suck. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it. If you’re on the internet, impossible to avoid. Inclusive and exclusive at the same time. Sometimes nurturing, oftentimes isolating.

What does it say about us, that we need a daily Facebook fix?

I’m in awe of its power. I’m afraid of its power.

It’s not my drug of choice. Friends are. Real friends.

FB Status Update: This post is brought to you by the Letter F, scorned in academic circles, favored by guttermouths, encompassing all that we hold dear (family, friends), providing unending fodder for writers of both fact and fiction — and in its own mind, an often under-appreciated instigator of the first and final words.

♥ I first heard "Facehook" used by David Macknet, the World’s Best Baker and constant companion to Coretta Scott King Honor Author Tanita S. Davis. The Urban Dictionary lists several meanings for Facehook: 1) being hooked on social media so that it impedes real-life interactions, 2) a hooker using FB to score Johns, 3) deliberately posting nebulous status updates to solicit comments, and 4) actually hooking up with someone via FB. BTW, last year, both David and Tanita were strong enough to unhook themselves from Facebook’s mighty grip.

♥ Read all the 2010 F is for Fall posts here (F thanks you very much for following).


Facebook Laptop Cake by SmyleyBearS/flickr.

*FB Meh Button by Skiffler/flickr.

**Mark Zuckerberg Laptop graphic by Stan Chow/flickr.

***Like Me/I’ll Like You Button by bizzbuzzmedia.

****Monkey Like by MailChimp®.

alphabet soup blog readers =

Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.
  

2 thoughts on “facehook: a facetious finale for the letter F

  1. We deFB’d a little longer ago than that, even – it was the end of April, 2010. Kind of hard to believe. I still do miss being in touch with friends; since we’ve left Glasgow it’s been even worse. I know I’d hear from my Scottish friends more often if I had FB, … but I also know that it wouldn’t necessarily deepen our friendships, it would have me running to check how important I was to them on a semi-hourly basis, and it would make ME more nuts than ever. It’s not the site – it’s ME. And I can’t do FB, if I ever have any hope of mentally leaving high school.

    I figure that I’ll someday add up the hours I am not spending on it, and maybe I’ll have a book to show for it? Or something… thanks for continuing to validate my struggle, and express yours; I hope you settle into a happier place with it, or yourself in reference to it, someday… even if the happy place is “away.”

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    1. Looks like this old LJ post got through the feeds by mistake — I hear you, though. It’s always a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation with FB. And it DOES make me crazy too, sometimes, and it does feel like high school all over again (something I don’t want to repeat). It never ceases to amaze me what people post. My current pet peeve is medical/injury photos. Bruised faces from gum surgery, x-acto knife cuts (macro), swollen ankles, etc. Why? TMI! Mention your injuries if you must, but please, no graphic photos.

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