Facebook’s codependent relationship with me

you, facebook.

Apart from being scary and all-poweful and mercilessly flip with my privacy, Facebook has taken to suggesting I make the site better for someone who doesn’t have a lot of friends by writing on his wall. Aw, sad.

Ok. Folks who know me (/read my status updates) know how I feel about this “suggestion” widget, and know that I have taken steps on my home computer and the multitude of work computers I use to make it go the hell away. But every time I see it (before immediately disabling it), I can’t help but think about the deeper implications of a tool that suggests active participation within a tool that is inherently socially passive. You know, because I’m like that.

Facebook started as an experiment among elitist colleges to see just how elitist we could be allow us to rediscover friends from home we’d otherwise relegate to the 10-year-reunion, is she preggers? did he die? corner of our brains. It came at an interesting time for me and my class: Spring semester freshman year, word of this “thefacebook.com” spread around. Not an actual facebook (which evidently existed, although I didn’t buy one), but rather an online website you could join and poke people. Maybe the experience of meeting people in college would have been better the traditional way (which is not to say there weren’t plenty of keggers and “who the hell is this entry in my phone book?”s). Maybe “thefacebook.com” augmented the freshmen meet market by allowing us to catalog our acquaintances, instead of letting them disappear forever once Intro to Ethics ended.

Facebook evolved from an opportunity to find out the name of that guy you made out with last night those early years with limited information to share and find, where your home page was just your picture and tally of friends and you had to dig for updates, to its current form as a constant stream of information, musings, relationship news, shout-outs, and parties that 20 of your friends are invited to but you aren’t. The poke is a thing of the past, and so is your privacy (but that’s another post altogether).

Because facebook now does all the work for you, even adding a “Live Feed” in its most recent update, this social network–in itself a supremely passive form of social interaction–has turned us into self-interested idle sponges of human beings. (To be fair, an effect of the internet as a whole, not exclusive to facebook. Case in point.) Self interested because the majority of posts are about #1–what I’m doing and thinking, this party I’m having that you’re not invited to, and this blog I think you should read. Idle because one needs not contribute a single thing to facebook for it to work for them; if even a small percent of your long-lost friends take facebook up on its suggestion to write on your wall or add you as a friend, you are instantly popular.

At 14:42 today, I got a banner that suggested I add an Automatic Friend Finder feature. Here’s a quagmire: facebook wants you to be more active in certain friends’ online lives, but it’s perfectly willing make friends, for you, automatically. I’m left scratching my head.

But I will say this: I AM NOT GOING TO SUGGEST FACEBOOK FRIENDS FOR A DOG. I shouldn’t even BE facebook friends with a dog. Even though he’s cute. Come to think of it, I know a lot of people who might think he’s cute too. Maybe they’d like to be friends…


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January 2010
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