So I finally gave in to something I’ve been resisting for a long time. I’d been getting these e-mail invitations from friends to join that social networking site Facebook. No offense, guys, but I deleted them. I mean, I already have about 502 separate e-mail accounts and at least 75,000 websites I need to check in with on a daily basis. How much more can a girl do?
And I know myself: I’m a social creature. I’m prone to blabbing on the phone for hours on end, going out to dinner with friends eight nights a week, and writing jokey e-mails all day long. Besides, I am an avid and (despite what my teenage cousins think) speedy texter.
Outwardly, I played it like I just couldn’t be bothered with one of these online social networks – “Look, I’m already in touch with everyone I want to be in touch with!” – but secretly I knew I could become an addict.
And that’s exactly what’s happened. I joined up about two weeks ago in response to some particularly enthusiastic peer pressure. It’s a good thing I don’t have a Blackberry or a fancy iPhone – otherwise I might be logged onto Facebook every waking moment. What’s remarkable is that I’m not on it right now. Wait, let me just check to see if I have any new Facebook messages….okay, I’m back.
So, other than wasting gobs of precious time and serving as a procrastinatory crutch, what is the point of all these sites, like Facebook, Friendster, and MySpace? I suppose, like the internet as a whole, they make the world a smaller, cozier place by connecting you to others…instantaneously. Feeling lonely? Facebook. Feeling friendless? Log onto Facebook. Questioning whether or not you exist? There you are onscreen, smiling from the picture on your “profile page”. And there you are typing a quippy little note on your “wall” for all to see.
In some ways, it’s the new address book. If you manage your “Friends” page meticulously enough, you can put together a pretty thorough list of just about everyone you’ve ever known (and some you never knew, or maybe you did, but it’s getting a little fuzzy…).
Granted, Facebook fulfills different purposes depending on your age. I can’t speak for other age groups, but for those of us who are over the age of say, 20 or 25, this site is a slick way of traveling backwards through time. Very few of us stick around our hometowns, anymore: I myself have moved six times since leaving Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin at age 14. I have attended several different schools and have had lots of different jobs. Try as I have, it has been nearly impossible to stay in touch with everyone who I have genuinely enjoyed being acquainted with over the years.
And skaters of the world are an especially amorphous group. I have been associated with several different ice rinks and skating clubs. From both competing and training, I know skaters from all over the country and I’ve never had any organized way of keeping up with them…until now. It’s not like there are reunions or a directory of “past skaters.” In the last two weeks, I have contacted and been contacted by all kinds of flashes from my skating past: people I’ve often wondered about. It’s great to have them on my so-called radar, now, and vice versa. And we didn’t have to hire private detectives to track each other down.
Of course, it’s still not possible to be in really close, meaningful contact with everyone you’ve ever known, even with the help of a conduit as smooth as this. I have to resist the urge to individually e-mail all the people who have “friended” me or vice versa: I’d enjoy doing so, but I’d never have time to leave my house again. On that note, I have to wonder when I see that some Facebookers (mostly those under the age of 25) have more than 500 friends – do they really know all these people or are they just amassing friends of friends of friends? What percentage of these people are they managing to be in contact with?
If you can keep control of your Facebook experience (or maybe just accept that control isn’t really possible), it’s a hoot. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself chuckling a lot. Like, “Oh, yeah, her. Wow, she lives in Seattle, now. Who knew?” You might also find yourself going to dinner with two long lost friends from high school on Thursday night.
If you haven’t joined Facebook yet, then I think you’re time has come. You’re not the last person on earth who hasn’t done so, but I have a feeling you will be, soon. So here’s what you do:
First, go to the Facebook Website by clicking here. Signing up is free – while it will probably end up costing you many many valuable work hours, they never ask you for your credit card number, an admirable and rare thing.
Upload a picture of yourself looking fabulous. (Or, in my case, the best one you can find…and then get a friend to de- redeye it in Photoshop so you no longer look like the devil.) Try to not cringe too visibly when one of your skating students remarks how dorky you look in it and suggests you switch it out for something a little “sexier” i.e. without the glasses.
From there, you just fill out a few general details about yourself, like where you went to high school and college and where you live and what websites you may be associated with that you want to shamelessly promote, wink wink.
This next part is when it starts to get interesting: you start to amass “friends.” The first step is allowing Facebook to rifle through your e-mail address book to identify all the people you know who are already in the so-called club. By simply checking their boxes, you will be requesting their Facebook friendship and, unless they still owe you money, the chances are very high that they’ll accept.
Once you start collecting Facebook friends, you can go through their personal lists to see who you know, and contact those individuals as well, forging more and more paths in this gigantic online maze. Along the way, over in the right hand column of your “home page,” Facebook will be constantly suggesting people you might know, based on their association with someone you already have on your list…and, as a matter of fact, you will know lots of them. Lo and behold, some of them have just sent you a request to be their friend. Receiving such requests might give you a nice tingly feeling: it’s like getting a “Will you be my friend?” note passed to you across a few desks in the second grade.
Finally, using the Facebook “search” function, you can also look up individuals one by one, but just make sure you know the exact spelling of his or her name…and also hope that they have a unique spelling because, according to Wikipedia, there are over 100 million Facebook users worldwide…and, I’ve found, for example, that many of them seem to have the exact same name as that one guy I dated for 10 minutes in high school.
But, in this way, I successfully found a friend from grade school in Wisconsin who I haven’t seen in more than…well, let’s just say many many years. Turns out that, though she now lives in Minneapolis, she often comes to visit my exact neighborhood in New York City. We’re going to meet up next time she comes through town – and I am thrilled about this prospect.
I will also be thrilled to stumble upon your lovely mugshot on Facebook, whether you’ve already jumped on the bandwagon or this CSOM installment is inspiring you to join up. Either way, I cordially invite you to be-“friend” me, Facebook style, by clicking here.
What do you think? Is Facebook a waste of time, or the perfect conduit, or both? Leave a comment below.