Facebook, Will You Be My Friend?
Tuesday October 7, 2008
4:33 PM: This is the exact moment I decide to take the plunge into the unknown world I had sworn never to enter: Facebook, the undiscovered country. As a part of my new job, I am told to join Facebook because of the potential it has for “networking” and “helping” clients. In my mind, I weigh the pros and cons; do I get fired or break my oath never to join? It’s not that I have anything personal against Facebook, it’s just that everyone (including my mother) seems to be on it. In elementary school, we were taught that anything everyone else is doing is probably a drug. We were told to say “no”. So I simply said “no” to Facebook and brushed it off as another opium of the masses. At some point later, I concluded that I had missed the boat, and that to join now would make me look like the kid in high school, who suddenly wonders where recess went. Finally, I rationalize that Facebook will not be as intrusive as I think, and with a deep breath begin signing up. At first, it’s simple and couldn’t possibly hurt too much to join. It asks for my email address, a password, my name, my home city. All things that I regularly divulge for one reason or another.
Having earned my initial trust, Facebook digs a little deeper. It asks for the high school from which I graduated, where I work, where I go to school now, what my favorite color is, past places I’ve lived, the emails of my friends, the emails of my pets, the music I listen to, my darkest secrets, do I like sauerkraut, which city (in my opinion) has better sauerkraut: Phillie or New York, do these pants make me look fat or PHAT?…
I decide that Facebook is getting a little too fresh for a first date, and refuse to give any more information. “No problem,” it tells me. “I’ll get the rest later,” it whispers with a knowing grin. I release nervous laughter and look away. Facebook laughs too, and offers me a drink. We make eye contact and laugh again. Facebook touches my leg…
Wednesday October 8, 2008
3:00 PM: In the course of an extensive conversation during our fifteen-minute walk home from school, my wife tells me I have no friends. “Actually,” I tell her,”I have 30 friends.” I go on to tell my wife that in less than 24 hours, I have 30 confirmed friends, and share with her the fact that if that trend continues I will have millions of friends in something like 10 years. “How many friends do you have?” I ask her. She tells me she thinks she has 250 friends. “And how long have you been on Facebook?” I ask. “About two years,” she tells me. Already I’m doing the math in my head, calculating triumphantly that she has garnered a meager .3424 friends per day. I, however, in one day have gained 30, which means that if the trend continues, in the 2 years it takes my wife to get 250 friends, I will have 21900 friends. Obviously, I win. My wife rolls her eyes.
It’s at this point that I realize the true benefits of Facebook: Facebook is more than just a way to stay in touch or reacquire old friends, but gives you a way to finally quantify your friends. No more trying decide if you and another person are really friends or just acquaintances. No more awkward introductions at parties, asking yourself, “should I introduce this person as a friend, or an acquaintance? What if they think I’m moving too fast up the Friendship Level Meter?” If you’re friends on Facebook, you don’t have to sweat while saying, “this is my friend, Dexter Longhorn.” And if you’re friends with an individual on Facebook, everyone knows. Public acknowledgment is a sweet candy.
At 8:00 PM, I chat for the first time using Facebook, with a good friend of mine named Scott. Scott and I once banded together as roommates and created an anti-CNN blog called, CNNemy. We thought we were pretty clever. Anyway, I was pretty sure we were friends before Facebook, but now I had proof. After chewing the fat for a few minutes, I casually throw in the fact that I’m surprised how many people are on Facebook, because I was able to accumulate 32 friends in a little more than 24 hours. I’m sure he’s impressed. But like a wise sage, Scott tells me that Facebook has a way of inflating the ego. He tells me how the initial effect is positive and fills you with self-worth. And then when the friends stop trickling in constantly, when the emails stop coming daily telling you that so-and-so has requested to be your friend, you crash down hard and have to get back to life as usual. Our conversation ends soon after this. Deep down I’m know he’s just jealous.
Thursday October 9, 2008
Evening: There are illusions that are built up over a series of years. These are pieces of mistaken perception or denial that are able to maintain the guise of reality, before being stricken down by the rightful king, reality itself. Our current credit crisis is the product of millions of such illusions banding together over a series of years. And just as thousands (if not millions) have been brought to their knees at the popping of the credit bubble, in less than 48 hours since joining Facebook, I find myself on metaphorical knees. Watching my Facebook page and email, I search for that familiar message that tells me people are thinking about me. As the night grows later and my fingers tire of clicking the refresh button, I stare through tired eyelids that have shriveled like jack-o-lanterns two days after Halloween, and wonder how my illusion could have come to an end so soon. “Where are the glowing messages from warm friends to ratify my feelings of self-worth?” I ask myself. No answer comes. I have only the prodding of an impatient wife who has been ready to go to bed for the last hour. As my computer screen flickers off, I am left staring at a now dark and mirror-like surface. Here I see only myself. Staring at the reflected me, who looks as worn and haggard as I feel, I ask him, “what do you think I’m worth?”