Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Social networking for the socially inept – a tale in four parts


“Have you been in my Facebook again?”

A shiver goosed my spine like an electrical surge. My wife glared at me with a look of equal parts irritation, disgust and feigned shock, and maybe a slight touch of amusement.

I had, actually, and I’d made the mistake of commenting where I should not have commented. In my defense let me simply state that my comments were clear, concise and contrarian, in response to stupidity of a magnitude rarely witnessed on this mortal plane. They were also tangible and irrefutable proof of my guilt. In law enforcement circles this admission is called “the smoking gun,” and I’d just shot myself in the foot. Or somewhere.

For a second I felt pinned in place like a bug, my mind a vortex of moves and countermoves, excuses and justifications. It might not have been so damning were it not for the fact that she had banned me from commenting because of an irrational fear that I would embarrass her, alienate her friends or otherwise besmirch her good name. After all, her Facebook page was listed under her name, not mine, a fact she never failed to stress.

When confronted with overwhelming evidence of malfeasance, men will naturally equivocate. Taking a cue from my favorite president, I grinned and said, “Define in.”

It was, perhaps, the wrong thing to say. Her lips tightened. Her eyes flashed. Her fingers hooked into claws.

“Get. Your. Own. Facebook,” she said.

So I did.


Man is a social animal.

In the early days, it was easy to remain social. There were few other humans and for the most part they all got along fairly well, until Cain smote his brother and had to set out into the great unknown.

As population increased and hunter-gatherer societies spread across the globe, most were restricted to small groups where everyone knew everyone else. As is always the case, familiarity bred contempt and social networking broke down, often in unpleasant ways.

Civilization was introduced in Ur. It brought language, laws, government, military, bigger and better weaponry, world wars. Architecture evolved along social lines, too. Castles with deep alligator-filled moats and drawbridges were known for their closed societies. In America, the front porch was designed to bring neighbors and families together in harmonious accord. Television killed porches, rational discourse, the act of reading and imprisoned the populace.

Once the population topped five billion, social networking became more difficult. One might think that with so many people it would be easy to network, but not so. With so many serial killers, pedophiles, religious extremists, weirdos and commies floating around, most found solitude far safer, or limited themselves to like-minded zealots. That it was the mental equivalent of inbreeding wasn’t a huge concern.

The Internet changed everything. First came blogs. Blogs gave people a voice, a presence. A faceless Internet presence, that is. Blogs were free, easy to configure, almost infinitely customizable, simple to update or to add content. They were also no more than random noise in the vast universe of cyberspace. Without hundreds of thousands of “hits,” or visits from other users, they were utterly invisible to search engines.

My Space sought to correct that. Founded in 2002, it quickly rose to ascendency as the premier social networking site with a clever slogan of “A place for friends.” Friends could interact, share photos, videos or links to other sites, most of them (from a casual survey) oriented toward drug-addled celebrities and freaky rock stars.

Twitter introduced instant communication. Unfortunately, a severe restriction on the amount of information that could be disseminated forced users to resort to emoticons or truncated acronyms. Texting further hastened the demise of language to the point where it is now the digital equivalent of caveman grunts.

And then Facebook came along. Incorporating the best of My Space and Twitter while simultaneously allowing people to remain shielded from the greater mass of humanity, its dominance was as rapid as it was assured. Within a very short order it was the Google of social networking. If you weren’t on Facebook, you were less than nothing. Lol!


Within minutes of going live, I sent out requests to “be” friends with people I knew. The response was overwhelmingly favorable. Except for a few sarcastic remarks—“Whaaat? The world is coming to an end and it’s not even 2012!” seemed a common thread, possibly because of a former avowed contempt for Facebook—friends welcomed me with open arms. I even had requests to be friends with friends of friends, some of whom I’d never heard of. I felt almost popular, a social wallflower making a startlingly effective debut.

There were also a few cautionary notes. My penchant for refusing to condone or otherwise ignore blatant stupidity apparently left some wondering how I would fare when so much of Facebook is trivial, banal, thoughtless, blindingly mundane and infected with saccharine maxims, religious verses or links to You Tube videos of mewling kittens or dancing dogs, idiotic stunts by brainless plebes or rabbits thumping the bejeezus out of rat snakes. (Okay, so I liked the rabbit, sort of.) “Remember,” wrote a Facebook veteran, “with power comes responsibility.”

Another added, “I have a feeling Facebook is going to get more interesting.”

It was certainly my intent, and I relished the opportunity to unleash full and unrestrained curmudgeonness on the vacuous, fatuous, inane and absurd lunatics who felt compelled to proffer their witless opinions. Bring it on, I howled, and they did.


I was at the bank making a deposit, pleasantly weary after a morning tromping over hill and dale at Alcove Spring, when I heard an acquaintance say, “I can’t wait to get home and Facebook.” As if Facebook were a verb!

“Facebook is an incredible squanderer of time,” I said, half in jest but only half.

Her reaction was swift. “At least it’s not as pathetic as birding,” she snarled. “How lame is that?”

I opened my mouth to reply and then snapped it shut. My face flushed. All eyes swiveled to see what I would do.

I just smiled, like a responsible, outnumbered, outgunned adult.


shoreacres said...

You HAVE to be on Facebook, they said. So I got on Facebook. I kept forgetting to check it. I didn't know half of the people who wanted to friend me. It became obvious in about two days that it was a time sink. Even if I linked to a new blog post it was gone in a flash, because there's so much tripe that gets posted - great waves of "stuff" that has to be seen only because if you haven't seen it you'll be embarassed when everyone else has seen it and they discover you haven't seen it or "liked" it or "favorited" it or....

I quit Facebook two months ago. My hair hasn't fallen out, I still have a friend or two and I find I can like this or that without hitting a button.

There's a post coming, as a matter of fact - perhaps it will be enough to offer this quotation from Goethe as a teaser: "Create, artist! Do not talk!"

Jenni said...

ROFLMAO!;o) I'm sorry, that's all I've got for internet acronyms and emoticons to respond to this post. I hope you aren't too disappointed. I had to set up a Facebook page for Danny. Now he wakes up and nabs my spot at the computer while I'm fixing him coffee. Once planted there, he's hard to uproot. Why did I ever urge him to join the 21st century?

BTW, I finally broke down and ordered that lens. Thanks again for the advice. I know I'll be glad I listened.

Reece said...

Tom, you disappoint me. Am I to be the last hold out in the Parker clan to not be on Facebook? Even now Connie will hit me with "Even your brother is on Facebook", in an attempt to lure me to the dark side. I will be dragged kicking and screaming into having a Facebook account!

Tom Parker said...

Reece -- Stick to your guns. It's not worth it.
Jenni -- You'll love the lens. As for Facebook, I think I prefer Linda's quote. What a waste of time!
Linda -- Indeed. My days, I feel, are numbered. And I can live with that, even as I live without television, cable, satellite or a cell phone.

Bill & Vikki said...

Uncle Tom, you writing "lol" made me lol!

k said...

'With power comes responsibility', huh? Wow . . . that's incredibly wise.

(I'll have to remember that. It sounds like something a Canon shooter would say!)

Unknown said...

You never fail to make me smile, or think or turn insanely pea green with envy because of your writing.Besmirched? Wow.

Nicely done...

Carol said...

I love this summary of the modern age. I'm also glad you are on Facebook. Max doesn't write much but he certainly enjoys reading on Facebook.