Thursday, February 18, 2010

And Another Thing About Facebook....

We know that TV shows can "jump the shark." What about social networks?

I vote "yes." And I made that momentous decision last week. How did I come to this point in my world. Let me digress a trifle.

I got sucked into Facebook about a year ago when a friend innocently sent me a link. She wanted me to confirm that I was a friend. Apparently, over 35 years of good times wasn't enough validation. I needed to acknowledge it on the internet. Other longtime participants in my life also chimed in one by one.

"Where are you? When are we going to be friends?"

That's funny. I thought we were.

But then others approached me. People who I had even less contact with it over the years. Eventually, I lowered my standards for the required confirmation. Haven't seen you in 40 years? No problem, you're a friend. Worked with you for about ten minutes at Fordham's WFUV? No problem, you're a friend. Barely know you except for the fact that we work in the same company and I pass you at the soda machine? No problem, you're a friend.

And they wonder why there's an immigration debate in this country.

Well, if America can't figure out how to close their borders, I have.

I'm officially closed. At least on Facebook. You better have made a major dent in my existence for you to even get a sniff of my connectivity in the future.

The Farmville cow-tipping point came for me last week on my birthday. Out of sheer ignorance, it had taken me a year of Sundays to figure out that Facebook alerts you about upcoming birthdays for your "friends." Now, I'm a little old school about these kinds of things. Call me old-fashioned, but I'm from the "it's-somebody's-birthday-I-send-a-card-with-a-stamp-and-maybe-even-call" school. And, thanks to a Filofax where I actually write notes down in, gasp, ink, I have never had a problem remembering anybody's special day. Oh, for Pete's sake, I even send out anniversary cards for friends who are still married. What the hell is wrong with me?

But, none of that mental capacity is needed on Facebook. Because the site reminds you of birthdays. Regardless of how close or remote a friend you are. I signed onto Facebook on my birthday morning to find dozens of well wishes. From friends near and dear. And from people I barely know. Gee, thanks. The pals that count sent me cards. Actually delivered by the post office. Some even combined that salutation with a call. That was all so special.

But, then there were the work associates. We stand side-by-side at a urinal perhaps once every two weeks. But, since we're also connected on Facebook, my birthday becomes another one of your daily obligations.

This point got driven home two days later. One such person at the office had sent me a birthday greeting. With my awareness raised on all things Facebook-appropriate, I then noticed an on-line reminder. This person's birthday was the following day. Crap. Now, even though I normally wouldn't extend a greeting to this person, I felt compelled to. And just how do you wish "Happy Birthday" to somebody you barely speak with except for an isolated business question? Well, that's exactly what I decided to write on this guy's wall.

"Happy Birthday."

Not even an exclamation point. Perhaps that was my way of de-emphasizing it all. I felt that even those two simple words were way too much for the minimal level of relationship we have.

I know that some of my real friends have made great re-connections via Facebook. I've heard from some blasts from the past as well. But, I will argue that, for every welcome return of a long lost chum, there are ten others that were better left in the past with the Silly Putty and PF Flyer sneakers.

I had one kid from my neighborhood who found me. Actually he rediscovered my childhood buddy Leo and I got attached to the link. This was back when my Facebook confirmation requirements were decidedly relaxed. We were again "friends." And, over the next several weeks, I wished we weren't. He sent me messages with his phone number. Er, no. He wanted to talk. Er, no. Meanwhile, I'm looking at his life on-line. As a result of marriage, he's immersed himself into Indian culture, just short of wearing a sari and installed a dot in his forehead. That's fine. If you want to be able to cut the cashier line at CVS, that's your business. But, then, I see that he's taking all these stupid Facebook quizzes.

"What Kind of Woman Are You Attracted To?" Er, not interested.

"How Good Are You In Bed?" Er, definitely not interested.

Friendship regrettably cancelled.

There was also the WFUV connection forwarded to me by another friend. I barely knew this guy, but I somehow stupidly confirmed the friendship. The biggest Facebook mistake I ever made. This tool does nothing all day but post shit on his wall. Videos, updates on what he just burped, the quality of bowel movements. Do you have nothing else to do in your life? Do you ever read the newspaper? See a movie? Take a fucking nap? Try something that doesn't involve Facebook. It might even be exhilerating.

It took me only five days to cancel this asshole from my list of friends.

When I actually saw a bride update her Facebook status one hour after her wedding, I knew it was over for me. Oh, I'll still look at the site once a day just for pure voyeuristic purposes. But, other than that, don't write on my wall because I won't be writing on yours. And don't you dare poke me.

If you want to be friends, come see me. Call me on the phone. Schedule a lunch or a dinner. Listen to my problems after I listen to yours. Lend me money if I ask because I will do the same for you. Do all the things that are the hallmarks of friendship. None of which include the simple act of clicking on my name on your computer.

Dinner last night: Grilled steak salad.

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