Thursday, July 14, 2011

O. M. G.

Facebook: The Non-Essential Information Superhighway.

On the one hand, I now get what this is about. As I said on Facebook itself, it's the internet version of crack cocaine. In less than twenty-four hours, I've accumulated more friends than I have followers here on the blog, and I've reconnected with three old friends I haven't spoken to in decades. I also found someone (whom I haven't friended yet) whose friend list includes basically my entire high school class, including the guy who used to molest girls in band class by trying to stick his drumstick between their legs. That's a completely literal description, and it happened multiple times each class period. We later heard he was doing prison time for rape. I guess he's out now. I hope he's acquired some new hobbies.

Also, I've had some interesting mini-conversations with people. Facebook is fun. New items from friends pop up almost literally every second; you could spend all day there.

That's also the problem.

As I also said on Facebook itself, being there is a bit like standing on a skateboard in the middle of a freeway during rush hour. Everything's moving so quickly that you can't possibly keep up. Whoosh friend #17 has posted a link to a political article and whoosh friend #32 has posted a link to a funny YouTube video, and by the time you watch the YouTube video and come back, seventeen more people have posted and someone's sent you a message and someone you've never heard of wants to be your friend and whoosh friend #47's agonizing over which shoes to wear today and whoosh look at this gorgeous photo friend #4 just took and by the time you're done "liking" that and posting a comment about it, twenty-three more people have posted and . . . .

There's no downtime in this medium. There's no space for reflection. And status updates are limited to 400-ish characters, so you couldn't indulge in narrative complexity even if you wanted to.

No wonder so many of my students have the attention spans of ritalin-deprived fruitflies.

I spent entirely too much time on Facebook yesterday, and need to be much more self-disciplined today. I keep telling myself that I've gotten along just fine, for years, without minute-by-minute updates of who just bought orange juice and who's about to leave for a trip to Yosemite and whose kid just hit a homer in a Little League game.

But I'm also feeling more connected to a lot of people, including my old SF community in New York, than I have in a long time. So there really is an upside.


  1. Anonymous8:30 AM

    Oh how I loathe FB chat (and all other forms of computer chat). I'm not on the computer to talk to you...I'm here to play Scrabble or work on a project or something else. I hate it even more when I get sucked into chat and the other person is obviously multi-tasking and only paying partial attention, despite the fact that they started the conversation. How is this a meaningful, or even useful, interaction?
    And those kids should get the hell off my lawn.

  2. There's plenty of FB downtime. Just read it on Tweetdeck or similar (especially on a mobile app), where you can more easily keep in perspective that FB is not the world.

  3. The Borg is real and it is us (on facebook). I think I can spend enough time on need to further cut myself off from the world that is happening right around me.

  4. Anonymous11:06 AM

    Inez, you can go 'offline' for chat and stay on FB, in case you didn't know.

    To Susan: good luck. If you're anything like me, be prepared for hours of accomplishing nothing. I'm seriously considering canceling my account. I know, it's not FB's fault, but my compulsive nature loves the damn thing.

    Jeff P.


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