I don’t know about you all, but when networking sites like Friendster, MySpace, and Facebook all came out, I viciously avoided them. One of my best friends, Danny, however, welcomed them with eager and open arms. He embraced them. And he tried to convince me to embrace them too. He showed me his Friendster account and explained how it worked. I thought it was weird. I don’t want people up in my business, knowing who I’m friends with, acting like they know me. No, that is not how I operate. I will admit that I did set up an AOL profile back in high school but that is beside the point.
Danny showed me his Friendster account and the only word that repeatedly popped in my head was STALKER.
You’re making yourself available to stalkers, I said, I don’t want stalkers. Have you watched the news?
He argued that you had to sign up for the service. Meaning, if someone really wanted to stalk you, he’d have to go through the trouble of setting up an account.
Um, okay…? But it’s free so anybody can!
He waved his arms. “Whatever! It’s fun!”
And then MySpace came out, almost in sync with Facebook. Danny said MySpace was fifty times better than Friendster. You could put up pictures, have a blog, and insert videos in your profile. He also told me he “reconnected” (as in, at the click of a button, I am now friends with X person I had nothing in common with back in sixth grade) with some old classmates back from elementary school. He showed me his friend list. I’m sure, at the time, Danny was rolling deep in close to 200 friends. I saw the profiles of my old classmates – classmates I remember from FIRST grade – and I got sucked in. Sucked in like a crazy lady. I looked at their pictures. Pictures of them smooching their significant others, pictures of them holding their camera up in front of the bathroom mirror, pictures of them doing the “emo” pose, pictures of them looking like they’re having the time of their life at Johnny Rockets. I read their “Interests,” their “Books,” their “Heroes.” Read whether or not they came out. Read who they wanted to meet. It was like a trance. A sick and crazy trance. I felt like one million of my brain cells had evaporated. I felt like such a voyeur. But at the same time, I could not help but be somewhat amazed by the fact that I had learned the whereabouts about almost half of the kids back in elementary school. Seriously. That is some fucked up shit.
“Isn’t it awesome?” asked Danny once I logged off.
“No!” I said.
“Oh, come on! YOU can see other profiles too and be friends with them!”
…Until he created a MySpace account for me.
Danny had set up my account so that my interests were “England” and my favorite music was the “Spice Girls.” While that was all true back in 2004, that was not how I wanted to be presented to the Internet world. I think about it now and I wish I could have made up an alias. Really, I just want to look at your photos. Yeah, I’ll read your interests. Oh, sweet, you like Weezer too? Yeah, we’ve got that in common. But, honestly, where are you now? I want to see some visual progress.
After I edited my profile, I was knee deep in friend requests. Girl, we never talked in high school. Why would you friend me? I have no work connections. But I’m the kind of person who feels bad for pressing the reject button so I accept them anyway. I made a rule to myself that the only MySpace friends I would have are people I have actually seen or met face to face. So, yes, girl from high school who never even talked to me, I will accept you as my “friend.”
For the the next two or three days following the creation of my account, I was glued to the MySpace. I would eat my dinner in front of the MySpace, click from link to link, type in the e-mails of people I knew to see if they had profiles. I cannot believe I am admitting this to you but I do not back space and I do not delete. I follow through because this is a blog. The MySpace-ing got so bad that I made the decision to delete my account after three months. People from elementary school were friending me and I wasn’t so sure how I felt about that. Actually, I was very sure how I felt about that. I did not feel comfortable knowing that they could keep tabs on me (even though I know I was keeping tabs on them…yada, yada, yada). Thankfully, I never put up pictures of myself. I decided that if I was going to do the whole networking thing, I’d keep it restricted to a certain few.
There not enough words to express just the kind of love/hate relationship I have with Mr. Zuckerberg’s creation. I remember the days when the “Wall” was a big blue box. And you had to scroll over individual messages to see who wrote on your wall. I remember the times when there were group “groupies.” I remember when there was an actual purpose to Facebook. There was a “Courses” box. It was made so that you could find out who was in your class and if you needed a study buddy or the day’s notes, you could easily contact that person and, voila!, easy peasy. I dug that. Networking with a purpose. None of that “Swinger” business. Although, the “Whatever I Can Get” choice under “Looking For” is great, but only as a joke.
Facebook has gone bananas now. I mean, cracked out. I am going to admit to you shit that you probably do not want to read, but this is therapeutic for me because I feel guilty. Guilty for having stalker-ish tendencies. Perhaps it is the Catholic guilt in me but I do not know. All I know is that Facebook has taken networking to a whole other level. Sometimes I wonder what Mr. Zuckerberg is tripping on. Who comes up with these ideas? Who thinks it is a great idea to reveal people’s AIM statuses (stati?) by linking them directly on their Facebook profile? Hmm? Huh? What?! I did not realize this until I logged on to AIM for the first time in a bajillion years. I then looked at my Facebook profile and noticed an icon next to my screenname. I scrolled the mouse over the green person icon and the arrow pointed to “Online.”
Scroll mouse to white space. Scroll mouse over the online icon.
Eyes widen. WHAT THE FUCK?!
I then did a little experiment. I changed my AIM status to “Away.” I refreshed my Facebook profile. I scrolled down to my screenname. The green person icon switched to a blue moon. The arrow pointed to “Away.”
Holy shit! What is this?! It’s not enough that I can check who’s been online in the past five minutes. Now I can check what people are up to on AIM. Isn’t that a little too much information? There is already a status feature on Facebook. Not to mention a recently updated feature. The mini-feed and news-feed are already enough. AND they even tell me how long ago my friends updated their profiles. AND they even highlight the parts of the profile my friends changed.
THIS IS SO WEIRD.
But kind of cool…? In, like, a super weird way. You, person on Facebook with an AIM account, I can know what you are up to even though I do not know you based on your online status or away message that is linked to your Facebook account. There is some crazy stalker empowered feeling there. I cannot believe I just said that. But I do not backspace and I do not delete. This is a blog.
That feature and the “Online Now” feature are probably the best features for those who have got mad crushes on people but are frightened of their crushes. You press the “Online Now” button and your crush pops up. Your heart rate goes up and you think to yourself, “Our lives are in sync. He (or she) is online while I am online.” You are comforted by the fact that your crush is probably sitting at home, stalking the Facebook like you, and not out trifling. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. This isn’t healthy. We shouldn’t be keeping tabs on people like this. How can we hold a straight conversation – if we get to that point – if we’re constantly checking up on each other like this?
Mr. Zuckerberg, why don’t you just add a fucking FaceChat feature? I mean, you might as well. I’m pretty sure MySpace gives you the opportunity to chat using MySpace. Z, seriously. You’ve already figured out a way to keep us fuckers from finishing up our papers or rockin’ our 9-5 gig. If you want to keep it fresh, I highly recommend adding a FaceChat application. Most of us check Facebook before we even check anything else. I cannot tell you how many times I have caught people in the library sitting down in front of their computer, settling themselves, and then typing in the URL: http://www.facebook.com. Or the times I’ve seen people staring numbly at the screen, clicking their mouse from one photo to the next. With no shame. WITH NO SHAME.
I used to be embarrassed to log on to Facebook in public places. I would always log on only if I knew that there was no one behind me. I always felt like I was looking at porn or something. Plus, it’s not like I could freely stalk. What if the person I was stalking – a person I did not know but happened to come upon because he was a friend of a friend of a friend – was behind me at that instant that I was stalking him? Oh, my God! How mortifying!
Can I tell you how strange it feels to see a person you happened upon on Facebook, in person? Like, walking, eating, breathing in real life? It’s like, I’ve seen you before. I know you like Dave Matthews Band. You’re favorite quote is something by Vonnegut. But I have to keep my mouth shut and act like I don’t know you. That, by the way, is the worst. Cos say you do get introduced to boy who knows the chords to “Crash” and is wild over Vonnegut, you have to act like you know absolutely nothing about this person. You have to PRETEND. And that is the most surreal feeling ever. I mean, really. It is!
The Facebook stalking got so bad when I would walk on campus and recognize kids I did not know or had never been introduced to. It made me wonder, I can’t be the only one who does this. If Facebook is giving me these stalker options, there has be someone out there taking advantage of them too. Besides, putting yourself out on Facebook makes you available for stalking. Let’s not be naive here, people. You can say you’re all about the work networking but if you’ve got your interests, activities, music, and movies all listed there nice and clever and witty, let’s be real. Come the fuck on. I know what’s up. We all need some personal affirmation. Nothing wrong with that. You’re hilarious. You’re smart. You have good taste in books. Got you on the inside joke. I do it too, babe. But let’s reevaluate what’s going on cos I am near convinced Facebook is today’s free crack.
I successfully deactivated my account for a whopping one day only to come to the conclusion that lots of the people use Facebook as their primary means of communication or staying in touch. I have issues with this, but that is for another day. I considered putting up a message under “About Me” telling people that I was going to delete my account all together so they better take my contact information down (clearly listed) if they want to talk to me. That idea went kaput when I realized I had done a similar thing last year only to be met the following day with an inbox full of e-mails saying “So-and-so wrote on your Wall.” Dudes, I totally told you five hours ago not to contact me by Facebook. Why are you writing me messages on my wall?
I do not plan on keeping this account forever to keep in touch with people. I hate that it has turned me into a crackhead. I log on every five minutes to see who’s online or who has updated their photo albums. I hate these applications (Except for the Greek Family one. I kept that one. I’m a proud sister of Omega Mu Gamma. OMG is the way to be!). No I do not want to buy you a drank for “happy hour.” Besides, all those boxes just make my profile page all cluttered than it already is. If I’m going to have my wall up for free bastardization, I’m going to do it right. I’m going to educate. That is why I put up the Pandora feature. I get to share with people my favorite music in the hope that they will share with me their favorite music. It’s great because I need something new to add to my collection. I’m all about musical expansion. Musical transaction.
A little part of me hopes that Facebook will die in the next couple of years because it is not conducive to going about my work like a normal person. I guess it’s because I need a reason to get off Facebook. Really, I just want it to be like the old days when people actually took the time out of their day to write letters. Does anybody do that anymore? Seriously, if you want to keep in touch, let’s go old school. It’s far more exciting. And far less detrimental on my fast failing eye sight.