So here I am, twenty-seven years old, a newcomer to The Facebook. This may not seem significant to you, and truthfully, it isn’t. Everyone is on The Facebook, so why should some guy creating a new profile be worth anyone’s attention, much less warrant the authorship of a blog post?
Well, here’s the deal—I’m not entirely concerned with what you think. If I valued the opinion of a bunch of nameless strangers basking in the pasty glow of their personal computers, I would have created a Facebook profile 10 years ago like everyone else.
The fact is, I’m writing this because I’m what the experts call a “verbal” or “external” processor. On the increasingly common occasion when I can’t wrap my head around something, I have to write my thoughts or speak my mind in order to make sense of things. Think of this as an experiment, with my goal being to understand why people would spend their time poking and tagging each other like a bunch of horny 7th graders at a middle school basement party.
If you don’t want to participate in my experiment, feel free to leave this post and go back to creating a picture album of your new kitten so you can share it with all your “friends.” I promise, everyone is dying to see Scrumples dressed in a tutu.
Now that we have identified this as an experiment, we need to create a hypothesis. To preface this hypothesis, I’ll first offer a suggestion: The Facebook is to the internet what Dancing with the Stars is to television.
Stay with me here. Dancing with the Stars is clearly garbage. It’s bad television. Everyone knows it. We’re talking about a television program that showcases people, wait for it . . . dancing. Not cage fighting, not football, not some kickass dude with sleeve tattoos drinking his own urine in the middle of the jungle . Oh no, dancing.
Is this a joke? These so-called “stars” are just a bunch of has-beens who need a career boost almost as badly as they needed a fix on Day 5 of their most recent stint in rehab.
They’re not stars. Kate Gosselin? What did she do to deserve five minutes of solo face time on network television? What is her notable accomplishment? Giving birth to twelve kids and abusing them in front of the paparazzi in her driveway?
But for some incredible reason, people are eating this show up. Seinfield didn’t get these kinds of ratings.
Here comes the hypothesis: Dancing with the Stars and The Facebook are popular for the same reason—people are lonely. We want intimacy and deep, meaningful interactions, but we often lack the courage to pursue them and the strength that vulnerability requires. So, we settle for fake interactions instead.
Why expose yourself to the judgment of other people? What if they don’t like your sweater? Why have a face-to-face conversation and risk giving your honest opinion about something? Why take tango lessons when you can watch Kate Gosselin squeeze into a sequined leotard and put on a clown show in front of a panel of judges?
Oh sure, you cry with her during the backstage interview when she recounts missing the outstretched hand of Eduardo, her Latin dance partner, who looks like he just tripped into a bathtub full of self tanner. But then you turn off the TV and go to bed. And here’s the best part—you never even had to take off your sweat pants.
Are we really this lonely? Do we really believe that mindlessly staring at someone else’s carefully constructed cyber personality is an efficient use of our time? Apparently the answer is yes. And, apparently, I just drank the Kool-Aid.
During my three days on Facebook, I have made 30 “friends,” had 20 “conversations” with people on my “Wall,” been “tagged” in 40 pictures, and joined 2 groups. In my former life, it would have taken me forever to accomplish all of this. It took me five years in elementary school just to make two friends.
After all, my last name is Doody. Elementary school kids don’t want to hang out with some dork named Doody, even if he did have the sweetest Reebok pumps on the kickball court.
But now, according to The Facebook, I might as well be James Dean with a $100 bill hanging out of my zipper. No wonder every loser with a MacBook spends his weeknights stalking a bunch of strangers like some kind of sociopath.
If fake interaction is the medicine for what ails us, then Facebook is undoubtedly the Pfizer of our pathetic generation. Who needs Viagra when you can run around the internet poking everyone you meet?
So now I’m left with a decision. Do I take a stand against this massive bastardization of the human experience? Do I start real groups? Make real friends? Have real conversations? It seems for the time being that the answer is no.
Regardless, I’ll probably never understand why The Facebook really needs to exist. Perhaps the more important question is why, after ten years of boycotting it, would I break down and join?
Maybe I’m lonely. Maybe I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Or maybe it just took me three days to realize that, though fake interaction is definitely more comfortable, I’d still rather call my friends and grab lunch than spend an hour commenting on your status: “I lost 10 lbs & my cup size stayed the same!! Eat ur hart out, Tim.”
Keysman for The Dirty Guv’nahs
CEO of SensorMed