"Temporality is part of the truth" -- Chuck Klosterman

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Facebook Conundrum

I’ve been on Facebook for about three weeks and here’s my experience so far.

Day One: Middle of the night. I hold the baby in the crook of my left arm to keep him asleep. I open my laptop at the kitchen table and my wife’s Facebook page is open. On a whim, perhaps because of the lack of sleep, I decide to sign on up, input my info. It wants to know where I’m from and where I went to school and what religion I am. I’m game. Input data. I have a profile. Now what? It tells me I should Find Friends. I friend my wife and my fifteen year old daughter, but they have to confirm my request. Can you decline a friend request? Won’t I be the loser if they do.

Day two through seventeen: I don’t look back at the Facebook account even once.

Day eighteen: Feeling nostalgic after cleaning out a closet and finding long lost journals. I wonder if I can get in touch with old friends on Facebook. Again, it’s late. This time I can type more easily  because the baby’s snoring away in his comfy chair next to the table. Old names give way to old faces. Old faces. The ugly realization is that if I’m forty, my old friends are forty, too. What’s Joan Cusak’s line from Gross Pointe Blank: “It was just as if everyone had swelled.” Despite the horror, I friend them anyway. That same night two or three others friend me back. That’s it. I sense little satisfaction.

 (I interrupt the narrative to mention the first drawback of being a cog in the machine. I swear there’s a word for this (and a better word than “verbing,” I tell you), but it’s the use of nouns as verbs run amok. Not that I have any problem with a little neologism now and then, but do we have to use “friend” as a verb? It sounds so silly. I spoke to a friend at church earlier today, and her valediction was, “I’ll friend you later.” Can’t we stick with phrases like “I’ll look you up”? or even “I’ll find you on Facebook”? Instead, we’re running around “friending” each other like it’s a euphemism for another kind of intercourse.)

These are people I haven’t seen in years, decades--ages would not really be an exaggeration. There they are, literally right in front of me. I can touch them with my words. And the interaction after all these years? A computer beep and a prescribed notice that your BFF from sophomore year German class has accepted your friend request. That’s it. Nothing else. No, “OMG it’s great to hear from you. I was thinking of you just the other day. There’s so much to tell you. I won the lottery and want you to travel the globe with me for the rest of our days.”

Day twenty-something: Soon I have friended dozens of people: brothers, sisters, in-laws, nieces, nephews, coworkers. But I only really want to know anything about these old friends from high school and college. I keep requesting their friendship, they keep confirming, and the most I get out of it is a “Hi Brent” posted to my wall.

Day twenty-something else: It doesn't feel right. Make contact with an old friend, only to never actually say anything to each other? I might as well have just poked them. (Which is just weird. Don’t nobody ever poke me, okay?) I decide I have to say something. But do you do this on the person’s Facebook wall or do you send them a personal message? I can’t see why any one of the thousands of people linked to those few pages would care one jot or tittle about what I would have to say. So personal messages it is. Then, how much do you say? How much do they care? Maybe the reason they haven’t sent an actual message is because they couldn’t care less. Then, why would they accept my Facebook friendship in the first place? It becomes an all-consuming conundrum.

I can’t sleep. I can’t work. I anticipate the responses to my scant messages when they finally come through. And it’s chit chat. Small talk. Good to see ya. My kids...your kids...spouses...jobs. And then what’s left? Waiting to see what they post on their wall.

Does every Facebook user go through this? Am I just too late to the party?


  1. I decided to follow you after I saw you quoted Gross Pointe Blank...no other reason.

    I think everyone goes through that with facebook and you can let it drive you away or ignore the chit chat and blah blah blah and make it better. I try to not post trivialities. That is reserved for my blog, wait, no...my blog is awesome wrapped in pancakes made of awesomeness.

    In all actuality, I use my facebook to keep in touch with a few random souls I care about, but mainly it is a tool to build enough of an online presence to launch my book and to whine about my job to the faceless masses in a rather judgment free zone. Wow. Long sentence. Nothing like the interwebs to leave me babbling. Good luck with the facebook, your blog, and your other endeavors...including the new addition to your family.
    Funny Stuff I Write

  2. yes, you are late ... but the interest to me is the addictive quality. i check it everyday - started with checking on my yw for my calling, but I still do it even though I am now in Primary. Now I do the same, I use the email and check on a few people - including fam. oh and I just poked you b/c that is what little sisters are good for! hee hee (by the way - you are my first official POKE!!!)