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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

3 Facebook Fails

At present, there are two kinds of people in this country: people who use social media, and the incontinent. The age (or otherwise) excused from reliable bladder control notwithstanding, first MySpace and now Facebook have become as ubiquitously a part of our life as cell phones, DVDs and, unfortunately, Justin Bieber. This development means that the same internet which originally purported to be able to connect us all, is finally doing just that. And once we finally ditched the glitter-gasm spam-fest that MySpace devolved into (and left it for the tweens, permanently "aspiring" recordings artists, and insatiable famewhores), we began to reconnect with long lost friends from our home towns, alma maters and old jobs. We finally figured out the difference between oversharing and sharing, the banal and the truly interesting, and real friends versus Facebook friends. But like any other public space, no matter how clean and awesome it starts out to be, the public invariably finds a way to eff it all up for everyone else. On the eve of the feature film that celebrates its improbable birth and rise to power, here are 3 things wrong with Facebook - or perhaps more precisely 3 wrong things you can find there:

1. Private Parts. As a general rule of thumb, if you’re trying to capture on camera something that you’re too embarrassed to have someone else help you take a photo of, don’t. If you can’t think of a single soul who you could ask to photograph you, what on earth makes you think the rest of the world at large has any interest in seeing whatever tragedy you’re trying to record? The mirror-assisted self-portrait is the most reliable indicator of mental disability this side of a helmet, and doing it shirtless or in your underwear makes you look as desperate as you do stupid. And though I’m not the first to say this, please stop making that ridiculous kissy-face - the only people that should be seeing that are people you’re going to kiss. It’s not as sexy as you think. In fact, it’s not sexy at all. It just makes you look like a jackass trying to mug for a reality show where you sell your dignity instead of getting a real job. If there is a dearth of pictures of you on the web, there’s probably a good reason. Just because you have a place to post this kind of self-debasing nonsense, doesn’t mean you should.

2. Dumbville. Sometimes I could swear that the folks who killed MySpace are still hungry for social-network blood. Because just when I think Facebook has finally settled down and become a relatively gentrified place for friends and folks to share their lives with one another, another opportunistic bastard attempts to profiteer on what I can only guess is widespread intellectual dissatisfaction with real life, by creating yet another mind-numbingly trite “social game”. As a result of these obsessive pastimes, instead of getting updates about what my friends are doing, where they’re going, or who they’re hanging out with (things I might actually be interested in), I get an endless stream of notices about whose mob family is growing, whose farm animals have escaped, or what new fish someone got. All this is made exponentially more asinine by the fact that none of these people are in the mob, on a farm, or even have an aquarium. If reality is too boring for you, take a nap, read a book, or catch a movie. Maybe then you’ll actually have something to share that doesn’t make me want to slap you with that shovel you need for your fake farm.

3. Unlikeable. For all that Facebook has, and for all the ways it has connected our lives, both online and off, there is one big thing missing: the “dislike” button. The “like” button was brilliant. A way to indicate approval without having to come up with a catchy comment (the pressure of which can sometimes be overwhelming); a way to support the ideas, preferences and discoveries of your friends, even if you have nothing necessarily to add. But where is the “dislike” button? When did Facebook become “Happyland”?! Why is it that the only two options I have to respond the veritable universe of often inadvisable crap that is posted by my friends for public consumption is either to “like” it or ignore it? It’s like the internet version of the old maternal maxim: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all” Are you kidding me? If you have the kind of friends who won’t tell you when they don’t like something you’re doing/saying/ingesting, etc., then you don’t really have any friends. Or maybe that’s why you’re on Facebook in the first place?

* * *

In general, I’m grateful for Facebook. Because as a result of its existence and development, I’ve finally got a way to keep people up to date on what’s going on in my life (and vice versa), without having to spend hours and hours that I no longer have on correspondence, etc. What’s more, its nearly universal appeal has allowed me to find long-lost friends from lifetimes ago, and allowed many of those same folks to find me. It even has a much cleaner mechanism than real life for getting suddenly unwelcome people out of your life. But as Facebook has grown, and tried to continue to sanitize its way as far from the teenage wasteland that its peer network has become, it will discover/has discovered an inalienable truth. The more real life that gets absorbed into it, the dirtier it will become. Because no matter how you scrub it, segregate it, or censor it, real friends, real relationships and real life are messy. And the real success of Facebook will not be finding a way to help us cleanly stay connected, but rather in finding a way to let us all get messy together.


Jen and Tonic said...

This was my favorite piece to date. You perfectly captured what I despise most about Facebook, and what has caused me to consider deleting my page on numerous occasions.

I have a few people on my Facebook who are hardcore Debbie Downers. All they ever post about is how their jobs suck, their significant others suck and how everything under the sun sucks. Facebook has become a new form of online therapy in which people enlist their friends (read: people who have no understanding of psychology and/or basic human decency) to give them therapy…for free. Some people can’t be helped, and would do better getting a swift kick in the ass than receiving a hundred, “Ohhhh, I am SO SORRY that happened to you” notifications on their page.

Still, nothing beats Mafia Wars/Farmville/Café World updates. Have you seen this YouTube video?

Ben Eslinger said...

This too, was my favorite blog of yours to date. The only thing I would add that is just as annoying as the whole farmville/mafia wars nightmare is the "friend suggestion" option...especially in the hands of people who are barely a facebook friend, much less a friend at all. I could give you a really funny specific example but I'll save it for a less public forum...just trust's awesome. :)

Good show Glenn, good show indeed


Anonymous said...

MUST HAVE THE DISLIKE BUTTON! I mean come on, we all dislike more things than like them on Facebook.


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