Facebookitis: characterized by repetitive status updating, profile lurking, photo album creeping and Farmville crop ownership.
It happens to the best of us. It’s like a grown-up playground where the recess bell never rings. Like the party line my great-grandmother had in the early ’80s that allowed us to eavesdrop on all the other gabby party liners. It’s like passing sweaty folded notes in grade 8 behind the teacher’s back, that get read by every person en route before reaching the intended classmate five desks to the left.
Facebook is the neighbourhood we carefully craft for ourselves to live in. We choose our friends, defriend and proudly tag ourselves grinning like Lindsay Lohan in the courtroom with all our pals draped off our shoulders. It’s an acceptable form of bragging, voyeurism, cattiness, hedonism and fluff. While I might be slightly embarrassed to actually buy a glossy copy of InTouch, I have zero qualms about scanning status and relationship updates for gossip.
It’s the efficiency of it all that I love. In the span of one cup of morning coffee, I can see what Jacques is doing in Uganda, what Michelle is up to in Qualicum Beach, what Heidi is thinking about in Nashville and what Jann Arden had as a midnight snack. Geography becomes obsolete, and the beauty of Facebook is that somewhere in the world, there are other friends that are awake when the rest of my Ontario counterparts are smartly sleeping.
In what would have taken my great-grandmother three days of party line phone calls–I can find out the breaking news from my friends dispersed in Australia, the Congo, California and even two blocks away at my brother’s apartment. Tell me Laura Secord wouldn’t have killed for Facebook chat instead of trekking 20 miles across the Canadian hinterland to tell the British that the American troops were planning to invade Beaver Dam in the War of 1812. If Laura had been really savvy, she would have sent a Friend Request to one of the British troops with a bat of her eyelashes, and she would have seen the status update and hit the Share button!
In addition to conquering the ill-planned time zones of earth, Facebook is a great venue for ‘dating’ friends. If we don’t like somebody after an intial friending, we can defriend faster than Kim Cattrall finds a beefy man to shag in the boudoir. If we don’t approve of a comment, we can delete it faster than the news of a leaked Brangelina sex tape could spread.
Facebook has evolved into more than a rowdy extended cafeteria table though. It has become a personal cheerleading squad. Can we do any wrong with our army of friends rallying behind us? They are there for pats on the back, daily pep rallies and commentary that supports any posting we place on our wall. Prop 8 opposition, the BP oil blooper and Jesse James faced a relentless firing squad, didn’t they? Viral videos circulate like bed bugs and create an emotional Polaroid network. We are instantly bonded through You Tube uploads of footage of heartbroken Bella the elephant and Tarra, her beloved dog friend at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. And oh how we wept over Christian the lion reuniting with John Rendall and Anthony Bourke in Kenya. Then there was the hero dog that saved another dog who had been hit by a car by dragging him across a freeway in Santiago, Chile. Together, via Facebook, we share a unified, emotional experience and find solace in the universal weepy response of others.
When we are ill, Facebook friends begin filtering into our waiting rooms with sage advice, old wives tales, sympathy and virtual companionship. Our friends become doctors with solutions at the ready for parasites, rashes, itches, sore throats and sleeplessness.
But do I need 450 friends? Do I really have 450 friends? That’s the population of Nottingham Township, Ohio. It’s an Italian wedding guest list. It’s the entire student body of the elementary school I went to–including the herd of dairy cattle in the field behind the soccer pitch.
Of that 450 there are certainly my near and dears and there are friends that I haven’t even met. And until recently, even two fictional friends. Yes, they exist (in an imaginary sense).
What I would like to see is an Awkward Application. For example, when a relationship ends, or when a one night stand turns out to be the symptom of tequila, Facebook terms of agreement should automatically terminate the virtual relationship. This would avoid the dreaded “I can’t believe you deleted me” backlash. If Facebook did that messy stuff for us, the Facebook world would be an easier place to navigate.
What I can do without is the nagging motherly overtones of Facebook. “Get in touch with so-and-so.” “Send so-and-so a message.” “Try Facebook Mobile.” “Jules, try Facebook’s Friend Finder” (because apparently 450 friends is below average). “Jules, here are people you may know–”
What I will acknowledge is that Facebook is a time-sucker. It’s like a lethal combo of quicksand and the Food Network. But, I try and convince myself that it’s the equivalent of completing a Sudoko puzzle or the New York Times crossword. You can’t just ROTFL or LYAO all the time and LOL for every comment. There are expectations now, there are friends of friends who indicate whether they “like” your comment or not. Before you could comment haphazardly without being judged.
But I like it. I like the neighbourhood I’ve created. I’ve been married twice on Facebook now. I’ve been censored, deleted, defriended and hit on by a woman in Spain who was positive that I was her type. Blood type? I’ve reconnected with camp counsellors, the American I gave Ugandan shillings to after he was robbed, fellow travellers I met in the Galapagos, my dream boyfriend of age 13 and a guy who recognized my name from a mural that I painted a decade ago in a pizza shop in Dunnville.
Facebook makes an already small world smaller, and I grateful for my pseudo Nottingham Township, Ohio community.
Yes, I like this. Poke me.