Tuesday, September 30, 2008

COLUMN: Facebook

I've said it before, I'll say it again: I hate change. Some may call it a personal flaw -- I call it a way of life.

The underlying operating theory here is what I like to call The Scaredy-Cat Rule Of Suck: Change involves the unknown, and there's a decent chance that the unknown might very well suck. Ergo, my defense mechanism is to find the things in life that DON'T suck, and hold on to those things as hard as I can. Trust me, it works. Kinda.

Let's review. Rock Island doesn't altogether suck, so I call it home. My apartment complex can occasionally suck, but its better than owning a home that has the potential to REALLY suck. I've got a job I like, another job I like, friends I like, and a life I like. So who needs change, right? I'm staying put.

There's only one problem with the Rule of Suck, though. I can stay put all I like, but the pesky world keeps revolving despite my best attempts to make it stop. Unlike me, some of my friends AREN'T scaredy-cats, and have evolved. Moved away. Married. Procreated. Matured (shudder.)

There's nothing worse than friendships that drift apart. In high school, I had a tight clique. We did everything together and I knew in my heart of hearts that we'd be besties forever. But then I went to college and before I knew it, my little clique faded away. Well, that's cool, because -- lo! -- here's a whole new set of friends, and they're the ones I'll have forever and ever and ever, right? Well, until graduation and everyone but my nearest & dearest move away. Sigh.

In the end, my Rule of Suck is shallow, ill-conceived, and kinda sucks. Or at least it DID -- until a college kid named Mark Zuckerberg unknowingly fixed my dilemma from his Harvard dorm room. Mark Zuckerberg was the kid who got bored one day and created Facebook.com.

I've been a huge fan of social networking websites since Day One. Yes, thanks to the latest in cutting-edge technology and the greatest programming minds our generation has to offer, through extensive investments and manpower, we as a people finally have a better way to waste time at work than Windows Solitaire.

Friendster started it all. Here was a website where you could find your friends online and send spastic notes back and forth all day long. Friendster begat Myspace, which took social networking to a whole new dimension -- namely, the dimension where you could hit on available girls all day long. "You like cats?? I LIKE CATS, TOO!" After a while, though, the fun was gone -- as were most of the available girls my age -- so I shifted my societal networking priorities over to Facebook.

Like its predecessors, Facebook allows users to log on and send messages & updates to anyone who's accepted you as a friend. Having a bad day at the office? I can let my friends know all about it with the click of a mouse. Ate a bad hamburger? Tell 143 people you know in seconds. And more than anything, Facebook is like a family get-together, high-school reunion, and college homecoming in one.

My clique from high school? Reassembled. My college friends? Together once again. Within the past couple months, we've all found each other on the information superhighway. My friend Brian from high school may live in Japan now, but I can send him a crass joke in seconds. And every day, I keep hearing from the oddest and most distant memories.

That kid I used to play Commodore 64 with in middle school? He's now a ski photographer in Aspen. The guitarist from my favorite 90's band? He's having a baby any day now. I got a friend request the other day from an apparant stranger who informed me that I used to make her "crack up in Physics," a high school class I barely remember other my teacher's love of overhead projectors.

Of course, the downside about reuniting online is that, as I type, crusty old pictures from decades past are now soaring about cyberspace willy-nilly. I've rapidly learned that (a) there are no words to apologize enough for 80's hair, and (b) I was half the man then that I am today - mostly because I've apparantly eaten another whole person. Good lord, I had forgotten what skinny me looked like. I think it's a shape I'd like to see again someday.

Of particular concern to me is a pic from the early days of college, when a long day of thrift & antique store-hopping begat a rather horrifying image of me holding an accordion and attempting to, as the kids say, rock out. And the same modern technology that's brought us together on Facebook has also brought us Cafepress.com, where evil friends can submit awful photos of you and put them on t-shirts with the caption "SUPERFLY," sales of which are now in double digits.

And I suppose it's a little disheartening to have your classic memories shattered by contemporary reality. I don't need to know that the girl I had a puppy-dog crush on for years is now a bored-looking housewife. And just because I went to high school with you doesn't mean I want to play a game of online Scrabble or donate a cyber-plant to your cyber-garden.

Still, there's comfort in knowing that I haven't lost these people forever. The internet: an agent of NON-change. Who'd'a thunk it?

1 comment:

ThatLesleyChick said...

ah, i thought this would be a rant (or at least a defense) of the new facebook layout, (which just in case you're wondering, which you aren't since you don't even know me but i'm going to tell you anyway, i loathe.)

good posting though, and i agree. i've really enjoyed reconnecting with people i've lost touch with long ago. and i'm enough of a lurker that i do browse their family photos, posted items, etc, so i feel like i actually have caught up on their lives. nice use of technology, i think.