2008: Just because I was late to social networking doesn't mean I didn't get sucked in
I've never been an early adopter. I didn't get e-mail until college, and then barely used it for years. I waited as long as humanly possible to get a cell phone, and even then it took me a while to start using it as my primary means of communication. It's not that I'm a Luddite. I just don't inherently get the latest thing--I'm the person who somehow thought Netflix would be a pain in the ass and couldn't see why I'd want every piece of music I own in something I could fit in my pocket. So it's hardly a surprise that I was late to the social-networking party.
I signed onto Friendster in 2004 because my 10-year high school reunion was coming up and I wanted to see if anyone I actually hung out with in high school was going. Even then, I used it mainly to say, "Hey, here's my e-mail address." My move to MySpace came not long after, but it didn't get much of my attention, either. I checked it infrequently and probably wouldn't have completed my profile if MySpace hadn't offered an easy way of flirting with a guy I was into.
When all my friends migrated to Facebook, I was annoyed. Come on, I made a stupid Friendster profile and then I had to make a MySpace one, do I really have to do this again? It was like that guy friend, who goes through girlfriends so fast it's hardly worth getting to know them.
But I did it. And, man, did I get hooked. I don't know what makes it so different, but it has become part of my daily routine. Suddenly, I was playing games and accepting friends right and left. I became super-tight Facebook friends with people I only know casually in real life. I even found myself recounting wall-to-walls to my boyfriend. "And then I wrote . . . and she wrote . . . and then I wrote back . . . it was hilarious!"
I started feeling invested in how many responses I got to my freaking status updates. I even started thinking in status update form--the way in the early '90s everything took on Tetris shapes. Anna is getting into the shower. Anna is annoyed that asshole double parked next to a parking space. As one of my friends said in her Facebook status, this site has turned us all into people who refer to themselves in the third person.
Becoming a Facebook addict means I am surrounded, at least virtually, by fellow Facebook addicts giving it all a patina of normalcy. I started a group to get a hold-out friend on Facebook and found no shortage of people willing to join. He succumbed, but it took some convincing. I explained it to him like this: I get to have 30 second conversations with my little brother, who lives in Massachusetts, every day and keep up with my seventh-grade best friend, who lives in England, and my cousin in Wyoming, and my 14-year-old niece without even having to try. It's the easiest, most low-maintenance, guilt-light way to stay in touch.
Not that there isn't a down side. Facebook has completely ruined small talk. I can't even count how many times I've been at a social event and had this happen: There's a lull in conversation. No worries, I have an amusing anecdote. I start to tell it, only to be stopped by someone saying, "I know--I read it on your wall."
There are some uncomfortable aspects, like deciding who to friend. Generally, I don't accept friend requests from people I've never spoken to in real life or people I only know through work. This is my faux-private faux-life and I'd like to keep it that way. But I can't bring myself to press the "ignore" button. It just seems so rude. So I have an entire page of neglected friend requests staring out at me with the cheerful, well-meaning gazes of their profile pics.
And now, Facebook has started guilt tripping me with lines such as "Make so-and-so's Facebook experience better. Comment on her wall." Or "You haven't talked to so-and-so lately." The latter usually referring to someone I talk to so much in real life I don't need to do it virtually. I've even found myself wondering if people think it's cold that I didn't wish my boyfriend happy birthday on his wall even though I wished him one in person.
Oh well, I hear Google Wave is the next new thing, so maybe Facebook's time is almost up. Pretty soon I'll be getting little so-and-so invited you to join messages in my inbox. I'm sure I'll switch over--you know, about a year after everyone else does.
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