Sunday, June 14, 2009

Down with Facebook!

Recently, yet another acquaintance recommended I join Facebook, reminding me that there is a Facebook page for Arena (while other friends recently suggested I could do a page for The Enclave, as well). I considered it. Then in processing my mail the other day I noted on a flyer urging me to resubscribe to the political magazine The Weekly Standard (only $1 an issue!) was a cover which pictured a man sitting at his workstation, a deluge of junk and garbage pouring out of his computer onto his desk and lap. The accompanying caption was "Down with Facebook!"

I wondered if since it was obviously not a new cover, the article might be available online. It was:

Down with Facebook!
What nobody bothers to mention about the social-networking site is that it's really dull--mind-numbingly dull.

Written by Weekly Standard editor Matt Labash back in March of 09 (03/16/2009, Volume 014, Issue 25), I found it quite amusing. It starts like this:

Look at the outer shell--the parachute pants, the piano-key tie, the fake tuxedo T-shirt--and you might mistake me for a slave to fashion. Do not be deceived. Early adoption isn't my thing. I much prefer late adoption, that moment when the trend-worshipping sheeple who have early-adopted drive the unsustainable way of life I so stubbornly cling to ever so close to the edge of obsolescence, that I've no choice but to follow. This explains why I bought cassette tapes until 1999, why I wouldn't purchase a DVD player until Blockbuster cashiered their VHS stock. Toothpaste? I use it now that it's clear it's here to stay.

So I'm not inflexible. But there is one promise I've made to myself. And that is that no matter how long I live, no matter how much pressure is exerted, no matter how socially isolated I become, I will never, ever join Facebook, the omnipresent online social-networking site that like so many things that have menaced our country (the Unabomber, Love Story, David Gergen) came to us from Harvard but has now worked its insidious hooks into every crevice of society.

He goes on to chronicle his wife's experiences with Facebook and how it changed her, and has some interesting observations on the phenomenon. I think I agree with most of them. And I was amazed at how much I parallel his description of himself: "I procrastinate, shirk responsibilities, and spend much time peppering a fairly wide circle of friends with an incessant barrage of individually tailored emails, many of them lengthy.(as opposed to the abbreviated, promiscuously generic, group-blog like messages left on Facebook)." You can read the rest of the article Here.

Like Mr. Labash, I'm not a joiner. Like the Amish he mentioned, I don't have a cellphone. And I just took a lot of my cassette tapes off to the used book and music store, a couple of years after I'd gotten rid of my last tape player. We do still have VHS tapes, though, and a machine that plays both VHS and DVD.

People say I should get on to market. But frankly I'm just not sure I want to interact with that many people. I remember reading about a theoretical limiting number of people with which one can maintain stable social relationships -- Dunbar's number. This is the size of a group where you know everyone, and they all relate to each other. It's posited as being around 150. After that the group tends to split and more formal rules and norms must be established to keep it stable.

Is it really possible to 600 or 800 or a 1000 "friends"? Of course, if it's about marketing, they aren't really friends, more like contacts, potential readers... I don't know. It might not be a bad thing, but I see no reason to think I would be any different than Mr. Labash's wife in my ability to resist the lure of constant Facebook checking and poking. I've already gone through the constant Amazon numbers/reviews checking, the constant email checking, the constant blog comment checking and reading... why would this be any different?

No, I think for now I'll continue to hold firm and refrain from joining. And when I do, if I ever do, it will no doubt be just as the whole thing is starting to fold...