Thursday, February 26, 2009


A couple of weeks ago, I half-seriously responded on Facebook that I was trying to invite more friends so I could surpass my brother. We're not really competitive with each other, but our unofficial contest turned into a relatively fun and harmless battle.

Now that I have been friending people I know or people who know someone I know, I've had time (too much time) to reflect on the Facebook phenomenon.

Part of me feels as if I am at an AA meeting: "Hi, my name is Steve, and I have 378 friends." And then everyone would respond dutifully, "Hi, Steve, welcome. My name is_____, and I have______friends."

Do we measure our worth or social status now by the number of friends we acquire on Facebook? One of my former students has over 1600 friends. It would take me 30 minutes just to scan her list, and see who I might invite now in order to pad my own totals. What is the record for friends?

I even found out that I could become friends with one of the brew pubs we frequent. Yes, you can request to become a friend of Moylan's Brewery and Restaurant in Novato, CA. We've been there many times and enjoy it, so I figured why not? Then I noticed that one of my friends had Kelly's Irish Bar in San Francisco on his list. Well, I've driven past it several times. Boom. Now I am friends with a bar I've never been to.

Last night my brother and I were talking and I said, "This whole Facebook thing is kind of crazy. I feel as if I am often eaves-dropping in other people's living rooms."

He agreed.

Just scanning the Facebook home page, which contains comments from everyone on your list and responses from everyone--potentially--on their lists, ad infinitum and nauseum. I mean, do we see where this is going? It is exponentially mind boggling how many links and connections are being established over what is often slivers of minutiae from our lives.

My brother recently wrote how he was watching the Oscars and was baffled that Beyonce appeared to be lip-synching. He got several responses, one of which noted that he was not paying attention to Beyonce's lips.

A neighbor of ours wrote that her 2 1/2-year old son was no longer wearing diapers. She said, "Can you believe Luca is wearing Elmo underwear?" She got several responses for that. And why not? It was a momentous time for her, and so many of us could relate.

People upload videos, photographs, comment on what they are doing at that very moment, and then friends, Romans, countrymen respond with a flurry of their own comments, to which the original posters respond some more.

It's enough to make me dizzy. And I haven't even said anything about the dark side of Facebook. Facebook recently removed over 5000 sexual predators from their social networking site. I guess the opportunities to connect with friends, family, and associates in a living, breathing class reunion also invites slimebuckets of the earth to promote their nefarious urges.

I recently finished writing an article about community access TV, the public access stations you find on channel 26, etc. The director of one station said the power of community access TV is its democratic appeal. "Anyone," he said, "with an idea can stake a claim to the airwaves."

I think Facebook is just like that in many ways. We get a chance to grab the microphone and shout, "Hey, pay attention to me. I matter."

So, excuse me, I have some more "friends" to invite into my orbit and some wall writing to do. I'll be busy "dropping" in on someone I haven't seen in 30 years. Welcome to my neighborhood.

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