Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How Are You? (Don't Answer That.)

Here's one thing you should know: I love Facebook. I am a True Believer in Facebook. I am to Facebook what 13-year-old girls are to Twilight. I am to Facebook what single man-boys are to Guitar Hero. I check it constantly. I love seeing what my FB peeps are up to. I think reconnecting with old friends is actually a good thing--kept, as it is, at a nice, comfy, digital remove. I adore the faux Scrabble. I totally dig knowing what cousins 20 years my junior are thinking. (Like to keep up with 'the kids'.) I utterly enjoyed following a friend's trip in virtual real time as she uploaded her pictures onto FB daily.

In fact, I think Facebook is a brilliant invention, one of the few that does exactly what it was designed to do, and does it well. It has not--as of yet--become a bastardized version of itself, tweaked by its own success and mutated by its own users into Something Else. (The way MySpace, for instance, started as a promotional site for bands but turned into, apparently, Facebook 1.0. The way Craig's List began as a nice, shared cyber-bulletin board for finding roommates and used bicycles but metastasized into a marketplace for white slavers and serial killers.) Facebook--despite growing pains and terms of usage scandals and awkward new page lay-outs--seems to still do what it promised it would do: create and maintain an Internet community.

And I love the status update. I'm probably, truth be told, a status update abuser. Particularly with the old layout, where your status update hovered atop your 'home page' forever? I changed that thing constantly. I changed that thing when the wind blew weird, when the dog belched, when Keith Olbermann expressed righteous indignation. Any little, silly thing or oh-so-clever solipsistic thought that flew into my addled brain made it into that rectangular box.

But there is status update abuse and there is Status Update Abuse. Some of you people need to back away from the laptop. Stop. It. Really. The complaining, the bragging, the blah blah blah. If it's not at least a little witty, informative, interesting, day brightening...I'm gonna say it. I don't think we care.

But there they are anyway: The Complainers. I can mock them because: I am them. I complain on my status update like lucky people poop: every day.
I have a headache.
I still have a headache.
Headache: Day Three. (This is fun stuff, right?)
I try to make them somewhat informative (Don't park on Highland after 3; you'll get towed just like I did). Or even better, a little entertaining (3am, the cat's snoring like Ernest Borgnine after a Baja bender.) But I can't lie. Bottom line, I'm just a grouch.

Nevertheless, I pale--pale--in comparison to the major league Complainers. These are some serious, professional, don't even, Complainers. Their complaints are intimate, sad, shocking, depressing, graphic. About planes missed and babies up-chucking and mothers dying and illnesses caught. All on Facebook. Where people know you just wrote that. Obviously, everyone's entitled to bitch. I'm bitching right now. But folks: that shit just makes me feel bad. And honestly, I feel bad enough already. Can you dial it back, just a bit?

Then there are The Braggers. Now, honestly, I just feel bad for the Complainers. The Braggers are the ones I loathe. You got the all out, swaggering tools: "Trying to decide between the Land Rover and the Land Cruiser." Really? Instead, how about trying to decide whether your kids get asthma or cancer from the belching fumes you're going to spew into the air so you can drive around in a pimped out station wagon pretending you're taller than you are? How about trying to decide whether you're an asshole or a douchebag. What's that you say? Oh, right: both.

Then you have your 'passy-aggressy' "I'm-gonna-say-something-mildly-curious-to-get-you-to-ask-me-what's-up!" braggers. Like this beaut: "First day of work jitters!" Oh, Lordy, now we have to ask: New job? Where? Good for you! Then they answer and it's all so, "Well, I don't want to brag, but...". And then of course they do brag (I mean, you asked!). I just want to channel Aaron Altman: Keep it to yourself.

Then there are the STOs. State The Obvious. Anyone who has ever written as their status update "TGIF!" needs to be forced to eat at TGIFs. And not just on Fridays. If whatever you're thinking seems like something a 3rd grade teacher might write on a sheet of oak tag, you know, maybe you don't need to share that with your 164 friends. If whatever you're thinking isn't even a little specific, a little fresh, a little goddamn interesting: no need to write it down and make me read it, mmkay? Just, well, try a little harder. Please?

Personally, I wish everyone would just aspire to my favorite status update category: The Quippers. Cause that's what a status update should be, right? Droll, pithy little comment. The news of the day's bon mot. A laugh, a smile for your Facebook community. A quip. I must confess, this is the group I would choose to live in if I could choose. Unfortunately, the funny chooses you. So though I try, mostly I leave it to Richard. (He knows who he is.)

This is a theory I have about the Internet; it's not only the greatest communication and information and connectivity device of all time. It's also a magnifier. It not only gives us more, it allows us to be more. More informed, more connected; yes, fabulous, love it. But also more crazy, more neurotic, more paranoid, more creepy. Thirty years ago someone who might have liked the occasional bit of porn actually had to leave their house and face a shopkeeper and buy it. Now: that person can fill their hard drive (no pun intended) with so much porn they never have to leave the house. Ever. Icky. A fan of Joseph Cotton circa 1943 might have bought copies of Photoplay and Modern Screen and cut out pictures and articles of Joe and glued them into a scrapbook. Harmless. Today, there are multiple Zac Efron fan sites. Whole websites. Built by fans. In their free time. Just...for the love of Zac Efron. Creepy. In 1989 some guy spent too much time driving back and forth in front of his girlfriend's house; now he can download her credit report. Actionable.

Facebook Status Updates can be a little like that. Just too much. A passing, casual comment shared at a party or in an elevator would be promptly forgotten. Now, as a Status Update, that comment is magnified and takes on so much--too much--meaning. It's posted, people. Posted. Think about that. Would you write that thought on an index card and pin it to your jacket? And wear it around all day? Probs not, I'm thinking. So just...have a little discretion, okay? Think twice before you post. Cause if it's just complaining, or saying something we all know, or bragging for the sake of bragging? Yeah, you might get some positive reinforcement. A comment on your comment. Maybe the old thumbs up. Probably nothing at all. But what if the people reading that comment sneer in the privacy of their homes/offices/cubicles? And people who previously might have found you mildly irritating? Don't look now: they just unfriended you. See? Magnified.

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