Today I reached a benchmark, of sorts. I just “connected” with my 1000th friend on Facebook. It’s sort of like that double rainbow: WHAT DOES IT MEAN? I’m not in tears, however. But what does it mean? Am I popular? Like, ya know, really popular? Do “they” like me. I mean really like me?
I recall back in the early days of social networking, when we were all on Friendster. (Yes, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and we weren’t all at the mercy of Mark Zuckerberg.) The press was amused by the online phenomenon and dubbed those with scads of contacts “hubs.” I had — and have — many spokes. (Though that’s probably something that can be said of most “burners,” since we all know hundreds of people scattered around the globe.) Hubs have a lot of friends, meet people easily and are skilled at networking, all very good things in this interconnected age. It has not, however, helped me find a job, sublet my apartment or get me laid.
Yes, there are others who have far more “friends” than I do. But I’ve made a point of only “friending” people I’ve actually met. Still, it doesn’t mean much. It’s a random number in a meaningless medium. These “friends” are an odd bunch, I think to myself as their lives scroll by. People I’ve been close with for years are jumbled in with people I met yesterday; elementary school pals I haven’t seen in decades are little squares side by side with far-flung family members I never see at all. Their news is almost as meaningless as our friendships: links to YouTube or music videos; what they’re eating, buy, wearing; photos of offspring, pets, sunsets and drunken nights on the town.
Facebook also encourages strange, stalker-like behavior. I’ve been accused of “lurking” on someone’s profile when, in fact, my being aware of this person’s movements online was a result of Facebook’s incessant updating, informing me that “Sally just commented on Suzie’s post,” simply because I had commented on Suzie’s post earlier. Like it fucking matters.
Probably the worst thing about Facebook is now that everyone is on it (your mom! your boss! every ex you’ve ever dumped or been dumped by!) there’s no way to not be on it. There are people who only communicate via the site, having seemingly forgotten about plain ol’ email. Party invitations are now mass-Facebook’ed affairs that scroll by the same way peoples’ snacking habits and stupid jokes do: so quickly they’re barely digestible. Sigh.
What to do? Move to a cabin in the mountains and unplug completely? Alas, as appealing as that sounds, no… Instead, I plod away, posting and updating, Tweeting and blogging, “following” and “friending,” shoving the virtual shit against the tsunami-like tide of zeros and ones and who-the-hell-are you?s. Now, won’t you “like” my post? Reddit my article? Up-arrow my very existence, so I can truly feel validated? Er, popular? Ooh! Make that 1,001!