Monday, July 9, 2007

I Feel Like I've Been Duped

I recently joined Facebook and I am just sitting here wondering why. It's true that I got two invitations to join in the past week, have been mildly interested in catching up with a few friends of mine who I would have a hard time contacting otherwise, and the format seems to be better than the other social-networking sites I've seen (used, and dismissed). Facebook has some applications which link up with some of my favorite online time-wasters ( and stumbleupon, to name a few.) But once I've reconnected with people (and have their e-mail, address, phone, etc.) I can see them in the real world, or at least contact them in a more private setting. Why bother logging into a site everyday just to talk to your friends? Doesn't that seem like an unecessary step?

People seem to post publicly on these sites: "on the wall" on facebook; "comments" in myspace; and, to a certain extent, "testimonials" on friendster. Why not just send them a private message if you want to say something like "great to hear from you" or "meet you at Starbucks in 10?" This sort of thing sets my insecurity radar off and frankly, annoys me. Communicating with people in a public forum when you could be doing so in private seems to go hand-in-hand with the need to show others (your friends, your ex, strangers who might want to meet or date you) how many friends you have and how much fun you're having with them. Does anyone really care? Do they care about your photos, your list of favorite movies, who your friends are and where they live?

But, yeah, someone does care, and that person is you. Or, in this case, me. Embarrassing as it is to admit, there is something very satisfying in the ability to look at a page that basically sums up who and what is important to you. I think everyone likes sorting and categorizing things, even if those things are our friends. From what I can tell, being able to visualize the abstract helps us, as humans, (only smart relative to other animals, not too impressive if you ask me) to understand our situation better. It's something that winds up making us feel secure and, well, satisfied.

So every time someone adds me as a friend (um, not like this has happened a lot) something goes off in my brain which makes me feel good. This may just be the honeymoon phase, but I like thinking that I can have all my friends in one place. That's something that wouldn't be possible in real life and, also, a pretty brilliant marketing scheme. The only reason I'd want the friends I stay in touch with regularly to join the site is to satisfy that need to categorize, but that's probably enough to get me to send the invite email that's set up for you when you join (no, I didn't send it to Jake, so I guess I've got some boundaries. I talk to him enough already, plus he'd just bring my cool factor down.)

I know I'll lose interest in this facebook thing in a few weeks (a few minutes if the feeling I've got after picking all this apart is any indicator), but will all that staring at my profile in between be bad for me? Will it make me more self-centered, or is the fact that I got there in the first place already an indicator of that? Not to mention, after I leave, my profile will stay up. That leads to a whole other issue regarding the willing surrender of privacy, doesn't it?

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