Face-to-face with Facebook
I'm amazed at how rapidly Facebook has become an obsessive compulsive part of my life.
The Web site originally was restricted to students. Since I was a few years out of college, I was unable to join. But then Facebook became available to everyone, and the floodgates opened. I joined, and so did about 73,000 other people I knew.
I was more of a MySpace fan at first, especially since it allowed me to create a separate profile from my personal one in order to promote my music. As I've always said, though, the more kids you let into the pool, the greater probability that someone's going to whiz in the water. Spam soon became an issue, and suddenly supermodels were swamping me with friend requests. I can't tell you the number of times I thought Delicia from Los Angeles was going to be my Ms. Right, only to find she wanted me to pay 20 bucks a month to watch her on a Web cam.
While MySpace has done a better job of creating spam filters, Facebook has seemed like a tighter operation from the beginning. One big glitch was when an advertising feature on Facebook posted users' online purchases for all to see, spoiling some Christmases and causing the site to strengthen its privacy protocols.
That aside, another check in Facebook's book is that more of the people I actually know use it, so it's had more staying power for me.
This especially came in handy in 2007, when I attended my 10-year high school reunion. Normally I would have been looking forward to finding that Johnny Football Hero had made up for his loss of hair with his gain of weight, or that the girl I had a crush on sophomore year now has five kids and has been married three times. But through Facebook I'd already learned these things had happened. It's the ultimate class reunion primer.
Of course, flaunting your social life online can come back to haunt you. Many have heard the horror stories about users who apply for jobs and get rejected because their potential bosses see photos of that keg stand at last weekend's party. (At least they would have been the life of the company Christmas bash.)
Facebook can come back to haunt you when you're going through the ups and downs of your love life, too. You get into a relationship with an awesome person, switch your Facebook status from "single" to "in a relationship" (or, if you're Don Juan, to "it's complicated"), your profile is automatically connected to that of your friend if he or she has a profile, and you're essentially married online. You post photos of yourselves together at the beach, eating ice cream, playing Parcheesi. People post messages on your profile telling you how cute the two of you look together.
But if that relationship comes to a screeching halt, you undergo the online divorce. Facebook uses a broken heart symbol to indicate that you've gone from "in a relationship" back to "single" (or, if you want to draw out the drama, to "it's complicated"). Then all the "aww"-inspiring pictures come down, followed by your friends posting supportive but wince-worthy comments like "what happened?" and "I'm sorry to hear the news."
One aspect of Facebook I like is the "update status" bar. "Alex Lear is ..." it always reads, until I fill in the blank. Right now, incidentally, it states, "Alex Lear is writing a column about Facebook."
Another enjoyable aspect is the ability to post videos. If a picture paints a thousand words, a video is like "War and Peace." I told everyone for years about this college band I was in, and thanks to Facebook I was able to post a video of an old performance of "Up on Cripple Creek" to show everyone how Grammy-deserving we were. Do we come across a bit goofy in the video? So what if you see me leap into the air, guitar in hand, at the end of the song. I suppose one man's treasure could be another man's blackmail.
Note to my bosses: Please ignore the kegs in the background.
Alex Lear covers Bath and Topsham for The Forecaster and claims he has never stood on a keg in his life. He
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