Monday, January 4, 2010

Updating the Facebook Status Quo

A buddy of mine has been dating a girl for a few months now but I couldn’t help but notice that just last week he finally updated his status to state that they were “In a Relationship”. The next time I saw him I asked what took so long to announce their affiliation with one another and he responded with, “You have to be certain that it’s for real, because once it’s on Facebook it’s for real.”

It was in that moment that I realized how completely social networking has taken over our lives.

Just over 10 years ago, Meg Ryan explained the rush of getting an e-mail from Tom Hanks: “I turn on my computer. I wait impatiently as it connects. I go online, and my breath catches in my chest until I hear three little words: You've got mail.”

A decade later, that’s almost as ancient of a concept as regular mail.

What relevance is left in the phrase: “wait impatiently as it connects”? I’m not going to get on the computer to communicate with someone else instantly. That’s what texting is for!

Websites like Facebook and Twitter are a narcissist’s dream (read: my dream) because unlike e-mail – where you have to communicate with another person directly – now you simply post what you are doing, who you are with and to what degree, what you like and dislike and then just wait for everyone else to come to you.

At first I was reluctant to jump on the Facebook tidal wave. (1) Because I was already on MySpace and one social network was enough and (2) as I have pointed out ad nauseam, I shudder at the thought of being associated with anything that’s too popular.

But I’m terrible with keeping up with people via traditional corresponding outlets (i.e. phone and e-mail) and a lot of my friends that had moved away were Facebooking, so I figured I may as well also (and especially now that I’m one of those that have moved away).

I hate to admit it but I love the Facebook and Twitter setup of posting whatever I’m doing (no matter how mundane) or what I happen to think about a certain subject because it’s designed for people to believe that everyone else will read it, care about it, and feel more complete as a human being.

There are some negatives though.

If you have anything short of a Master’s good luck with Facebook’s functionality (that includes me). I have to call up Will Hunting anytime I want to post some pictures or delete an errant status update.

And I’m tired of all the FarmVille animals and Mafia games clogging up my home page. I’ve posted important thoughts and observations and I can’t have the latest addition to your YoVille house distracting anyone from my genius.

Beyond trying to maneuver around the site, employers are now checking employee’s sites and have been making hiring and firing decisions based upon status updates and pictures. I personally know of an instance where an employee was fired based on inappropriate pictures on his profile page and there was one instance where a girl bragged about skipping work on her Facebook status only to be terminated by her boss in a comment reply on her page.

Thanks for playing

Even with all of that, we still feel the need to be on these sites so that we can be heard.

So that we can matter.

I asked my Wife (an avid Facebooker) why she thinks it’s such a big deal when someone updates their relationship status through these social networks and I was impressed with her answer.

“All of your friends already know when you’re dating someone,” she said, “but when you post it on Facebook, you’re announcing it to the world. You’re letting all of you acquaintances and family know. You’re letting your exes and the one that got away know. It becomes official.”

Works for me.

Conversely, you are given the power to publicly “unfriend” another user on Facebook and “unfollow” or even block someone on Twitter. How does that work if the two of you ever run into each other at a party? Does social etiquette allow you to even speak to the person that unfriended you? Or do you have to leave the premises?

This is a whole new level of social rejection that I’m just not prepared to handle.

I had to catch myself questioning the importance of the Facebook status update because I was recently in that spot a few months ago. I remember the day after my Wife and I got married, we logged on to update our status from “engaged” to “married” and my Wife made the monumental step of changing her last name to mine.

According to the all of the legal authorities, that had already taken place, but even I have to concede that there was something about changing it on Facebook that made the whole thing feel more certified.

To further prove my… Oh, wait. What’s this? I’ve just been alerted that someone has retweeted one of my brilliant tweets on Twitter. Sorry, but I have to run check it! After that, I will get on Facebook so that I can update my status letting everyone know that I’ve written a column about Facebook.

I know everyone’s holding their breath, just waiting for me.

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