Posted by Graham
Back in those days when trying the latest thing still seemed somehow exciting or worthwhile, I signed up for an account on Friendster. If memory serves, I never had any friends on Friendster, and I only remembered that I had an account there a couple of years ago when someone drew my attention to the fact that my profile showed up after doing a Google search for my name. (Whereupon my Friendster account was deleted. Why keep something out there if it’s not being used?) I don’t remember if Friendster, at that time, allowed its users to manage privacy settings, but I was somewhat relieved when Facebook finally came to my alma mater in late 2004 or early 2005. I liked the idea that any profile I might create there would be seen only by other members of my college’s network.
I made brief use of Facebook, but after graduation it, too, was quickly forgotten. I didn’t really pay attention to Facebook again until I received notification of a friend request sometime in 2007, and thus began my love-hate relationship with social networking sites. Since becoming reacquainted with Facebook, I’ve used it (mostly) for three purposes: microblogging through status updates (à la Twitter, only with a greater chance of more meaningful feedback), uploading photos to share with friends who wouldn’t otherwise see them, and to keep in touch with friends who live too far away for frequent visits or telephone calls. For these purposes, Facebook is useful, and I like it.
But here’s why I don’t like Facebook:
- Applications.” By the time I started using Facebook again in 2007, the site had become overrun by applications. In those days, they mostly seemed to be of the send-your-friends-fake-soda-fountain-treats type, and I guess I never really saw the appeal in something that seemed such a sad substitute for the real thing. I never understood why so many people who seemed to be, otherwise, perfectly intelligent were captivated by this. Facebook applications are a little more “sophisticated” (I use that word with some hesitation) these days; now, users can manage their own virtual farm or visit the seedy underbelly of the mob. Maybe I’m just square and boring, but , again, I just don’t understand the appeal.
- Overfriending. I have, roughly, fifty friends on Facebook — a number that has been static for most of the time that I’ve been a member of the site. Most of those fifty are people I know from college; a few are relatives and friends from outside the college community. In contrast to this, however, quite a few of the fifty-or-so people I designate as “friends” on Facebook, have — literally — hundreds of “friends” of their own. I don’t mean to suggest that my associates aren’t wonderful people — every single one of them — but nobody is so amazingly popular as to have hundreds of real friends. One cannot know 567 people well enough to consider all of them friends, nor is it wise, I think, to allow so many people access (virtual though it may be) to the (sometimes all-too-intimate) details of one’s life. Unfortunately, blanket friending of everyone in your graduating class still seems to be quite common, and is yet another aspect of Facebook in particular — and of social networking in general — that I do not understand.
- TMI. It can be fun, on occasion, to use Facebook to look up an old acquaintance from grade school. We’ve all had those “I wonder what happened to so-and-so?” moments. Sometimes, though, it’s better not to know. . .
Nota bene: I have a hard-and-fast rule that I do not “friend” random people on Facebook. I also do not friend current coworkers, professional networkers, or friends-of-friends who are mostly unknown to me. Just so you know. . .