Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The gathering ubiquitousness of Facebook

I do it in the Facebook. Do you?

Last night I realized I have an addiction: I went through Annise Parker's Facebook group friending people I really don't know (but figured I would like to because of our shared interest in seeing her elected as Houston's next mayor). Facebook now gives me a warning when I friend someone, saying I am "abusing the system". I also acquired a conservative Bush-loving barnacle. He hasn't been blocked yet, but I'm ready with the shitscraper.

Hello, my name is Perry and I'm a Facebookaholic. But I only have three of the ten warning signs (#3, 5a, and 9 if you really must know).

Why Facebook is for (Us) Old Fogies:

1. Facebook is about finding people you've lost track of. And, son, we've lost track of more people than you've ever met. Remember who you went to prom with junior year? See, we don't. We've gone through multiple schools, jobs and marriages. Each one of those came with a complete cast of characters, most of whom we have forgotten existed. But Facebook never forgets.

2. We're no longer bitter about high school. You're probably still hung up on any number of petty slights, but when that person who used to call us that thing we're not going to mention here, because it really stuck, asks us to be friends on Facebook, we happily friend that person. Because we're all grown up now. We're bigger than that. Or some of us are, anyway. We're in therapy, and it's going really well. These are just broad generalizations. Next reason.

3. We never get drunk at parties and get photographed holding beer bottles in suggestive positions. We wish we still did that. But we don't.

4. Facebook isn't just a social network; it's a business network. And unlike, say, college students, we actually have jobs. What's the point of networking with people who can't hire you? Not that we'd want to work with anyone your age anyway. Given the recession -- and the amount of time we spend on Facebook -- a bunch of hungry, motivated young guns is the last thing we need around here.

5. We're lazy. We have jobs and children and houses and substance-abuse problems to deal with. At our age, we don't want to do anything. What we want is to hear about other people doing things and then judge them for it. Which is what news feeds are for.

6. We're old enough that pictures from grade school or summer camp look nothing like us. These days, the only way to identify us is with Facebook tags.

7. We have children. There is very little that old people enjoy more than forcing others to pay attention to pictures of their children. Facebook is the most efficient engine ever devised for this.

8. We're too old to remember e-mail addresses. You have to understand: we have spent decades drinking diet soda out of aluminum cans. That stuff catches up with you. We can't remember friends' e-mail addresses. We can barely remember their names.

9. We don't understand Twitter. Literally. It makes no sense to us.

10. We're not cool, and we don't care. There was a time when it was cool to be on Facebook. That time has passed. Facebook now has 150 million members, and its fastest-growing demographic is 30 and up. At this point, it's way cooler not to be on Facebook. We've ruined it for good, just like we ruined Twilight and skateboarding. So git! And while you're at it, you damn kids better get off our lawn too.

Update: They heard you. Dwight ...

Usually, I don't think businesses like Facebook have anything nefarious in mind when something like this happens, but ToS documents are complicated things. What may seem like innocent legal jargon to the corporate attorneys can easily become a public relations bombshell.

Just ask AT&T.

In this case, users were telling Facebook, "Hey, it's MY information, and when I say DELETE, it had better be gone." Facebook gets props for listening to the complaints and doing the right thing in the end, but it was a mistake that probably could have been avoided in the first place if its executives had read the ToS from their customers' point of view.

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