Website Review: Facebook

Diving deeper and deeper into the new digital culture, I find myself this morning with what appears to be a Facebook account. How the hell did that happen?

I first signed up with the social networking site about nine months ago when I attended the WordPress conference here in Charlotte that turned out to be about almost everything except blogging. Twitter and Facebook were the two big topics that seemed to be distracting everybody who hadn’t already made the next great technological leap forward — wearing aluminum foil cone-hats and talking to themselves in small mirrors.

Like many newbies, I logged on, stashed my user name and password on a piece of paper, and thought little more about it.

Then, a few weeks ago came the big fuss about Sarah Palin using Facebook to address her supporters on the subject of healthcare reform and how she thought “death panels” would be a great idea to weed out the weak. Never mind that few of her ideological kin are savvy enough to know what a book is, much less one with a face; the message was still picked up by the right wing’s big media outlets — Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and crudely scrawled notes wrapped around rocks thrown through windows — and became the talk of the news.

I decided to visit Sarah’s Facebook page, ostensibly to ridicule and degrade her, but couldn’t easily find those links. Instead I found “Sarah Palin,” a “politician” with over 800,000 supporters, someone named “I have more Foreign Policy Experience than Sarah Palin” with over 200,000 members, and a guy who calls himself “1,000,000 Strong Against Sarah Palin” who had not yet lived up to his name with 197,000 members.

To make a long story short, I thought I was making what’s called a “friend request” so I could poke around her site and see even more pictures of her wearing the same red jacket that now seems to be the only clothing she owns since that whole designer kerfuffle. (In reality, I believe she still owns the kerfuffle, a serged piece of cloth inserted next to the scalp to poof a beehive). Instead, I actually became a “fan,” which only entitles you to one-way missives, not the interactive conversation I was hoping to have in which I convince her to abandon the partisan thuggery and become my wife.

After about the third time she mentioned caribou on my “wall,” I figured out how to “de-fan” her, and moved onto the subject of finding long-lost friends and relatives. You start with a search field and the hope that your friend isn’t named something like “John Smith.” Actually, let me back up a step: you really start by having friends and relatives, something I seem to have overlooked in the last thirty years. So you scour your memory trying to remember that guy you biked to Wakulla Springs with in 1973, those nieces you vaguely remember being born in the mid-nineties, and that mother or father who might’ve nurtured and supported you for the first 18 years of your life, but you’re not sure.

Trying to come up with names of people you’ve encountered from over 55 years of living is not as easy as you might think. Roberto Clemente, Gordon Lightfoot and Spiro Agnew leaped immediately to mind, but I think they’re all dead or in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, essentially the same thing. You don’t want to be adding current-day associates to your friends list either — what would be the point of communicating electronically with the deadbeat legal aide who sits next to you every day when you can simply turn to your left and speak to him? (Now that I mention it, I can think of quite a few advantages.)

Gradually I assemble a mental list of people of the past and start sending out friend requests. Sometimes the location where the person lives makes you pretty sure the search yielded the same Paul Dixon you roomed with as a college freshman at Florida State and not the saxophone jazz great or the Nevada attorney general or the Philippine she-male who describes his current relationship as “it’s complicated” (I bet). Eventually, I send out 22 requests and wait patiently for an exhilarating reunion and a flood of wonderful memories or, equally possible, rejection and humiliation.

In the process, there are a couple of fun things to amuse you while your digital stalking proceeds. The first jolt of reminiscence comes with seeing faces you might’ve missed for decades: one old buddy is now a non-smiling poser with an attitude, another has sadly become a mere white-on-grey silhouette of her former self, your nephew-in-law-to-be appears to be a dog. I didn’t realize the “face” in “Facebook” doesn’t have to be your own personal face.

The other thing I enjoyed was the security code exercise designed to keep spammers away. These are the two randomly generated word-scrawls you have to read and re-type as a guard against the cyber-attackers who won’t figure out the character recognition software to beat this system until next Tuesday. Many of the word choices are randomly whacky and would make excellent emo band names: “spandex realtor,” “vital pancake” and “ersatz pancreas” are a few of my faves so far.

Now I’m sitting back and watching the acknowledgements roll in. Every day there’s a new blast from the past, bringing news of grandchildren, broken marriages and failed coup attempts. The subject lines are often a bit awkward — “hey,” “hi,” “remember me?” and “you can be bigger down there in only six weeks” are some common themes — but hardly necessary as a prelude to the fond memories that follow. I’m finally seeing the appeal of social networking: interacting with your fellow man without having to smell or lend money to them.

I’m continuing to learn the ins and outs of all that Facebook offers. I still don’t quite grasp the concept of the “wall,” except that it tells me when my 13-year-old cousin is “lmao eh pi oijp odf jpfd”. I’ve figured out how to upload photos of my vacation and purchase “gifts” like pictures of Britney Spears, two equally unlikely prospects. As I type this line, it’s being suggested that I add Adonis Bouhatab as a friend, even though I’m pretty sure he finished a distant third in the recent Afghan elections. I’ve only tried to “chat” with myself twice.

I figure it’ll be at least another week or so before I run out of recollections and grow tired of looking so far back into the past. I’m already getting the feeling that my next message to my absolute bestest friend from my college years in Tallahassee will be something along the lines of “can’t believe we haven’t ‘talked’ in over 20 years — it’s 2031 already?”

In the meantime, if you want to try your luck sending me a friend request and following me on Facebook, go ahead and give it a shot. I’m the “Davis Whiteman” wearing the blue shirt, not the “Jamie Davis Whiteman” who appears to be a schnauzer.

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7 Responses to “Website Review: Facebook”

  1. Anonymously Secret Says:

    Hi Davis. I’m glad I came to your blog to check out for the latest funny post because I LOVE THIS POST! It’s so damn funny that if I was drinking anything, it would snort out of my nose.

    (Eww. Never mind, forget I even said that.)

    I joined Facebook recently myself too. And my display picture is unfortunately not the actual picture of my face. Instead, I drew a stick girl and made that my display picture. (Though I must admit, my stick girl bears a lot of resemblance to me. I’m stick thin too.)

    My current favourite thing to do in Facebook is taking all the quiz. Thus far, I’ve been told that I should be born in Sweden, that my natural disaster is Tsunami, that I should be born in January and also, I’m apparently Heidi Klum.

  2. Theresa Says:

    Okay. This is TOO weird Davis…Guess who’s face has been popping up on my suggested friend list….YOU!

    Now, it’s not the fact that it’s you….it’s the fact that all these little cyber footprints get connected to each other.

    Perhaps it is destiny that we be FB friends…..I’ll send you an invite.
    Hey added benefit…you can feed your blog into there; it’s a great feature.

  3. thirdcoast61 Says:

    Hey there Davis. I followed your comment to my blog back to yours to see what it was about. I was pleasantly suprised to find you hilariously funny, witty, and inciteful. And I though I was the only over 40 caucasion male on FB. I am going to be watching your blog, it’s what mine aspires to be. Later Scott (Thirdcoast61)

  4. Phillip Says:

    Like Theresa, I was surprised to see you as a ‘suggested friend’ on Facebook, and I wondered who had suggested you, but as Theresa points out, it was probably a computer program. A bit frightening that, but at least it hasn’t suggested Sarah Palin yet.
    Your posts are as funny as ever, I see, and I regret work and my pretensions of becoming a novelist have kept me away from all blogging fun and frollicks, but ‘The Screen’ is nearly finished its third draft and I can now return to your blog manna.
    As to Facebook, I really don’t get it. I receive updates about things I really couldn’t care less about, like ‘X is having breakfast’, ‘Y is happy that one football team beat another ‘ and on and on and on.
    Oh well.

  5. Ian Says:

    I was so overwhelmed with Facebook I had to take a break from it. To begin with it was a great way of staying in touch with a few friends overseas and sharing photos and stories with them, but soon it snowballed. Before long I was having flashbacks to childhood memories from old school friends and for some reason it started to become more burdonsome than liberating. Maybe there should be a Facebook Lite version – keeping it simple.

  6. morethananelectrician Says:

    I use Facebook to interact with some funny people during the day right to my phone. There is nothing like being able to let everyone know when I am being cornered in a public shower by a naked Ed Asner llo alike.

  7. tychy Says:

    uh i used to keep files on all my friends before we had facebook….

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