Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What I learned on Facebook today

In my unmotivated, emotionally numbing state, I found myself:
  1. ...glued to the Goo Goo Dolls on repeat, the man I wanted to marry since middle school ^^, Jack Cafferty on Sarah Palin, Tina Fey being Sarah Palin, Imogen's latest update, the NYT, and other news highlights
  2. ...in search of a million mindless distractions and consequently landed, quite easily, on Facebook, skimming through pages and pages of "friends" and their various updates, conveniently provided on the homepage news feed by a good number of them who either don't know how to control privacy settings or simply don't care.
I put quotations around the loose term "friends" because I realize that not all of my 300 online connections are people I would necessarily invite to my wedding, or even tell in the first place that I'm about to be married. The latter statement, of course, is just an example - I am not getting married anytime soon - but come to think of it, if I were engaged, would it be sad if an acquaintance heard the news before a close friend, in the event that I was so excited that I updated my relationship status before phoning all my loved ones? Hey, it's possible.

We've been studying Facebook for the past 4 years, and surely this blog has no intention of turning into a poorly organized social networking report, but I remember taking a seminar in the fall of 2005 on the subject, and it's definitely an interesting topic. The course's name slips my mind - perhaps it was something useless and fancy like "The Emergence of the Network Era" - but I do recall reading a lot about Moore's Law, VoIP, online video, and the like, and if my memory serves me well, we were assigned to read Google's annual reports - which, for the record - were fun back in the day, but not as fun as Berkshire Hathaway's. We discussed the impact of social networks, questioned how they might successfully generate revenue ("How in the world will Facebook develop a successful advertising model and will they use our information for evil?"), the possibilities of mobile marketing, convergence ("What a word! It's almost as vague as consulting!"), and so on and so forth etcetera etcetera. What's interesting is how I ended up in that professional space (sort of), but really, we've all become a part of "Web 2.0" (before you roll your eyes, I suggest you first throw a worthy substitute term my way), and our kids...heck, our little brothers and sisters...well, could you imagine them in a world without the Interweb?

So why am I aimlessly rambling about this? Well, there's no point really. Just a little blog chatty, in a very inarticulate, stream-of-consciousness sort of way. Plus, I got to thinking... I suppose there's a report somewhere out there based on statistically significant data that explains the psychological reasoning behind Facebook updates. Perhaps the folks over in Palo Alto have even developed an automated system (er, interns) that categorizes and analyzes status updates... Jane is feeling good today. Jane is feeling bad today. Jane just ate an entire bag of plain M&Ms and is posting this in hopes that someone might care and leave a comment on it! (I mean, they've already got everything from our educational and professional history, to our sexual orientation, political and religious preference, and favorite interests.)

I'm guilty of the same... in fact, I just updated my status earlier tonight. It reads, Cheri has fallen and needs to get back up, but first, dinner calls. I like to think that idioms provide an incredible amount of vagueness, or just enough to somewhat express our inner beings without crying out to the world just exactly what we mean. Now, the interesting thing is that Facebook has (somewhat) recently made it possible for our "friends" to comment on these updates... it is an interactive and participatory world... They've come a long way - I remember my colleague, friend (without the " "), and fellow Facebooker Sam and I in protest over the fact that a status update always required the word "is" attached to your name, making it slightly less convenient to express oneself without awkwardly forcing (if you had a desire to be grammatically correct) third person reference.

I'm not quite sure what makes a person more or less Facebook prone - or how their age, personality, daily habits, surroundings, childhood upbringing, preference towards boxers or briefs, or any other factor contributes to being a certain "type" of Facebook user, e.g., the lurker vs. the active politician. There are those who check it like a bad habit but never respond to messages, those who use it as an all-in-one communication tool (it would have been nice if you called on my birthday), and those who signed up but are too cool for school (or, have a real life, depending on how you view this.)

Then there are those - according to this amusingly cynical (but true to some extent) site - that use this "glorified online rolodex" to satiate social desirability cravings, i.e., Wow, I have 5 million online friends! Half of whom I've met maybe once in my life, the others I don't talk to anymore, and maybe ten percent of whom I actually see in the brick and mortar world. But for most normal people, I like to think it's a great, albeit lazy (cough cough, sometimes slightly fake, sometimes slightly less awkward) way to stay in touch with people and foster relationships. Plus, it's great for dull days in the office - especially those apps! Why do work when you can play a stripped down version of Boggle, or live vicariously with envy through photos of your friends' trip to the Bahamas while you're stuck in a cube staring at Excel sheets or the Bloomberg Market Monitor?

Admittedly, I still haven't gotten used to a few things, like understanding why some of my friends send requests for me to see which Sex and the City character I most closely resemble, or more interestingly... connecting the two worlds. For instance, when a friend says in real life, "Hey, so I heard you had a really fun time doing _____." Pause. "Really? Did I tell you about _____?" Silence. "Um, I read it on your wall." But perhaps that's just the thing... it's no longer two worlds, but one. Cue cheesy, over-the-top music.

But as usual, I digress. As the title of this post refers to... here's what I learned on Facebook today (my commentary in parentheses).
  • A broke up with B (or decided to cancel the Facebook relationship link with his/her significant other - a very tricky idea unless you've got a ring on your finger, in my humble opinion).
  • C and D are now friends. (Great, but who's D?)
  • E can't figure out why it's so hard to wake up these days. (Me neither.)
  • F wrote on G's wall. (Should I care?)
  • It's H's birthday today. (Thanks for the reminder, FB - no really, I mean it!)
  • I is patiently waiting... (One of those vague pensive updates, perhaps?)
  • J made strawberry cupcakes with choco frosting & choco cupcakes with strawberry frosting. (I suppose I should respond with something like, "Mmh, I want some too!")
  • K has a headache...yawn!
  • L is feeling overwhelmed by the global b-day love.
  • M is... bailout plan fails in house 205 yay-228 nay.
  • O is feeling lucky to be alive, relatively unscathed, and able to limp her way into work this morning.
  • P is so excited for Gossip Girl she can barely handle being at work...half serious.
  • Q is speechless after watching the most recent Tina Fey sketch followed the actual clip from Sarah Palin's interview. You just can't make that stuff up.
  • R is at her second week of the new job.
  • S is on a job hunt. Slinging rock and stripping is no longer enough to pay the bills and child support.
  • T jet met Donnie Wahlberg and Danny Wood.
  • U is in Macau.
  • V is in need of a mental break. Candy may help.
  • W is torn in million pieces... but it still is not good enough to...
  • X is getting kind of chubby.
  • Y is "...all the never ending possiblities..."
  • Z is going to Tokyo on Oct 1st and be back on Oct 7th.
Clearly, very stimulating. Of course, all of this information is completely useless and uninteresting to those outside the network. (And even for some in the network.) But the important question is... What's with all the blue, Zuckerberg? Our world is a colorful one, Facebook should be too. (Grey? Pink? Brown? At least the primary colors?)

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