Voices

Facebook wants to be my friend

When I awoke on Saturday morning I had four or five close friends; by the end of the day I had 50. A few days later I had over 100. Yes, that’s right, after years of resistance, I finally joined the Facebook revolution.

Surely it’s no coincidence that this month Facebook became the most popular Web site in North America, surpassing even monster hit generator Google. I’m pretty sure I was the site’s 400 millionth registered user, but so far I haven’t received a T-shirt or a coffee mug, nor have I been asked to appear on Good Morning America.

My initial reluctance to dive into the ocean of Internet connectedness stemmed from the fact that I already sit in front of a computer too many hours each day. Facebook, I reasoned, would only tether me to my desk even longer. But when a local author I know and respect told me Facebook was an invaluable marketing tool for her books, I listened, because I’m hard at work on a book of my own. So, with my 20-year-old son as my guide, I plunged into the 21st century.

One week later, I wonder how I ever lived without Facebook. I’ve caught up with my brother in Tel Aviv, my niece in Ukraine and my sister in Wenatchee. And I’ve learned things about my friends that I couldn’t have discovered any other way.

For instance, when I saw a friend posted a request for power tools, I thought perhaps my husband could help. However, further reading revealed that the tool requests were part of a Facebook game called “Mafia Wars.” A disturbingly large portion of my male friends are declaring “beefs” with people left and right. I really don’t want to know why they need things like shipping containers and acetylene torches.

Even more bewildering were the notices I received from female friends involving “golden mystery eggs.” I’m a strictly urban chick, and the fascination my friends have with something called “Farmville” confuses me. And games aside, I’ve found far too many people are calling Rosemary the Love Psychic.

I’ve learned who had spicy chicken tacos for lunch and who is looking for the perfect beef short ribs recipe. Of course, I also read about who baked cookies, who went for a run, and a gruesomely graphic account regarding the progress of someone’s cold. But those comments were balanced by scintillating stories involving workplace vomit, fried eel, and messages from God regarding housework. I’d have to watch a week’s worth of Dr. Phil to come up with stories like this.

As I navigated the Facebook world I came upon a curious phenomenon. Some folks never post status updates. They merely comment on other people’s pages. “Facebook stalkers,” my son explained. “They just want to know what everyone else is doing.”

I took particular delight when pictures of folks I know would loathe each other, should they ever meet, appeared side by side on my page, under the heading “Friends.” If only life could be so simple.

On the other hand, I’m told some add folks to their friends list for the sheer satisfaction of “unfriending” them. This is our brave, new world.

Then there’s the matter of workplace efficiency. In Sunday’s paper, Tom Sowa reported that slightly more than half of U.S. businesses block office access to Facebook due to concerns about reduced productivity. It’s a legitimate worry. However, not all accusations against the site are accurate. According to Facebook, a British professor’s allegation that the social networking site is responsible for an increase in syphilis in Britain is untrue.

In a story at FOXNews.com Facebook responded thusly, “Facebook is no more responsible for STD transmission than newspapers are responsible for bad vision.”

Whew! That’s a relief. As to my own concerns about Facebook keeping me tied to my computer, I’m pleased to report that like all programs, the site comes with a logout button. And I can logout anytime I wish. Really.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists.


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