Saturday, August 28, 2010

Face It

I have this love-hate relationship with Facebook.  On the one hand I love that I've been able to get back in touch with friends I haven't seen in years, I've connected with new ones, and I can blast out messages to large chunks of people easily.  I've written about some of this before, so I won't belabor it again.  But, as a social networking tool, it's been completely awesome.  However, to all my Facebook buddies, let me just say this now:  if you want me to know something about you or your family, tell me directly.  Do not rely on me catching what you post because I probably won't.  I follow the News Feed almost everyday, and it's not like I've got 1,000 friends like one young woman I know, so you'd think checking that once or twice a day would keep me current on most of my friends.  Not when some of the friends post multiple times in a day, particularly when they're bored.  I'm never bored, but I am naturally lazy and easily distracted, so I glance through the first page of current posts and then I generally move on.  Problem is that many times that only is the last hour's worth of activity, and I miss things.  And that causes honest-to-gosh issues sometimes.

The biggest issue was when the woman who actually coaxed me into joining Facebook in the first place posted an update on her elderly mother on her wall.  I didn't see it, so I didn't know the lovely lady, whom I also have known for years, had suffered a stroke.  I hurt my friend's feelings when I didn't respond or check in with her, but I was toodling along in happy ignorance.  I've thought about that often.  I tend to get really upset when I've hurt someone's feelings (unless I mean to, which - sorry to say - I am occasionally guilty of), so I was stung by her rebuke, but I've thought about this several times.  I really don't think, even after a lot of pondering, I did anything wrong.  Neither did she.  She didn't have time in a crisis situation to spread the word to all her friends, so she plopped up a quick little post.  Reasonable.  Just don't get mad at me if I don't happen to see it.  It's Facebook, not Big Brother.  Or, wait!  Maybe it is...

The other thing, which I've also written about, is the transparency with which you see how many friends you have.  It's hard, particularly if you're not the most self-confident individual, knowing an exact quantity of your friends and then trying not to equate that with your sense of self-worth.  At first I got weird over that. "Oh, what's wrong with me, I only have [xx] friends..."  Now I'm better about it.  As I've illustrated, I've got my hands full keeping up with all my friends as it is.  Yet, if I got that way, how many hormonal teenagers out there dangerously obsess over things like this?

What really threw me was when a couple people dropped off.  Turns out one person shut down his page, but I was legitimately unfriended (is that the right word?) by another.  At first I was horribly hurt by that.  What had I done?!  I genuinely don't know and will likely never find out, but I fully confess that I'm not really sure how we became Facebook friends in the first place.  He knew people I knew and actually friended me originally, but he was extremely religious and conservative.  I am neither.   He was always very polite and sweet, but everything about us was so completely opposite, I speculate he just finally asked himself why he was linked to someone like me and severed the tie.  Once I recovered from being shunned by someone I never actually met, I pondered this side effect of a powerful social tool.  I'm clearly not alone in this.  South Park addressed it even.

But, the thing that I dislike the most about Facebook are the games.  Don't try and get me to play on your farm or joust in your castle.  I did all that at first and a) I didn't get the appeal and b) I nearly unleashed a virus on my computer.  The real Dark Side to Facebook in my opinion is the spyware I'm convinced that lurks in all that stuff.  As a matter of fact, the self same woman who was upset over my not knowing about her mother dropped off Facebook for a while because she was being solicited for products on those ads they run on the side for things she did indeed like, but had never officially tied herself to on the site.  The source had to have extracted information from her hard drive she believed.  Particular music, movies and books that she liked, but hadn't listed anywhere in her profile.  That bothered her so much she just got off altogether, but finally relented so she could keep in touch with her family in another state.  When she first told me about why she was taking her original page down, I thought she was just being paranoid, but one day I gave in to temptation and played some movie game and - BOINGO!  WHAP! ZING! - flashing notices started popping up telling me I'd been infected and to buy this anti-virus software to get rid of it.  According to the messages, I was about to be wiped out!  I have anti-virus software, and hurriedly purchased an updated anti-spyware program.  Turns out I had just unleashed some scary looking spyware and everything turned out okay, but now I've got so much protection loaded on my computer it takes the bloody thing forever to load when I first turn it on.  That was the end of my participating in Facebook's little reindeer games.  This red-nosed reindeer will sit on the sidelines, thank you very much.

Finally, there is the case of the Beantown Brawler.  A month or so ago, whenever it was that Big "Jerk" Ben was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, I got a letter in response to it published.  Nothing provocative about it, I merely pointed out that it was a shame that so much focus was on the team because of the actions of this one individual when so many PGH athletes do wonderful things for the community.  I never said anything about any other team.  I didn't point out how many children out of wedlock Tom Brady had, or why my husband and I call the Oakland kicker Date Rapist.  I didn't even take the easy shots about the Cincinnati Bungals (and no, I spelled it that way on purpose) that I could have.  I was a total Class Act, if I say so myself.  A few days after the issue with my letter hits the stands, I get a message on Facebook from someone styling himself the Beantown Brawler (which I've subsequently been told is after a boxer from Boston many decades before).  He was clearly intoxicated when he wrote it, his written message nearly slurred.  I was going to quote directly from it, but, alas, I deleted it.  However, when I went to log in to look for it just now,  I was alerted that someone had tried to access my page last night, so I had to change my Password.  Great.  Add that to the side that I hate.  But, to return to the story: to paraphrase this extremely crude bad speller:  The Steelers all suck and Ben should be in jail.  The Patriots Rule.  I took the bait.  I shouldn't have, but I responded.  That was a mistake.  It just emboldened him.  I imagine him sitting in his filthy little Southy bungalow, a sea of empty beer bottles at his feet, pounding furiously away at his old computer, just getting more and more worked up with every beer he slammed.  I just lit it on fire. With the second message, he was kind of freaking me out.  I had sense enough not to keep my end up.  He must have passed out at some point, and when he woke up with cotton mouth and a monster headache, he had either forgotten about me or realized what an ass he had been.  I know some other Patriot fans, my money is on the former.  I've never heard from him again.  Yet, as I marveled at how this clearly crude individual had the ability to randomly message me, a friend responded, "Of course anyone can message you, that's how your friends reach out to you when they find you're on Facebook."  Of course that's right, but the ease with which he found my page was slightly discomforting.  From there, is it really that hard to find out where I live?

Bottom line, we live in a transparent world.  If someone wants to find me, they will.  I just hope it's a long lost friend and not anymore Patriots fans.

I will conclude my tour with my limited knowledge of Twitter - it should be a short post, but probably more than 140 characters.

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