My friend calls it “Crackbook” on account of it’s so addictive. And she’s right. Facebook is seriously habit-forming. Once you sign on just for a quick look, suddenly it’s four hours later and meantime, the work in the office has piled up so high you can hardly find your desk.
I just recently jumped head-first into the swirling rapids of social networking. And I’m treading water fast, barely keeping my chin above the crashing waves of digital communication in the deep waters of online information.
Social networking is the way the 21st century communicates, especially on line. Facebook, My Space, Classmates, Friend Finder … there are more ways to waste, er, I mean pass the time at your computer than you can shake a mouse at.
So now, when we aren’t busy thumbing text messages on our cellphones, we can sidle up to the nearest computer and enter the cyber world of prolonged and pointless chit chat.
It’s like opening up the scrapbook or diary of a friend, acquaintance or, better yet, a complete stranger. Perusing their pictures, seeing who they are hanging around with — finding out what they’ve got to say about this and that, where they’ve been, what they’ve been doing and who they’ve been doing it with.
True, anyone on Facebook or any of the social sites can choose who sees what through Privacy Settings, but still, until you get used to it, it feels a little bit like sneaking into a person’s house and rummaging through their photo albums and their personal journals. Which, of course, is way too much fun.
What a difference from the old days when a guy would sweat for three days over phoning a girl so he could take her out for a pop at Tom’s House of Pizza, where he would actually have to talk her to find out who her favourite bands were and whether she liked neapolitan ice cream or not.
Now it’s all on a screen near you, a finger-click away. Thing is, of course, you really never know if the person whose personal life you are viewing online is who they seem to be. After all, if I want to represent myself as a skydiving anthropologist Druid who plays semi-pro lacrosse and looks exactly like Brad Pitt (without the goatee) — no problem.
Point is, you never really know who’s who in the Cyber Zoo.
And come on, do we really have to know that Fred plans to wash his car today or that Cybil’s having a bad hair day? It seems that idle chit chat (is there any other kind?) is the mainstay of social networking sites.
Fred: “Hello everybody! It’s Saturday, and you know what that means! I get to sleep in, except I had to get up early to enter this message, so I didn’t get to sleep in.” (frown face emoticon)
Cybil: “Wow you sure are up early Fred! Especially for a Saturday. Guess what? I have found the perfect nail polish colour! It’s called Happy Fingers Periwinkle, and I just LOVE IT! I will be posting several dozen AMAZING pictures of my fingers as soon as they dry!!”
Brittany: “Brittany is grumpy today, and can’t wait until tomorrow. She hates her job. Here are some pictures of me at my lame job.”
Lisa: “Cheer up Brittany, at least you didn’t have to get up as early as Fred! Check out Cybil’s new nail polish, you’ll LOVE it!! LOL. BTW here are 176 pictures of me and my crazy friends having coffee at Starbucks yesterday! YAY!!”
And like that, times 10,000.
But not all social networking is at the level of a teenage pajama party. Cyber conversation (“cybersation”?) and image sharing is a great way to spread good information about events, current news and to see if your old girlfriend or boyfriend is getting any uglier since he or she dumped you.
But I think I’m getting the hang of it. Yesterday I actually managed to ‘post’ a note to the person I wanted to send it to, without Facebook strangers in Australia seeing it too. But that doesn’t mean I’m ready for blogging. After all, it took me a year or so to figure out that ‘blog’ is short for ‘web log.’ And I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but wonder how all those bloggers find the time to rant, rave and ramble on about every mundane, mind-numbing topic under the sun, most of which nobody has the time or inclination to actually read.
And for those who only have time for messages under 140 characters, there’s always Twitter, the microblogging site that is the internet version of cellphone text messaging. If you actually have a minute or two left in your busy day of intensive keyboard communicating, you can send Twitter messages — called Tweets — to your heart’s content.
But for me, my social networking is maxed out, as they used to say. I guess when it comes to Twitter, you can call me a Twit. Because I just don’t give a Tweet.
Harley Hay is a local freelance columnist and filmmaker. His column appears on Saturdays.