Thursday, June 17, 2010

Facebook: A Public Service Announcement

I'm going to go right ahead and say it: I have never been as opinionated in my life as I am right now. I have always been fairly passionate, but at the moment I seem to have an opinion on pretty much every subject.

There's a reason for this sudden influx of ideas. Like most things happening in my life at the moment, it can be traced back to that dreaded CFI*. You see, before the Incident I had always been a terribly busy person. It was all study and work and theatre and music and writing and on and on and on. Then, suddenly, I find myself all holed up on the couch scarcely able to make myself a sandwich, let alone any of those other things. I spent a good majority of that time reading about issues and then forming opinions. As a result, I've got opinions coming out of all major orifices at the moment.

Of course, it wasn't the only thing I did with my time. I also watched a great deal of youtube clips and as a result, I no longer have anything resembling an attention span when it comes to movies. If a movie can sensibly be measured in hour units, I find myself wondering, 'Do they have anything closer to the three minute mark? Preferably featuring a pug?'. I could give you a full list of pug-themed youtube clips off the top of my head. I think that when they sell pugs, they come in a deal with a video camera and a youtube account. Which is just fine by me.

Due to the constant thinking, reading, evaluating and opinion forming, the way I use other aspects of the internet has changed. After noticing that I rarely spoke to a huge portion of people on my facebook list, I made the decision to do a mass cull. It seemed irrelevant to have more than a hundred people classed as my 'friends' who I never even communicated with. I even felt used, like little more than a cog in a wheel fueled by self-indulgence and false popularity. So I cut them from the team.

But it wasn't just that. There was also an element of self-preservation. You see, I have this debilitating condition that is unfortunately prolific on the internet. You see people afflicted with this disease on every messageboard, every discussion forum, every corner of the internet that some poor fool has allowed people to comment on. This condition means that if I see someone, anyone, express an opinion, no matter how unimportant, and I think they're wrong, I must say something. I have no choice in the matter; I simply need to call them on it. And, quite frankly, it was getting a tad inappropriate. I mean, when you haven't spoken to your sister in over a year and suddenly you're all up in her internet, informing her that whatever unimportant sentiment she has expressed is sadly misinformed, it does start to feel slightly awkward.

So I thinned the numbers. Cut a few from the team. And it felt good. The more secure, more select shortlist of people. It felt like some kind of elite group. Some kind of elite group whose membership was decided solely by me.

It was a buzz.

After that, I would skim my list of remaining friends every now and then, evaluating who could stay and who could go. I was like the mad and all powerful judge in some kind of awful reality tv show. I told myself that this was all just me being very sensible. I told myself that no longer would I be used to bolster some cockknuckle's gargantuan number of friends. No longer would my friendship be treated as a commodity. No longer would I fall victim to this online popularity contest that social networking has become!

But after a while, I found these deleting "sessions" becoming more and more frequent. I'd had a sniff of the power usually only experienced by Endemol producers and Southern US Governers: the power to kick people out of an elite group at will, with no real pre-requisites other than because I said so.

Soon enough, I found myself looking for faults, waiting for another person to slip up so I could slam my finger down on that button and declare to the world, 'NO FRIENDSHIP FOR YOU'. A power trap that I'm sure more than a few people have fallen victim to since Facebook's inception in the early 2000s, back when it was known as Facemash (seriously).

So I urge any of you, if you start to feel yourself drifting into this pattern, just... just let it go, man. Are you blocking that person because you honestly don't want them to be all up in your business on the internet, or because when someone says something stupid it feels good to punish them, damnit. Before too long you might find yourself doling out timed banishment sentences for minor grammatical offences.

So by all means, delete the jerk who updates three times a day with the same cut/pasted piece of self-promotion. Delete the guy who hasn't replied to your comments in just over 8 months.

But, be careful. Because by the time you realise that you're trapped, it will already be too late.

-Smackie Onassis

*The now standard abbreviation for the Circus Flip Incident. I feel it makes me sound just slightly less ridiculous.