So, what is Facebook? Let's rewind a decade. In 2000, since it marked the ten year anniversary of my high school graduation, I wanted to find out if my high school graduating class was having a reunion. At the time, only Classmates.com existed. However, it was a paid website. I did pay to use it occasionally, just to be able to read messages from people. I had some success reconnecting with classmates, not only the ones I knew at Clarkston (where I spent my Junior and Senior years), but also at Fulda American High School in Germany (where I spent 8th through 10th grades). The problem with Classmates.com is that nobody wanted to pay to use it. I haven't been on there in ages. Does it even exist?
A couple years later, I created an account on Friendster.com. I also heard from some classmates through this website. Mostly, though, it was a pretty boring website. I wonder what the creator of Friendster thinks of Facebook. Probably goes to bed every night cursing the more successful successor. If it still exists, someone needs to pull the plug on it. Sometime in 2004 or 2005, co-workers started raving about Myspace.com. It took me awhile to set up an account, because I already had Friendster. Why would I want another one? But in 2006, I did set up a Myspace page (which I still use, mainly as a link when I respond to personal ads on Craigslist so that the ladies can see my pictures). It was okay and served its purpose. My problem with it was that I soon became inundated with requests from skanky ho's with x-rated pictures. Why would I want to become Myspace friends with them? In 2007 or 2008, friends and co-workers kept pestering me to join Facebook. I was leery about joining yet another networking site. People swore to me that it was much more user friendly and a whole lot better than Myspace. Still, I resisted.
Until November 2008, when I received a lot of emails from former classmates of Fulda American High School, including one friend I had considered one of my best friends in the tenth grade and whom I had been wanting to reconnect with since the mid-1990s. Even more amazing, in 2008, I had been thinking a lot about 1988 and wondering about the old friends I knew in Germany. Where did everyone end up? Since graduation from high school, I pretty much lost contact with everyone I knew in Germany. Now, I was receiving friends request from many of them? Awesome!
There are a lot of critiques and real concerns about Facebook, especially when it comes to privacy issues. However, people who are overly private or paranoid don't have to use it if it bothers them that much. For me, I consider it an awesome connection tool. My fear about joining was that after I uploaded my photos onto the site, people would flock to the next great networking site, abandoning Facebook in droves like many did to Myspace. I think I might have had as many as 45 friends on Myspace, but it has dropped down to 15 the last time I checked. A lot of people deleted their Myspace accounts. I may do so, once I'm done responding to personal ads on Craigslist. For now, because Craigslist sends emails back if the photos take up too much memory, its just easier to send a link to my Myspace page. With Facebook nearing the 500 million members mark and being one of the three most popular websites (Google and YouTube are the other two), I don't think its going the Friendster route any time soon.
The logo above is interesting in its simplicity, but well recognized these days. Good logos are hard to dream up, and I think this one is pretty brilliant. One of the things I love about Facebook, is that I have a place online to upload my photographs in separate digital albums, which family and friends can see. One thing I always hear when people lose their homes to environmental disasters, photographs is probably the most cited items that people lament losing the most. In the Age of the Internet, now if we lose the physical copies of the photos but have them online, the loss won't be as devasting. I don't have all of my photos digitized (one of my many projects), but the ones I have on my Facebook represent a good variety that I'm happy with. What I'm not happy with, though, is the idea that Facebook could use the photos without my permission. Of course, any one on my Facebook list could save my photo into their files if they want, without telling me. That's a small price to pay for being in an open community. I'm not as paranoid about privacy as some people are, though. I honestly don't care what people know about my opinions.
However, as the number of Facebook friends grown (I'm currently at 211), it took a long time to reach the 200 mark. Each time I gained a FB friend, I'd also lose one due to one of my status updates or links from the Huffington Post that were too "liberal". Only one person emailed me to tell me why she de-friended me (I was "too toxic" to her tender soul). Each time I see a drop in number, I wonder who de-friended me. Its frustrating trying to figure out who did. I usually figure it out later, though. Such as one guy who was my rival in the 8th and 9th grades. I knew we had nada in common so it wasn't a big deal that he de-friended me.
The mini reunions, though, are the best and often make my day. A month or so ago, around the time of the trial verdict against the organization I work for, I finally made contact with the guy who was my favourite volunteer leader with this organization when I was a teenager. I've been trying to get in contact with him for decades! We exchanged a few emails to catch up and now he's part of my friends list. Its hard to imagine that when I knew him, he was in his early 20s. He seemed a lot older to me.
Another recent addition to my Facebook friends list is my cousin Brandy, who I tried to get her to join Facebook last year when I saw her at our grandfather's funeral. She was my grandparents' third grandchild and first granddaughter. I love her wit. She is hilariously funny. She used to be terribly shy every time our families got together, and I'd have to do silly things to make her laugh. But it made her parents think that boys were idiots. Her sister is a year older than my sister. Anyhow, its good to reconnect with Brandy. When I started watching "Mad Men", the character Joan reminded me quite a bit of Brandy. Similar mannerisms, body type, and way of speaking.
A couple weeks ago, I had received an email from some guy whose name I didn't recognized. He asked me questions about my time in La Maddalena, Sardinia. Once we established that we were there at the same time and Friended each other, it was an amazing experience to see pictures of a familiar face of a person I had completely forgotten about. How does that happen? I don't remember much about him, but when I saw his photo, all I remember is that I thought he was a cool guy. On his Facebook list is a certain lady that I was once smitten with until I learned her game and then almost filed sexual harassment charges against. I checked out her picture and she has not aged well at all. I thought of requesting to be friends with her, but then I saw on her wall that she has a huge Obama countdown calendar. Its counting on Obama being a one-term president. Figures that she's a conservative. I didn't talk politics much on my second ship, the USS Simon Lake. I was more interested in the ladies, because Italian women were just too hard to figure out.
Speaking of ladies, I also had a Facebook reunion with the lady I was interested in during my time on the Simon Lake. She was engaged to another sailor who was stationed on another ship stateside. That marriage ended up in divorce. We spent a lot of time together, and I learned just how small the American community in La Maddalena was. On my date with this lady, I had changed on the beach into shorts so I could swim in the Mediterranean. Somehow, word of that got around the ship. I had changed clothes on the beach! Oh, the horrors! Anyway, she's on her second marriage now, to a much older guy. She still looks incredible. I recently learned that she's a fan of Glenn Beck. That's sad to discover.
Facebook has allowed me to reconnect not only with old friends from high school and the Navy, but also with girls I once dated or ones I had major crushes on. This is actually a good thing, because there was a time a few years back where I was lamenting some lost loves and wondering what they were up to. Now that I have a Facebook status update relationship with them, it has dissipated my old feelings for them. That's a good thing. Pining for lost loves is not good. I'm still seeking out lost friends, by going over old Christmas card lists, old address books, yearbooks, journals. There are a few who have disappeared and I'd love to reconnect with them. Perhaps someday. Since I've been on Facebook (November 2008), I've had numerous mini-reunions. It definitely makes my day to reconnect with an old friend or colleague or classmate. I've read that Facebook kind of makes class reunions anti-climatic. Now, when high schoolers graduate, when they promise to keep in touch, they actually do! Just add them to their Facebook friends list and they'll be able to check in whenever they get curious. Its kind of weird to be able to carry your personal network with you from high school graduation through college through your first career. The younger generation that does this are deprived of the joys that a reunion after many years of no contact brings. For this reason, I'm glad that Facebook wasn't around twenty years ago. Its nice that it came about between my tenth and twentieth anniversary of high school graduation. I probably will never go to another high school reunion (the tenth was enough for me), but Facebook means I don't have to.
As one who was good about keeping in contact with people through the ancient art of handwritten letters, I realize that Facebook deprives people of that, as most do not write letters. However, this useful networking site does a great job at keeping people connected. Many people on my friends list don't often go on there and post status updates. The ones who do write something, I enjoy reading and even debating (see previous posts where I post my intense Facebook debates). My goal is to be as witty as possible in most of my comments. The lady from church who defriended me did not get my sense of humour. She was too rigid to tolerate a different viewpoint than her own. Her loss (she's still Facebook friends with my sister).
In the Time magazine article, I liked the description of the website: "Facebook makes us smile, shudder, squeeze into photographs so we can see ourselves online later, fret when no one responds to our witty remarks, snicker over who got fat after high school...." Absolutely right on. I do "fret when no one responds" to my witty remarks. Glad I'm not the only one!
So, those who nitpick over Facebook and lament the loss of privacy or worry about Big Brother knowing too much about us through our commentaries, well, I think like everything else in life, there are pros and cons. We just have to weigh them both and see which means more to us. I think its great that people are connected through such a site. Sometimes I worry if my comments are taken the wrong way or go overboard. Naturally, if my friends number drops, I have a good sense of what caused a person to defriend me. I've only defriended two people and it was because they violated a core principle of friendship (using personal information I shared a decade ago to get back at me because she did not like my political comments in an intense debate; and spying on me at work and tattling to my supervisor). I don't defriend based on a difference of opinion. When I used a Facebook feature to get a sense of my friends political leanings, it was split exactly 50-50 liberal-conservative. This result did not surprise me. I never let politics get in the way of friendship. Even if its frustrating at times.
Can all my comments be used against me? Sure. So can this blog, if someone really wants to do that. However, I believe that it is important to be honest with one another. This is who I am. My blog and my Facebook status reports and article links. I'm not afraid of Big Brother knowing "too much." What are they gonna do? Rendition me to Guantanamo Bay to be waterboarded by Dick Cheney? Ha! Bring it on, bitches! I'm ready for you. The point is, I don't worry too much about a loss of privacy. If my comments can inspire people to think differently or make a friend laugh, that's all that matters to me. One thing you can count on for sure, though, is that I won't do any TMI status updates about bathroom or bedroom habits like certain friends of mine. Some things simply aren't meant for sharing. Seriously.
See you on Facebook!