Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Exorcising My Facebook Demons

I bitterly created my Facebook account two years ago so that I could look at some pictures a friend of mine had posted there. I say bitter, because here I was compelled to sign up for yet another faddish social networking site. I was already on MySpace, Friendster, LinkedIn, and was constantly prodded by friends to approve me, approve me, approve me, though I utilized none of these sites myself. Why did we need another "look-at-all-my-friends" tool? What was so special about this one compared to all the others?

I don't have an answer to that last question, but Facebook has obviously demonstrated a certain staying power, and somewhere in the intervening years I went from skeptic to raring horse at the starting gate, all but pissing myself to start hunting down people I hadn't seen in years.

It wasn't so much that I wanted to revive contact with them. I just wanted to peer voyeuristically into their lives. To justify this kind of behavior and the amount of time I'd inevitably dedicate to it, however, I needed a practical excuse, and now that I have my excerpt posted on the blog, I had one. I wasn't spying on old acquaintances, I'm just promoting my book.

Many friends had found me over the years but I resisted seeking out any friends myself until late Friday afternoon. Thus, I don't have to tell you how I spent most of my Saturday and Sunday.

Things ramped up pretty quickly. I started by using the "People you may know" tool which makes guesses based on mutual friends between the Facebook-friends you already have. A useful start, but my appetite grew steadily and this was hardly cutting it.

The real juice came from poaching friends of my friends, and truly it felt like I was stealing them, not sharing them. And it felt good. As the confirmations came back and I watched my network total climb ever so steadily toward 200, I grew frenzied. I wrote on walls out of decency but it was hard to pull myself away from the name search and picture viewing. I was now "friending" people from high school I hadn't seen in ten years, and with the memory of them still fresh in my mind the photos they displayed on their Facebook page were like a time warp. The people who had grown decidedly unattractive fascinated me just as much as the people who became striking, who in turn fascinated me just as much as the people who stayed exactly the same. There was no photo I did not find mesmerizing.

I was on a roll now, and grew angry when confirmations didn't come back instantly. I was Arnold Schwarzenegger begging of the Predator: "Come on! Do it! Approve me!! Approve me naaugghww!!!!"

I grew even angrier whenever I discovered that someone I searched for did not have a Facebook profile. They were holding me back, hindering my network magnitude. What was wrong with them?

After scouring every list of every friend I sent another Facebook application to infiltrate my e-mail address book and --- rapture! --- a whole new world! Keystones into untapped networks I hadn't even thought of --- old jobs and intramural teams, non-credit classes.

There was no stopping me now. Not even ex-girlfriends or brief flings were off limits. I observed that some of my friends had networks 500 large or more --- it plagued me. How did they do it? What was their secret??? I was obsessed, and getting a little out of control. Now I was friending people I hadn't exchanged more than ten words with, ever. Clicking "add a friend" became such a reflex I was starting to make bad calls. Sometimes really bad calls. "Oops," I would mutter to myself as I emerged from my intoxicated haze, realizing with awkward shame the person I'd just inserted back into my life.

It was a wild ride, but by Monday the confirmations being returned were down to a trickle, and I had exhausted each and every friend's network. Today I can sense my honeymoon with Facebook is wrapping up, and I'm relieved that my addiction promises not to extend long into the future.

And, true to my original intent (I swear), I've been posting links to my new blog entries and it's getting some people over here. Nice!


Tim said...

Jim you should consider adding a link on your blog so that we your faithful fans can post your blog posts to our online social network profile(s). This might help promote your book and-although its apparently no longer a priority-help get you new friends.

Manic Mom said...

I am frightened of Facebook. I hear it's so addicting. Should I go there or not?

Loved your recent comment on my blog!

Manic Mom said...

OK, I'm hooked--send me one of those invite thingies and I'll join Facebook. I need to get with the program. I'm on myspace, but it's doing nothing for me!

Can you do an invite thing to me at manicmommy@comcast.net? Is that cool?

Thanks, and hope the novel writing is going well! I just took a look at my second ms for the first time in about seven months the other night! I gotta get crackin on it!

Jim Cooney said...


Good idea. How'd you find me Tim? Any chance this is Tim A. from Kearny???

- Jim

Kelly said...

Jim - I have 500+ but it's not because I'm likeable, it's because my family moved me regularly (4 hometowns), I went to college and grad school (3 total), I've had at least 8 jobs since college, and I have all the friends of friends I've met what with all my activities (like the way I know YOU!) Plus I already have about 20 of my 60 relatives on Facebook. Don't be jealous ;)
I added you to my RSS so I'm watching you :) --Kel

Jim Moss said...

Wow... I'm really not sure how to feel about being the friend who pulled you (bitterly) into facebook kicking and screaming to see my pics (atleast I'm pretty sure that was me).... I guess I'll go with honored (the alternatives are not so attractive). Hopefully beyond my editing this in small part will lead to an even larger Max Underground fan base!


jim cooney said...

Jim M.: Take a bow! The credit for getting me on facebook is all yours. I have full confidence that I'll be counted among the first of a new generation of authors that used social-networking tools to promote their fiction. When I am recognized as such, I'll always be sure to thank you for "dragging" me.

Kelly: Are you sure you don't have 500+ simply because you're totally awesome? I thought it was because everyone thinks you're totally awesome. I think you're totally awesome.

DMB said...

hahaha this is exactly what my facebook experience was like in the beginning! I'm putting your blog in my little google reader, currently home to about two dozen crafting subscriptions that I am completely obsessed with. Three cheers for the internet! Oh and in your free time, could you please write me a little story about a magical fairy penguin princess? I think there's a market for that type of story, I haven't found a good one yet! :)
-DianaBrown! (I'm pretty sure you guys only know me by my full name because that is how Jeff refers to me HA!)

Anonymous said...

oh, btw..i'm gonna friend you today. Later, when i get home from work, because i can't access facebook from work, because apparently my boss thinks its a timewaster... (god i hope he doesn't find out about this website, i'll be blocked from that, too..... )