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!
The Savior Complex
2 months ago