About Face

We Don’t Need Another Friend, but Don’t
Throw the Book at Social Networking Yet

Facebook’s discreet rollout of its Face-Recognition feature, which so incensed its users, shouldn’t have caught anyone without their shirts on, as it just reaffirms a pattern.
After all, this is the same company that just last fall was accused of sending users’ personal information to dozens of advertising and Internet monitoring companies. Then, as now, Facebook’s attitude was less than up-front about it.
The fact that overnight billionaire founder Mark Zuckerberg has a complicate public image doesn’t endear him either. A succession of bad press reports made even his huge donation to Newark’s public schools last year look like he was trying to manipulate the public’s perception about him.
Which doesn’t really matter, if you follow closely the playbook of his own company. It’s all about what it’s arguably perceived about you, not who you are, because, really, who cares?
In this so-called commodification of friendship, to have 550 “friends” who follow you and with whom you chat with on a regular basis without having ever the need to meet them, often trumps five or six “real” ones, that frankly, are a pain in the neck.
What’s then even more remarkable is that most complaints come from FB users, who love to hate its built-in privacy-busting mechanism.
Then again, those not yet converted to the cult of social networking are becoming increasingly insecure as to whether their posture is even relevant. Because, again, who cares, really?
As for the devout, what are they complaining about? At the end of the day, we’re all in this together. You may not be on FB or any other social network, but that doesn’t mean that your personal data is not all over the Internet.
And let’s not lay the blame on the guerrilla hackers, either. Subscribing to even a coffeeshop network these days means that you’re implicitly giving them permission to trade at least some of your data for profit, and don’t tell us you were not aware of that.
So as you can see, we’re pragmatic about it. Which doesn’t mean that we aren’t as preachy and frightened and naive about it as the next person that tells you they want to be your friend. And we give you three examples, in the order of their evolving derangement.

1) The German girl who set up a party and unwittlingly invited 1,500 people. Now, this has already become a FB classic. Even the number of people who confirmed their presence in advance is just about average: 15,000.
What’s intended to be an intimate celebration, “with just a few friends,” always gets to become literally a blockbuster, with stunned parents (the birthday girl turned 16, as it goes), neighbors up in arms, and massive police presence.
A valuable lesson and all that, one would hope. Maybe she won’t be caught into another classic, the office kind: writing a joke about her boss and hastily pressing the Send key, to the whole company. Not before some five years have go by anyway, if ever.
But it can be weirder.

2) The Dutch woman who covered her right arm with tattoos of her 152 Facebook friends profile pictures. Now, we know how advanced are the techniques to remove tattoos nowadays. And they’re not advanced at all.
We also know how painful it is to go ahead and have them removed. Never mind that, she’s probably still sore for having them done in the first place.
The story doesn’t tell her name, and at this point, honestly, we don’t want to know it. We do think we have a pretty good idea about her emotional age, though. And, we’re sad to say it, about the likely rude awakening waiting for her just around the corner.
But it all can be outright insulting. To our intelligence, that is.

3) People who mistake a notorious satirical Web site for the real news. Not just that, who then go on into a diatribe that only reflects poorly on their online credibility.
Which, we insist, is not what’s cracked up to be. Heaven knows that we fell to more hoaxes and conspiracy theories in our time that it’d be fair to admit. And we usually don’t even admit that much, anyway.
The Onion’s “Abortionplex” story, for example, stood out as one of those social phenomena that tell you more about the way some of us are coping and exercising their righteousness on each other, despite an abysmal lack of self awareness, than any Anthropology treatise.
As we watch an inspired piece of anarchic criticism, disguised as a comedic bit and packaged as “real news,” and given what passes as real news, we’re startled to realized how much we enjoyed the add ons, that came after the whole thing went viral.
We particularly go transfixed with the picture that someone attached to the story, the one with the caption, “Abortionplex ‘prep room.'” One of those “we wish we had done it” moments.

But we don’t really know why we’re laughing so hard, really. The way we see it, that’s what’ll do us all in, eventually. And make Zuckerberg and his real friends proud and happy all the way to his private financial institution.

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