Facebook, an idea whose time has, ah, gone?

HE’S the man! (time.com)

IF you’re one of my 800 or so friends on Facebook, you’d know by now how vocal I am about certain issues, particularly about corruption in government, reproductive health, women empowerment, education and ostentatious display of questionable wealth.

In the same way, I also have an idea what some of my more active friends’ quirks, leanings, hobbies and politics or non-politics are. If I read more deeply between the lines, I can even sniff out those who are flirting with each other. Nothing wrong with that, really, except that some of them are already married.

And if you’re observant and active enough in participating in, even reading through, your friends’ threads like I am, you’d also know how some of your friends’ friends think, thus, giving you a heads up whether to befriend or avoid these people in the future.

Like I have a good friend, both in the real and virtual worlds, who uses Facebook to block people, including ex boyfriends and siblings she quarreled or disagreed with either virtually or on terra firma.

I really find the act and her reasons for doing so funny, even childish. In fact, I tease her about it. It’s as if blocking people dear to her would instantly solve a festering problem or enable her to make a statement similar to ignoring a hated former boss whom you still see lurking around the office.

Hey, the last part sounds pretty much like my story, but I digress.

(I’m using the word friend here, unless stated otherwise, more loosely because, like probably most of you, a considerable number of people in my friends’ list aren’t really my friends. In fact, it would be safe to say that I haven’t personally met a good 10 to 15 percent of my so-called Facebook friends. That’s how, well, friendly I am for accepting their friend requests.)

Fresh and exciting

When it opened its virtual gates to the public some years back, Facebook was the freshest and most exciting thing there was. Of course, there have been other smaller social networking sites like Friendster and MySpace, which have paved the way for Facebook and, later on, Twitter to go mainstream.

EVEN President Barack Obama has one (mashable.com)

But it’s probably safe to say that Facebook has taken social networking to the next level with its unheard of features, which, in turn, eventually attracted more people to its fold.

People begets more people. I’d say, Facebook’s current strength isn’t its numerous and more improved features anymore (given the advances in technology, any startup with enough money and vision can now duplicate Facebook’s methods, even improve on them), but simply the sheer number of  its members.

Sadly, I think its huge membership base has also proven to be its own undoing. I’ll get to that in a bit.

I’m not familiar with Friendster or any of the has-been social networking sites, but, thanks to my good friend Jude, I’m one of the early adopters of Facebook, back when the inclusion of fan sites and adverts and the activation of timelines seemed like figments of some futurist’s imagination.

How things have changed! Back then it was fun, as long-lost friends and even relatives were able to trace each other and reconnect, if only virtually, thanks to Facebook. Later on, they were able to “like” not only a post or comment, but causes, celebrities and even public and private companies and NGOs dear to them.

Facebook was, at first, a venue for groups of like-minded individuals to reconnect and agree mostly on certain people, trends and issues. But as its membership base grew, and its built-in features and programs for connecting friends of friends became more sophisticated, the fun and surprises seem to have gotten lower by a notch or two with each passing season.

Never mind strangers and mere acquaintances making friend requests. You can always ignore them. Although short, almost impertinent real-time statuses can be quite distracting, even irritating, you can also choose to gloss over them, even “hide” stuff from chronic offenders.

FACEBOOK, in the beginning, is as fresh and as visionary as its founder-CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Actually, the last group, which I will call mindless one-liners, should be banished posthaste from Facebook and exiled to Twitter permanently, where they can vent all they want all day about a disagreeable neighbor nobody among their friends know of, or announce to one and all their all-time favorite merienda (afternoon snack) with matching photo consisting of a cup of black coffee and  plateful of five-day old  machakaw.

They don’t even have to describe the heap of grub on the photo. They can just write a short and irritating “luv it!” before pressing the like button. Imagine, liking their own stats and photos. Ewww! To me, that’s like virtual masturbation.

Then, there are also trigger-happy morons out there who do nothing but “like” everything, including your posts about a current health problem, for instance, or the death of a beloved pet. Excuse me, I’m almost tempted to write back to them, did you leave half your brains in the refrigerator or what?

Liking the tsunami

“Liking” has been so abused that Jude nearly had a heart attack last year when he saw 7,000 or so likes on one of those heart-rending images depicting the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan.

When I look back on that, I consider myself lucky because the only appalling likes I’ve encountered so far were hundreds of thumbs-up generated by ugly pictures of my former alma mater submerged in one-story-high floods.

There are also friends who do nothing but give you the thumbs up for every status, photo or link you upload.

FACEBOOK goes public

That’s fine, but to do it all the time without them giving you the slightest hint why they “liked” it can be pretty weird, even unnerving.  For once, guys, I’d like to know if you’re rational human beings with your own opinions or merely second-rate cyborgs masquerading as friends.

EVEN billionaire Bill Gates joins the party (infocult.typepad.com)

But what I really find problematic are friend requests from people you know, but are not really close to for you to consider them your friends. Does that sound confusing?

They may be your dictator of  a boss, envious co-workers, nosy neighbors, meddlesome parents of your child’s classmates, and even former schoolmates and officemates you weren’t particularly close to or fond of even back then.

You know, people you don’t really care about, but are hesitant to ignore for fear of offending them. You end up letting them in and the next thing you know, you get unwanted chatter on your newsfeeds from supposed friends who might as well be strangers.

(Ex-es are special cases that pose a different set of challenges best hidden from your current partner and his or her posse of friends.)

And since your boss, for instance, is there, you find yourself moderating your views, acting smart and writing in complete sentences, lest she gets more bad ideas about you than she should.

Of course, you can make the necessary settings to limit or control those who get to see your naked thoughts and dirty pictures—especially your impressionable children and even your little nephews and nieces.

Lost spontaneity

You can activate all the settings you want, but the initial spontaneity Facebook has become famous and well loved for seems to have been lost forever. And even if you do have control, you don’t have control over what others upload.

A former schoolmate, for instance, once had to explain in tears to her daughter, who was also her Facebook friend, why she was dancing rather suggestively with a man other than her daughter’s daddy. The poor girl was aghast after seeing a video clip featuring her mom on her newsfeed. The incriminating video uploaded by my schoolmate’s mindless friend (also a schoolmate of mine!) was taken during a high school reunion. It was actually a parlor game that paired the “girls” with the “boys.” What was meant to be a fun, supposedly harmless but private affair became public. I’d hate to see the consequences of it going viral.

FACEBOOK’S much-awaited feature, the thumbs down or “I hate your post and your face” button

And after being part of Facebook for quite some time, the novelty of having reconnected with long-lost friends and relatives has also gotten stale. In fact, you might even realize that some of them are a genuine pain in the behind. Like I know a US-based friend who deactivated his Facebook account after being hounded by former classmates in Manila who wanted to borrow money. Rather than say no, risk hurting feelings and be branded mayabang (aloof and/or indifferent), the poor guy simply opted out.

Finally, there are also people out there who are merely content on viewing everyone’s statuses, links, pictures and even threads without saying a peep, much less pressing the like button. The worse part is, they’re neither dumb nor devoid of opinions to share. They’re just happy to be fence sitters. Wala lang.

No opinions

ZUCKERBERG and wife Priscilla Chan (justjared.com)

I met one such person recently, who was beside herself telling me about how she loved my posts and couldn’t agree more with what I say, etc., etc., etc. She was no airhead, mind, but quite a smart, articulate and worldly woman loaded with opinions, stories and funny asides.

When I asked her why she chose to be quiet and how it would have been fun to hear from a like-minded soul like her as we try to prevail and make mincemeat of the “enemy” on certain issues, she merely looked at me and told me matter-of-factly that it wasn’t her thing to tell anyone on Facebook what she thinks or believes in.

In short, she derives her entertainment and diversion from others virtually for free without feeling obliged to return the favor by joining the conversation—a freeloader of sorts with no balls to stand up for her convictions.

Geez, I told myself, these silent, fence-sitting types are much worse than the charge of the “like” brigade.  And their numbers, come to think of it, are legion. At least the latter group makes their stupidity and vapid minds known, but the former is an unknown entity.

That does it, I told myself. For someone like me suffering from chronic verbal diarrhea on every imaginable event and issue happening in society, a seemingly controlled playpen like Facebook has almost outlived its usefulness. Enough! It’s time to reach out and make new connections to a wider world out there. It’s time to start a blog.

4 thoughts on “Facebook, an idea whose time has, ah, gone?

  1. What’s not to ‘like”? I’ve seen a “friend” document her Dad’s illness by posting videos from the time he was admitted till his demise. She probably thought it was a touching gesture for her to let people know her love for her father till the very end. But not for me. I tried blocking her posts, but it somehow sneaks right back in. Give the old man an ounce of dignity, my friend!
    I’ve also seen this article receiving thousands of ‘likes”.
    TAMA BA YUN?!?

    • Well, Jude, as the wise men once said, common sense isn’t really that common in every age and locale. That dead dad’s video has morphed into a virtual ghost haunting people on line, especially those who don’t want to see him. As for Whitney, poor woman. She died many times over for some people’s failure to set up boundaries. It’s probably the only claim to fame they’ll ever have, so they pounced on it. It’s sad and weird at the same time.

  2. Where’s the LIKE button? 🙂

    I guess fence-sitters are happy being FB-voyeurs which is all I do in the few minutes I have to scan FB. If FB is a section of a printed newspaper, what would it be called? Lifestyle or Opinion? Maybe obits, local news, comics or classifieds? To me it’s like a section in a paper, one day I skim through it, other days I read and comment.

    Great work on the blog. Keep it up. It’s on the top of the pile on my Google Reader. 🙂

    PS. Don’t worry about your logorrhea. No long-term consequences for you except to your readers when you stop writing.

    • Thank you, Xandi. Yes, I understand what you mean. There are so many things competing for our attention–career, family, doctors’ appointments, pets, and, in your case, even jury duty. I wonder how it is to be a member of the jury. That’s one thing I would never know because I chose to stay here in the Philippines, where court decisions are decided solely by judges.

      What I mean by fence-sitters are those people who really comb through every nook and cranny of Facebook (I’m exaggerating) and read and pick through other people’s brains without having to share their thoughts. It’s different from skimmers and the generally clueless or indifferent, who would much rather announce, say, their yoga classes and the benefits of certain yoga positions while the rest of Metro Manila is drowning in floods.

      These fence-sitters are opinionated, too, but want to keep their opinions to themselves for reasons known only to them. I’m more nanghihinayang than anything. We have modern-day venues like Facebook and Twitter, so let’s use them by hearing what you have to say. Dang, we only live once in this world. Let’s leave a mark if we can. But then again, that is their choice as opposed to my choice to be more vocal. But I’m also learning to moderate my comments. I think Facebook shouldn’t be the main repository of my views, as others might find it offensive. So now I have a blog (plus the newspaper I write for) and I can do anything with it as I please short of going on a killing spree.

      Of course, it doesn’t mean a thing if nobody reads it. Writers are closet exhibitionists, you know. We thrive under our own definition of the spotlight. Thank you for participating. I’m humbled and gladdened at the same time.

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