Monday, January 24, 2011

An Unpopular View

I'm depressed.

I have no friends.

It used to be that when someone said that they had no friends, they meant it. Twenty years ago, if you had no friends, you either were really, really mean, or you lived in the cabin next to Ted Kaczynski, and you literally had no friends. Today, having no friends means you have only 342 friends, like I do.

The problem is, I don't have 342 real friends, I have 342 Facebook friends, only 42 of whom I would actually recognize if I saw them out in public. About half of that number would actually recognize me, partly due to the fact that my Facebook profile photo is not of me, but of George Costanza from Seinfeld. I wonder if any of those 321 friends who wouldn't recognize me have ever come across Jason Alexander, the actor who played George, and called out my name. Jason hasn't called to complain about this problem, so I'll assume it's a non-issue.

My 21-year-old niece has almost 1,800 friends. That's what got me so upset. I'm more than twice her age, yet she has six times the number of friends that I do. She's nice and all, but is she really six times nicer than I am? At this rate, she'll have almost 4,000 friends by the time she's my age. I'm going to have to "friend" everyone I meet for the next ten years just to keep her from widening the gap.

My thirteen-year-old daughter has begged and pleaded for my wife and I to allow her to have her own Facebook page. Initially we held strong in denying our child her placemarker in social cyberspace. My wife and I cave to just about everything else our children badger us about. Why have we been so unified on the subject? It probably has something to do with keeping our kid on the straight and narrow, not giving in to outside forces that could potentially distract her from keeping her straight A's or other important seventh grade things.

But now I wonder if the message isn't "Honey, we're doing this because we love you," but "Sorry honey, we're not allowing you to have friends." That's probably what she thinks I'm saying. Afterall, kids these days don't talk to each other, they text and Facebook and, well, that's about it. The only real personal interaction that ever happens between these kids is when they ask each other for their phone numbers -- a phone number that is only ever needed for, you guessed it, texting. I wonder how many generations it will take for our hands to evolve to about a quarter of their current size to be more compatible with small phone keyboards for texting. The same way I've been curious about how Neandrathals were able to wear baseball caps with those huge foreheads, centuries from now, children will wonder how those "giant-fingered" people were even able to text on a cell phone. I'm sure some 24th-century science center will offer an attraction allowing people to put their small hands into specially-designed 21st-century gloves that will give you the feeling of having the same size hands my daughter had back in 2011. With the gloves on, you could try to use a cell phone or tie your shoes or thread a needle. It'll be a regular laugh-riot I'm sure.

Maybe my daughter and I really don't need friends. I only had a couple of really close friends until I got married. Then, my friends were the husbands of my wife's friends. That changed again when we had kids. Now all my friends are the fathers of the kids my kids play sports with. So, it really all takes care of itself. Right?

My wife thinks that Facebook is the devil. We used to make fun of people who had Facebook pages. She and I would see people profiled on the local news who were so consumed with social networking that they'd lost their job, their spouse, their house and were currently spending upwards of twenty hours a day playing Farmville and Mafia Wars in a little efficiency apartment with no hot water and a freezer full of pepperoni Hot Pockets. All we could do was shake our heads.

One day I got curious about how this whole social networking thing worked. It might be fun to see what old friends were doing these days. I made a game of finding people I hadn't seen in thirty years. That game stopped being fun almost immediately. A friend (a father of one of kids my son played soccer and baseball with) invited me to join his mafia on Mafia Wars. I reached level 21 in no time and was starting to build my own mafia when I realized where this was leading -- a social networking rabbit hole. I splashed a big glass of cold water on my face to help me snap out of it. My mafia has been neglected for almost two years now. I'm sure they miss their godfather, but I needed to remove myself from the world of online organized crime before it consumed me too. I could handle sleeping in my kitchen. I just don't like Hot Pockets.

After my self-induced intervention, I use Facebook as I'm sure it was intended, to play online poker and promote my blog. It's harmless really.

So, I made the decision to allow my daughter to have her Facebook page. My wife is not really happy with the idea, but I explained about all the security options she'll have so only her friends can access her information.

Upon hearing the news, my daughter sprang from her chair and gave me a big hug.

"Now I won't have to end up being a friendless loser like you! Thanks Dad."

I'm sure she meant to say something else. I'm also sure she forgot that I have a 342-friend head-start.

That's all the motivation I need. Look out world, I'm about to become popular.

1 comment:

  1. So that's why you friended me today. Just kidding.
    My biggest issue (beyond the way the games can suck your life away) is how easily teens fall into the rude world of cyber-fights and bullying. Texting, posting, messaging things they would never say to another's face. Fingers fly across keyboards faster than the teen can think and in an instant damage, sometimes irreparable, is done. As adults we need to remind our children that contrary to the old saying, words do hurt. Well, ttyl, I have to go tend my crops.