Out Of The Loop? Get Your Facebook On

Published in The Ferndale Record-Journal, June 9, 2010

If you live and breathe, even if you don’t spend much time on a computer, you’ve heard of Facebook. If you have an account on the popular, social networking site, you probably can’t stay away from it. I know this from experience.

Users can catch up with current friends, discover old acquaintances, play online games, join clubs, post photos, and build an online presence to share with others. It’s easy, it’s fun, and it can eat up your life in seconds. Well, more like hours.

Facebook is built for those of us with the attention span of a doorknob. It caters to the instant gratification reflex none of us are very proud of, but all seem to have.

I, or someone I know, posts a status update and within seconds there’s a thread of comments from friends all with something terribly clever to say about it. The upside is that it’s an easy conversation with friends. The downside is that it often deteriorates into something you never meant it to be.

For instance, I can post “I feel blah today.”  Almost immediately, and without any coherent segue, there can be nine comments, some of which concern the mating rituals of an African dung beetle.

It doesn’t seem to matter, though. Most humans crave interaction, and Facebook is the definition of it. And the fun part is you can do it from home in your jammies.

The real danger here is that it can easily become your whole world, and you begin to think it’s necessary, even crucial, to check in from moment to moment to see who’s online, or what your friends are saying.

“OK. It’s been four minutes since I checked Facebook,” you think. “I wonder if anyone made a comment on my status? Maybe Floyd posted pictures of his vacation to Albuquerque, or maybe someone offered to help with my Farmville, Aquarium, or Mafia Wars? I wonder if I have any friend requests?”

Four minutes. Sometimes seconds. This is what happens—really.

When octogenarian actress Betty White recently graced Saturday Night Live, one of her first comments was about the Facebook movement that finally persuaded her to host the show. Admitting she didn’t know what Facebook was, she said after learning about it, it sounded like “..a huge waste of time.”

Oh, Betty. If only you knew.

To maintain any sense of follow through with daily responsibilities, here’s what I’ve resorted to.  I get things done by rewarding myself afterward with a trip to Facebook, or a game of Lexulous (one of myriad online games the site offers). Then, when I accomplish something else, it’s back to Facebook. Rinse. Repeat.

It’s not totally decadent, though. Connecting with friends from a lifetime ago is thrilling. Being aware of what’s going on with my children and grandchildren is a definite perk. There are inspiring posts, worthy causes, and important announcements.

I can do without those who always (almost without fail) have something negative to share. Or, people who use the bowel habits of their pets as compelling updates. I wish this were a lie.

A huge waste of time?  It can be. But mostly, it’s just plain entertaining. It’s a little like peeking in someone’s window, except you’re invited.