In the last two weeks or so, reporters at all the major business publications have prattled at various lengths about their Facebook experiences, including Matthew Rose at The Wall Street Journal, Daniel Lyons at Forbes, and Brent Schlender at Fortune. Even BusinessWeek‘s Michelle Conlin, who is typically among the first to identify and write about emerging trends, has blogged about joining Facebook.
I hate to break it to you folks, but you are soooo very late to the party. Facebook has been around since 2004. Three years. That’s a pretty long time when it comes to cultural trends and online innovations. So why the heck are mainstream journalists just discovering it now?
Maybe, like me, they initially dismissed it as a thing for teens and the twenty-something crowd, as it was originally intended. Apparently times have changed; everyone seems to be on Facebook, including political candidates and investment advisors. Curious to see if I was the lone holdout, on Monday I googled “Why I haven’t joined Facebook” to see if there was a kindred spirit out there. The search engine actually tried to correct me, asking “Did you mean: why I have joined Facebook.” Interestingly, I didn’t get the same snarky response when I tried it this morning. (You would think the folks at Google would program their algorithms to say “Did you mean: why I should join Orkut, but I digress).
Frankly, I don’t “get” Facebook’s appeal, but I admit that that could just be me. I’m not exactly a cyberspace kind of guy. I’m quite adept at keeping in touch with my friends – I’ve been doing it offline for years. And I have worked out a pretty good system for meeting new people with similar interests. Ready? I chat to people I find at the places I like to go. I recently met this fascinating photographer named Koren on a hiking trip who, in turn, introduced me to a tech wizard named Brian whose company S&A has since hired. As for hearing from former high school classmates? Whoa – no thanks. I didn’t much like them in the first place.
There are other reasons I resist joining the growing throng of Facebookers. Call me old-fashioned, but I like the idea that my entire life is not completely google-able. It’s unsettling enough when employment candidates rattle off the most obscure minutia from our company’s history to show us that they did their homework. I can’t imagine it will be any more comfortable to have them chat casually about photos they saw of my best-forgotten New Year’s Eve party exploits! And I really don’t need the whole world to know that I once innocently went up to a familiar-looking woman at my local Starbucks and actually said to her “You know, I think I know you from somewhere.” (BTW, Brooke Shields is a very gracious woman).
Then there is Facebook’s Bill Gates connection. Even though Microsoft only owns a smidgen of the company, you know it’s just a matter of time before the site is plagued with all sorts of technology problems and outages. As far as I’m concerned the value of Facebook actually should have gone down simply because Microsoft bought into the company. I know that sounds a bit melodramatic, but Microsoft’s products speak for themselves. A more even-keeled Facebook-blogger cites other reasons why its future may not be so bright.
Still, I realize I’m in the minority here. Facebook reportedly is signing up more than four million “friends” a month, so it’s only a matter of time that holdouts like me will be forever banished as online pariahs or social outcasts. Given that even lepers were given their own colonies, perhaps Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg might consider creating a companion site for the unfortunate few who are lacking an online community of “friends.” I’ve even given it a name and created a beta site: Lonerbook.com. (back off Facebook lawyers – it’s just a parody!!)
The rules would be wonderfully simple. You can post your name, but nothing else. No photos, no lists of likes/dislikes, no lists of affiliations, no “poke” buttons to enable complete strangers to give you a cyber pinch on the butt. It’s just an opportunity to announce one’s overall social resistance or rejection.
I think the idea has promise. If nothing else, it at least would give some mainstream journalists some “news” to write about.
8 Comments for this entry
gregoryNovember 7th, 2007 on 9:44 pm
i’m up for lonerbook…. amusing… hadn’t heard of it before your post to techcrunch….
growing up without anonymity is something like growing up in a village in india, it is not so bad, but leads to a different kind of mind…
a generation or two got spoiled in the west…
DianeNovember 8th, 2007 on 10:24 am
Just because someone is on Facebook doesn’t mean that they spend hours of time there each day, or open their medicine cabinet to the world. I use it to keep in touch with certain people and I occasionally even find it amusing to know that an old friend in Hamburg is eating Craisins for breakfast. Personally, I follow a few simple rules:
1. Don’t accept everyone as a friend (If I haven’t met them, I ignore such requests) … As a journalist (or maybe because they like my fuzzy photo), I get a lot of requests from strangers.
2. Don’t poke or prod people, or join dumb-sounding groups that could be leading me to yet another onslaught of advertisers
3. Assume everything I write can be seen by everyone–including my boss (some of the stuff I’ve seen from others is hilariously inappropriate to the point where I can see why online profiles can doom you in a job hunt)
4. Don’t take it too seriously … It’s another form of presence online, and it’s often an interesting one.
Of course, when I start getting messages from friends, announcing that they just bought a pair of Adidas running shoes (as the latest ad strategy would seem to suggest), I may change my tune on this one.
Janice GNovember 8th, 2007 on 11:34 am
My brother should only be as adept at keeping in touch with his family as he apparently is with his friends!
(I’m Eric’s oldest sister)
DanNovember 8th, 2007 on 1:33 pm
Facebook, schmacebook. My kids waste their time on it. My neighbors’ kids waste their time on it. And now it seems as though every journalist with column inches to fill feels obligated to put their two cents in and waste MY time on it. Yeah, I can turn the page, and do, but please, give it a rest. Eric’s right–how about doing a story on something that isn’t so “yesterday”? The journalistic herd mentality is boggling.
ps: I am not Eric’s sister
JMCNovember 8th, 2007 on 2:13 pm
First there was Festivus for the rest of us and now there’s Lonerbook…. life is good!
ps: I am not Erics sister or Dan’s aunt
November 13th, 2007 on 8:52 am
Finally, thank you, a community I can relate to. Me and Bobby Fischer and Theodore Kaczynski and J.D. Salinger – and Eric? Are we connected?
ps: I am not Diane or Erics sister or Dans aunt. I am also not me. I have not been myself lately.
Rick DorfmanDecember 18th, 2007 on 9:48 pm
Eric, Absolutely hysterical…. found you through CNBC… very cool
Bob SerpentiniNovember 13th, 2008 on 10:38 pm
I personally think that you are in denial if you can not keep up with internet social networking. Yes, the preferred method is personal interaction, yet when you are a very social person who travels the world you can not always keep in touch.
I do agree that this may be part of the allure in meeting random people. I always find it interesting when I meet a new person when I fly or some other random interaction. People are drawn to what they don’t know about other people.
People are also drawn to what they can learn about people. The more I find out about people that I hardly know through websites such as facebook, can make me realize that maybe I want to know more.
Any bridge is a good bridge as long as it holds. As many people who have had careers ruined by facebook, twice as many have had them made.
Facebook is like google. Many argued that google was making people dumb. On the contrary, google made information that much more available, thus people did not need to memorize as much material. I agree, if the infinitely redundant capabilities of the modern world somehow all simultaneously crashed, we would be in trouble, however we would most likely all be dead.