Monday, August 24, 2009

addition by subtraction

The problem with social networking is that an addicted person never knows when they're violating codes that affect the enjoyment of others.

It was ironic that, while servicing my facebook addiction, I noticed a link in my friend's commentary that forced a face-to-face with my problem . If it weren't for a conversation with my dad's conservative friend Bob one night earlier, I may have checked myself into a clinic. "Adam, I'm proud of you for reading the news. But don't take everything on CNN so literally, they're biased. You should check out FOX news."

Since I'm not about to go the extreme of actually reading something that tells me I'm wrong in my fundamental beliefs, I just decided a days worth of skepticism of all news would qualify for an effort in diversity. It was a good thing that I did because that was the day I stumbled over my friend's link that described, in detail, facebook's 12 cardinal sins. Among them:

The Let-Me-Tell-You-Every-Detail-of-My-Day Bore. The Self-Promoter. The Town Crier. The TMIer. The Bad Grammarian. The Sympathy-Baiter. The Lurker. The Crank. The Paparazzo. The Maddening Obscurist. The Chronic Inviter.

Of these 11, I could not claim to be a saint. Most of the sins, I'd found annoying as well. Occasionally I'll give too much information, but anyone that's agreed to be my friend should have known that attention to detail, good or bad, is my pride and glory. Even with lapses in judgment in that category, I wasn't peddling the online corner that intersects Sodom and Gomorrah.

Just when I thought it was safe to say I was one of the cooler cats in all the cyberland, I came to the description that jarred me from my perch atop Mount Internet.
The Friend-Padder. The average Facebook user has 120 friends on the site. Schmoozers and social butterflies -- you know, the ones who make lifelong pals on the subway -- might reasonably have 300 or 400. But 1,000 "friends?" Unless you're George Clooney or just won the lottery, no one has that many. That's just showing off.
I hadn't checked my friend count on purpose in a while, but while checking my profile only a few days before had only noticed the number because it was 911. Americans are inclined to notice when a number reads 911, both because it is a number called during emergencies and because of the tragedy suffered on 9-11. In any context, it draws the viewer to stop, the way a red octagon or perhaps a female's nipple hair might.

Not thinking myself to be a show-off, I looked at my reflection in the mirror and realized I was no George Clooney. I'd just spent 65 cents of my last dollar for a Diet Pepsi, later regretting the decision. The 3 Musketeers would have been much more satisfying. That pretty much eliminated the possibility that I'd won the lottery without knowing it.

In a mental tsunami that could only be considered a flashback, I remembered a few facebook friends that I'd met, not on a subway, but on the Blue and White loop that transferred students to and from class at Penn State. People that had agreed with me how ironic it was that 50-cent could not hint at drug use in his songs, yet The Grateful Dead could flat-out say "Driving that train, high on cocaine," and it was considered art. That, my friends, is racism -- Hello Gamblar, my name is Bruce. I too am not a racist, nor am I a fan of those stupid dancing bears. I've done coke once, but it didn't appeal to me.

Another friendship forged through collegiate liberalism.

As that memory faded from the forefront of my mind to the wrinkles in my brain ironed flat by another well known collegiate practice, alcoholism, I realized what must be done. It was time to say goodbye to Bruce.

Not even taking a moment to check my news feed, I began working through the friend list. Along with Bruce there were other drifters, squatters and outliers in my book of allies:
Cuties I'd wanted to date after meeting them at a party, only to find out that sometime between 3 a.m. and noon the next day I'd either pissed away my liquid confidence or realized the lighting at the bar/party hadn't been honest with me.
Former raquetball partners - people that only really gave me pleasure when I hit them in the back of the head "on accident."
Former co-workers; people I'd never wanted to be friends with, but was too afraid of confrontation to deny their awkward overtures.
Friends of friends that were far to fratastic to be considered from any other world than Planet MTV, but were able able to find me a beer college parties.

What a whore I had become. It was time to let go of some customers.

Only one man has summarized perfectly the feeling one gets while deleting these people who you once, at least hoped would be friends. Though George Carlin was talking about erasing dead people from his address book, the emotions involved were eerily similar. The feeling of permanently removing people from your life is one that should never be as easy as the click of an x-button. yet somehow, it's also kind of empowering. World War II might have been prevented if only Hitler had been a facebook addict.

Since I moved back to my home town after college, the deletion project was not a complete demolition.
There were friends from high school that probably wouldn't miss me until they saw my name on the "suggested friends list" on the top-right corner. In this scenario there are two reactions that are likely to occur.

The first is a bar scene confrontation which only leaves everyone uncomfortable, except for the bartender, who's benefiting from serving an extra couple of rounds of make-up Yager.
The second is the one that I've only experienced once, but it chilled me to the inside of my jibs. Only a few days after I'd deleted a Chronic Inviter who had moved from my elementary school in second grade, I randomly ran into her at the outlet mall. Without a thought of her borish dismissal from my life, I greeted her with a warm smile and hello. The look she sent back would have made you think I killed Bambi's mother. So thick was the guilt trip, it wouldn't have poured through a sieve.

I knocked my number down from 911 to 868, effectively ending 43 friendships that had lasted anywhere from six months to five years, even if only hanging by a microfiber on the web. I did not shed a tear.

For spin control, I posted a note on my facebook feed.

"Just cut 42 friends from facebook. If you're reading this, congratulations. You've made the cut, or else facebook just reaaally sucks at making instant updates, in which case if you're offended, then I'm sorry for hurting your feelings but I barely remember hanging out with you."

Though the number of friends had decreased, I hoped that this would only make the friends that I kept feel more valuable in my life. I laid down to take a nap symbolic of a moment of silence for my lost brosephs and brosephines.

When I awoke I was shocked to find that, within the first hour of having left the message, 13 comments had been left. Some were tongue-and-cheek approval but a few were in true appreciation. By the end of a 24 hour period, 19 had commented. Even though 19 was still a small percentage of my friends, it was far more than I'd ever anticipated. The plan had been a great success!

The Great Friend Sacrifice in order to save my facebook reputation hadn't really cut loose people that would have cared, but in some ways seemed to further solidify friendships that had been coming to a standstill. Before I got home from work that night, two more people had added me as a friend. One even said that she read my status while logged onto another friend's status and felt she had to add me. I realized how foolish it was of me to let CNN make me believe that having so many people that I associate with was anything but a luxury.

It was because of this monumental error that I decided, from now on, the only news source I will trust is FOX news. Don't get too excited, Bob. I'm just yanking your chain.

1 comment:

  1. "The Great Friend Sacrifice" taught me a very important lesson. I was the first to comment on your status to show my gratitude for not getting the ax (or is it axe?). Anyway, since I have Facebook on my Blackberry, I get a notification everytime anyone comments on a thread on which I have also shared my thoughts. Eighteen times that night, I received notices from people I have never even heard of alerting me that they also appreciated not being a victim to Michael's massacre. Hayes' new rule of thumb - do not comment on a wall post unless you have something profound to say. One of my friends had a baby this week and my first reaction was to post a simple "congratulations" and then I remember what happened earlier this week. Since I did not have anything profound to say, I stopped in my tracks and figured I would wait until I see her in person. I highly doubt our relationship is severed because I was not one of 10,000 who commented on how cute the kid was or how she did not look like she just got the crap kicked out of her.