On the surface, Facebook is a narcissistic distraction from dailylife
. It provides a cross between the mindless absorption of the TV setand the obsessive self-involvement of the bathroom mirror. It alsoprovides a voyeur with enough material to last a lifetime. The minutiaof status updates, pictures, videos, top ten lists, interest groups,invitations, and games, this is the white noise of Facebook constantlybuzzing; a social hive for restless young (and mid-life) Americans toretreat to; a place where, at least momentarily, we feel less alone andmore connected.Over the years, the lost figures of my past, lovers, classmates,fraternity brothers, even downright enemies, have slowly accumulatedonto my friend list. From kindergarten on, these lost figures werecoming out of the cyber woodwork to greet me. My typical Facebookreunion is one of unanticipated glee or terror, depending on thememories and the length of the conversation.High school acquaintances, girls I befriended at summer camps, oldteachers, some of my parents’ friends and a couple odd relatives havefound their way to my profile; the friend list grows over time, formingan interesting social mosaic.Of course, these people are my friends only according to the looseFacebook taxonomy. Some of them I haven’t even met before. Someare in fact strangers. Others I’ve met and known for vast chunks of time, but honestly, I never really cared for them. And finally, a largegroup of my Facebook friends seem to fit the term, but only partially. Yes, we were once friends. But for last ten or fifteen years we haven’tsaid a word to each other much less knew the other person stillexisted.What about my real-life friends? Ironically, most of them are not onFacebook! They refuse the technology like children refusing treatmentin a dentist’s office.So I’m keeping up with a handful of people whom I call my “friends”and who fit the bill better than anyone else on the list. We’recommunicating to each other every five or six months on the weakestpossible thread—doing a sort of call and response to the most generalof questions, “How’s life?” or “What are you up to?”
I ask myself: Could I live without these exchanges?
Could I livewithout the photo updates? Do I really need to know what my ex-girlfriend’s husband looks like?