Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Facebook: Friend or Foe?

Recently, I attended a dinner party where a couple of friends were discussing the possible pros and cons of taking a break from Facebook. This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered this conversation in recent months. In fact, it seems to be downright de rigur these days in Internet savvy circles. The bottom-line is invariably this: while a wonderful tool for sharing stories and insights, staying in touch with friends and family who live far away, and reconnecting with people from one’s past, ultimately Facebook only serves to drive us further apart. Instead of getting together for a night of board games with friends, we play online Scrabble with strangers. Instead of making calls to family members to discuss important life events, we just take the lazy route and post the news as a status update.

I know all of this to be true, and yet I admit that I’ve often scoffed at the idea of a Facebook break. Oh come on, I’ve said, don’t you think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks? Don’t you find that if you really want to see or talk to someone, you still make an effort to do so? I never understood why someone who enjoyed what Facebook has to offer would want to take a break. Lately, though, my position has started to shift. I’ve begun to feel that Facebook might be doing me more harm than good. Here are three recurring scenarios that have made me think twice about the ubersite’s impact on my life:

Wow, I’ve got something really interesting to share! In other news, no one cares.

Countless times I’ve turned to Facebook to post a link to an article that I found interesting, a YouTube video that had me in stitches, or an idea that I wanted to discuss with my peers, only to be met with the virtual-world equivalent of crickets chirping. Hey, I’ve told myself, no big, it happens. But when it happens too many times in a row I’ve started to question myself. Maybe that link wasn’t so interesting, or maybe I’m late to the game and it was already posted by someone savvier weeks ago. Or—oh god—maybe everyone’s hidden me and no one has the heart to tell me. The inherent suckiness of this is made all the more acute by the fact that other people can post that they just sneezed, and receive twenty responses saying, “Wow, you rock! That’s so awesome!” I wish I could be more blasé about it or laugh it off, like a friend of mine who once posted a comment, received no response, and then reposted the comment prefaced by “I SAID…” But lately, it’s not so easy. It stings, and worse, at times makes me wonder if perhaps my friends and I don’t have as much in common as I thought we did.

Check out pictures of this amazing event you weren’t invited to!

Say I’ve recently invited a favorite couple to dinner and been told they’re too busy to socialize at the moment. Or perhaps I’ve repeatedly emailed a friend about hanging out and never received a reply. Then one morning I log on to Facebook and am bombarded with a whole gallery of photos posted by that couple or friend, replete with all of my besties hugging each other, holding drinks, and celebrating some seemingly landmark life event. The captions inevitably say, “Last night was epic, how will we ever top it?!” Or, “You’re the best friends a guy could ever hope for!” Ouch. I can’t help but wonder why I didn’t make the cut.

The funny thing is, in real life it’s likely that I never would’ve heard of this event I wasn’t invited to, and would thus have been spared the indignation and hurt feelings. I’m starting to think it works this way for a reason. Because of course I realize that my friends are allowed to have dinners and parties and BBQs that don’t include me. We have different levels of friendship with everyone we know, and it’s inevitable – and understandable – that I might be invited to a casual friend’s big birthday bash but not her small impromptu Sunday brunch. I know that my friends, family, and acquaintances aren’t out to show me up or hurt my feelings. They’re just posting about what’s going on in their lives. But maybe it’s all a little too much information. Maybe we don’t need to know—aren’t supposed to know—a lot of things that our fellow Facebookers tell us.

Man, I never realized until now that everyone’s life is more fabulous than mine.

Maybe one morning I wake up feeling pretty good about things, despite the endless rain, my sore back, that job I never heard back about. But hey, I’m in a great relationship, I love where I live, my dogs are awesome. Life ain’t so bad. I log on to Facebook and am immediately greeted by photos of a coworker’s recent safari in Africa, or I read a status update about how my friend’s fabulous new husband just took her to dinner at French Laundry, or I learn that a not-terribly-ambitious acquaintance just landed her dream job. Well gee, I felt okay about my life before I went online, but now I see that my existence is entirely pedestrian and fruitless.

Perhaps the hardest part of all this is realizing that it works both ways. If I’ve felt hurt or slighted by others’ Facebook updates, there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ve inflicted some of these experiences on my friends without even thinking.

I was discussing all of this with a friend recently, who made the very salient point that spending a lot of time on Facebook is like reliving high school, a place where we spent five days a week, nine months out of the year interacting with the same group of people. We formed cliques, we joined groups, we made our political affiliations known. We spent so much time together that we all knew way too much about each other. This inevitably led to gossip, fights, allegiances that were quickly formed and just as quickly broken. The popular people got all the attention, regardless of how smart or interesting they actually were, and the geeks and nerds and dorks – the ones with eccentric interests and tastes – got ignored, or worse, openly mocked. When we moved on to college or jobs, all of that changed. We got out into the world and realized that what one relatively small group of people thought or did wasn’t the entire scope of our existence, and we were so thankful that high school was over. But some days, Facebook can make you feel like you never left.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


If you have Comcast On Demand and three or so hours to kill, check out the TCM documentary about Marlon Brando. Even if you're not a Brando fan - or even a big film buff - I can practically guarantee you'll be fascinated.

Brando was a guy who gave so much to life, and to his craft, that by the time he reached his later years he had all but emptied himself out. And yet, he never stopped being Brando - iconoclastic, mercurial and larger-than-life. Seriously, check it out.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Camera No Longer Obscura

I finally got a USB cable for my digital camera, which means I am now able to take blurry, off center photos of stupid shit that only I find amuzing and post them here!

Y'know, like this one.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Aaron Sorkin Is a Tool

I've never watched Studio 60, and now I'm really, really glad. Hey Aaron, how're you liking those sour grapes?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Ohmigod shoes

These shoes rule. These shoes suck!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Wired's Very Short Stories

Apparently inspired by a 6-word short story penned by Ernest Hemingway ("For sale: baby shoes, never worn."), Wired Magazine asked a bunch of writers to submit their own 6-word masterpieces. Some of the results are brilliant, others hilarious. Here's a sampling:

From torched skyscrapers, men grew wings.
- Gregory Maguire

Gown Removed Carelessly. Head, less so.
- Joss Whedon

Longed for him. Got him. Shit.
- Margaret Atwood

Wasted Day. Wasted life. Dessert, please.
- Steven Meretzky

It’s behind you! Hurry before it
- Rockne S. O’Bannon

Kirby had never eaten toes before.
- Kevin Smith

- Harry Harrison

Bush told the truth. Hell froze.
- William Gibson

Dinosaurs return. Want their oil back.
- David Brin

Will this do (lazy writer asked)?
- Ken Macloed

Cryonics: Disney thawed. Mickey gnawed. Omigawd.
- Eileen Gunn

Monday, October 16, 2006

Bring On the Horror Flicks!

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. I love everything about it -- the change of seasons, the sudden crispness of the air, the pumpkin carving, the creative jack ‘o’ lanterns, the scary movies, the limited edition goodies like little candy corn-flavored pumpkins...I could go on. It's just a rockin' good time.

When I was a kid, I loved to go trick or treating. As a teenager it was all about the costume parties and haunted houses. Now I just love to sit around and watch horror films and all those retrospectives like "The Top 100 Scariest Movie Moments." I don’t always love not being able to sleep after a night of bingeing on horror, but overall it’s worth it. Come to think of it, that’s part of the fun.

It’s only mid-October but already some good stuff is starting to pop up on cable, and last night I stumbled across one of my very favorite Dracula flicks -- the 1979 John Badham version starring Frank Langella and Laurence Olivier (!). Now granted, this is not a film for Dracula purists. It's not faithful to the book, the names of the two heroines are switched (god knows why), and Dracula is repurposed from a hideous blood-sucking fiend to a romantic hero of Byronic proportions. Still, the movie really works. Maybe it's the creepy 70s film stock where everything looks really washed out, but damned if the movie doesn't look like it was really filmed in the Victorian era. The score was composed by John Williams (y'know, the Star Wars Theme guy), and it's arguably one of his best -- super dramatic and vampy and over-the-top. Also, the cast is pretty damned inspired. Olivier is the perfect Van Helsing – sad, weary, yet determined. Kate Nelligan is great as the beautiful, headstrong, progressive Lucy that Dracula falls for. Donald Pleasance is excellent as the obligatory man of science and Lucy’s skeptical father. Tony Haygarth is one of the creepiest, bug-eatingest Renfields I’ve ever seen. And, as long as you can get past the disco-era blow-dried hair, Langella is absolutely arresting as Dracula. He’s arrogance, lust and pathos all rolled into one.

Sure the movie is bursting with fromage, especially the “visual effects,” (screeching bat puppets on a wire? Check.) but this is a vampire movie made in the 70s, people! The cheese is part of the charm. If you’ve got cable On Demand, check it out.

Tonight, I’m moving on to “Scream.” Boo!