I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook.
More specifically, I’ve come to love the interactions that are possible within Facebook, and hate the interactions that are prevalent within Facebook. It’s become a loud, noisy cocktail party, one in which the drinks have slowly been watered down more with each passing hour, the music has grown worse by the minute, and the body odor has become pronounced. There’s a few fistfuls of people I genuinely love seeing post on Facebook; they’re witty, articulate, fun to listen to, and almost always have something interesting to say. In short, they’re the life of this increasingly sad party. But it’s become a crowded party, too; I looked yesterday and realized I had somehow accumulated well over 400 ‘friends,’ along with over 1,200 ‘Likes,’ and went to see exactly what my social circle and news feed had become. My 400 ‘friends’ were made up of:
My best friends – the ones I’d call at 2AM to help me move a body. (<1%)
My good friends – the ones I’d call at 2PM to help me get unidentified stains out of a carpet (4%)
My old friends – Illinois neighborhood pals, old college friends, former coworkers, etc (10%)
My virtual friends – people I’ve rarely met, but whose posts I genuinely enjoy for their content (2%)
My school circle – the parents I interact with daily (10%)
My musician colleagues (2%)
My writing friends (2%)
Everyone else (69%)
The non-‘everyone else’ list made up the complete census of people whose time I value and whom I interact with frequently, and, in total, they made up fewer than one in three of my ostensible Facebook ‘friends.’ As I surveyed the rest, I realized that they were, predominantly, friends of friends whom I’d met in one setting or another and accepted friend invitations from, and whom I’d likely never seen again; ships passing in the night, although I did notice that most of them had secured some value from our social exchange, as I’d dutifully gone – at their request – to Like their manuscript, their dog’s Facebook page, their kids’ soccer team page, whatever.
That began my examination of my Likes. To my horror, I found that my Likes were even worse, though, and that’s where I got to thinking hard about my Facebook ‘friends.’
Surveying every Like I’d assigned from 2009 on, I discovered something; I’m a Like spear carrier. Friends have hit me up for three-plus years now to Like their stuff – bands, radio station contests, multilevel marketing schemes, animal rescue efforts of every form (I’m a sucker for those, apparently), you name it, I’m probably good for a Like. In the early days of Facebook, that seemed to be the medium of social capital – if we’re friends, shouldn’t I make you aware of something I like, that you might also like (Like)? Sure!
(I’m guessing this hearkens back to my mix-tape exchange days of yore, when one miscreant or another of my acquaintance would drop by a battered C-90 he’d received from his brother’s roomate’s uncle, who’d bootlegged Blue Oyster Cult at the Rosemont Horizon seven months ago. I, in turn, would offer up my treasured copy of Motorhead playing Hammersmith, with a stern warning that it must be copied and returned IMMEDIATELY, because it was one of those weird metal oxide tapes that were thinner than March frost and half as durable. A week later, you’d both be back together, jabbering about track seven or the rideout, and I liked yours and you liked mine, and we were better friends as a result. Thus was born the Facebook Like; we just didn’t know it at the time.)
Here’s the problem. I’ve almost certainly Liked one or two things per friend on Facebook; as I reviewed the Likes, Facebook was kind enough to light up who else in my network Liked the same page, and it became apparent where said Likes had originated from. And yet, when I sat back in the rosy glow of 3,000 Facebook Likes for Reswyt, I realized something odd; only 51 of those Likes were from my friends.
I’m suffering from Facebook Asymmetric Idiopathic Like Syndrome (FAILS).
I can post a funny picture and get 27 Likes in the space of two hours. Or do a Seinfeldian ‘what’s the deal with airline peanuts’ post about some common gripe of everyday life and get another 30 Likes and 24 comments. But post something about something creative I’m doing, and it’s a FAILS vacuum. Apparently, I’m not alone. My friend Eliza posted something similar on Facebook the other day – that she’d seen fewer than 20 Likes for the launch of her new musical project, total, but 25 almost instantly for posting one of Facebook’s meme-of-the-moment 50s clipart housewives holding a cup of coffee and ranting about something. I messaged her and said, ‘I’m seeing the same thing. This is turning into a public-access minstrel show. If you’re not an entertainer, you’re going to be passed by for more immediate gratification in the next post.’ Yet I was careful to Like whatever the hell it was you said merited Liking; that’s how I have Indianapolis radio station contests and Texas dog show pages and West Virginia U10 soccer team fundraising thermometers on my Likes page. Don’t I deserve the same respect?
So…I’m weeding. I’ve devoted the first five minutes of every day to what I’m calling Facebook Whack-a-Mole. As friends and Likes go by, I’m asking myself: do I still care about receiving this feed? Is this person still relevant in my life? When’s the last time we shared an afternoon, or a laugh, or our favorite beverage? Or am I just carrying a spear for them, dutifully Liking their posts and pages and radio station contests? Because to be honest, this feels a little tired. A little over. A little…done. So while I’m still going to be active on the Reswyt page, I’m dialing back my Facebook involvement on my personal page; I’ve got too much else to do in this life to be part of the minstrel show.
But while I’m weeding, I’m also planting.
And that involves grabbing a few good friends at this particular cocktail party and whispering, “This blows. Want to go down the block to someplace quiet and get a glass of wine and talk?”
Not on Facebook.
What do you think?
Want to come?