My secret love affair with Facebook began in the spring of 2008. I was coy and cautious at the start, not knowing how the rules of social networking engagement played out. It was a curious voyage into unknown territory, not unlike my most recent experiences with wedding planning (shoot me). To be fair, I wasn’t exactly unfamiliar with social networking. I dabbled briefly in MySpace, before the pleading garage bands and humanlike robots completely took over. And it’s true I rather enjoyed my short stay on MySpace, but something bigger was calling; something far more engaging.
“Nobody is on MySpace anymore, Eric,” I was told. “Facebook is far better!”
So I took an apprehensive peek. You have to understand, I hold out on all things technology until they’re rendered nonessential. It’s not that I don’t appreciate what technology can do for me, or even that I’m too “hip” or “indie” to latch on like everyone else. I retain this underlying fear of becoming totally infatuated with my new gadget, be it a cell phone (honestly, I bought one only a few years ago) or a flat screen television (again, just picked one up a few months ago).
To get started on Facebook, you are asked to create a profile. I took a few minutes to jot down high school and college information, former residences, previous jobs — things of that nature.
Facebook staffers then informed me I needed a profile picture to really get things rolling. Slight problem. I’m not exactly the most photogenic man on the planet. I poured over several old albums hoping to find a few good photos, until finally I was satisfied with a handful of long distance, side angle shots. At that very moment, another Facebooker was born.
Oh my, they weren’t kidding. Nobody is on MySpace because everyone is on Facebook. I found old buddies, old buddies found me. Family members came across my profile, and I was truly jazzed to be linked up again. Classmates I never had interest in submitted a friend request, and I figured, sure. Why the hell not? We’re all just one big happy Facebook family anyway. Just about everyone left this message on my “wall” in the beginning: “Welcome to Facebook. It’s about time.”
I was having so much fun being a part of the grandest social networking experiment the world has ever known that it didn’t dawn on me until after the fact: I’m shamefully hooked. Hooked on the constantly evolving updates. Hooked on the old photos from our awkward stage (the first one). Hooked on reconnections and the sheer pleasure of being nosy. Hooked on Facebook.
Facebook has its appealing qualities, many of which I’m sure my fellow FBers (if you don’t mind the label) are aware of. For starters, I’m there in Internet spirit when kids are born, knots are tied, and when epic overseas vacations are had. We reminisce on days gone by, how fast the time has passed, how big our beer bellies have become. We’re simply there for each other. Kind of.
But when does too much “catching up” become an obsession? CNN health writer Elizabeth Cohen asked this very question in her article “Five clues that you are addicted to Facebook.” For the record, I didn’t meet any of the five criteria. Whew.
I’ve begun to re-evaluate my relationship with Facebook, and for good reason. None of us want to become the distracted parent or zoned out colleague, more concerned with an online fantasy world than reality. At least I hope we don’t.
Besides, things are starting to get a little weird for me. I recently received a friend request from somebody I thought I should recognize. I asked where I knew her from. “I was the girl who threw up on Ron’s porch that one night, remember?”
Nothing like a classic reconnection.
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