categories: Cocktail Hour
I came to Facebook as a visitor to a foreign planet, an American visitor, with little sensitivity to the mores of the natives. It was a planet I had disparaged at length in boozy diatribes and probably in print. Imagine my surprise when someone told me they’d friended me and liked seeing my picture after all these years. Next time we spoke she was mad at me, leaving her unfriended! Which I didn’t know what meant! It turned out some mysterious person had started what’s called a fan page, something I still don’t understand. And not only that, but had started speaking for me, posting status dealies. I use the word dealies to show my age, because my age is a large factor in these remarks.
It turned out it was my teenaged niece Isabella who’d started my page. Or maybe my middle-aged sister Janet, who is her aunt. Or maybe the two of them in league. I had some 43 friends, many of them Janet’s friends. The whole thing made me itchy.
But when we started Bill and Dave’s , Bill and Dave had to get on Facebook, we decided. Or maybe he was already on. I opened an account, if that’s what it’s called, and immediately had a suggestion of someone to friend: Bill Roorbach.
I friended him, and the dick never replied.
But others did, and pretty soon I was hungry for friends, the new kid on the block, looking up acquaintances from every corner of my life back to like when I was zygote. I took a perverse pride in watching my friends list grow.
What did I know of Facebook etiquette?
My brilliant Holy Cross student Vasilios Asimakos recently gave me a kind critique of my videos in which he explained something to me that I hadn’t previously thought of: “… the parts about finding people on Facebook are really informative for your young viewers. Because we young people are very protective of Facebook. We were among the first to use it, it was originally created for us, our elders use it in corny ways, etc. But if someone can show us the power it has to bring people back together, to reconnect people, then we might just stop being so overprotective of it.”
My first idea was not to use FB (look at me, with the abbreviations!) in any personal way, but to just bring real friends and family together in a list with acquaintances and friends of friends, also fans and other strangers. Quickly I realized that everyone conceives of the thing in her own way, however. So you’d get your aunt on your wall saying, like, “Has your diarrhea cleared up at all? I can send another box of Depend Undergarments if you need.”
Kids have these rules that shift from one clique to the next, aiding in identity. So clique A, you wear Doc Martins, retro. Clique B, you don’t wear Doc Martins. Clique C, you wear them, but ironically. Clique D, you never, ever think about what shoes anyone’s wearing. And etc. I’ve been chastised, mostly by former students (who regard my gaffes as, like, a boogie hanging out of your nose–nice kids tell the professor): “You don’t have to comment on every photo.” “You shouldn’t try to be funny.” “Pls don’t post things on my wall.”
My friend Melissa Falcon got unfriended by her niece for “overcommenting” on a prom dress.
I’m afraid I might be an over-poster at times, always sending links to Bill and Dave’s to my Friends. And that leads me to worry: are people hiding my posts? They might be hiding my posts. I wake in the night and think who might be hiding my posts. I haven’t heard from Dinty Moore in a while—like weeks—he must be hiding my posts!
And I know it happens, because I too have hit the Hide Posts from this Asshole button, dropping the dime on people who over-post. How do you get someone back who’s hidden you? (There’s also FB itself, which now apparently only shows your status updates to people you are in regular touch with–they don’t want to turn into a MySpace self-promotion meat market.)(But I really do want my friends to see what I’m writing on Bill and Dave’s, for example.)(Is that so wrong? Please advice, Miss Manners.)
And how do you get rid of someone who’s just using you? Okay? Example: I wrote a congratulatory message-message (the private kind) to an old friend who’d published a book, and she responded by putting a canned advertisement on my wall, like, Thanks, Bill, for your kind words in praise of my newest book, Licking the Lightbulbs, due out in October from Damp Light Press, 240 pages, ISBN 2-234322342-6. Here’s the Amazon link. And Bill, let’s get together next time you are in Walla Walla, where I’m reading at the Walla Walla Bookstore Bookstore on November 1!
That exclamation point is to show that I’m sort of kidding. But I’ve seen a lot of posts from my grammarian friends complaining about people using too many exclamation points on Facebook. I find exclamation points subtle, however, a way to indicate not only irony, but a cheerful attitude, when you might otherwise be misunderstood. So, “Your party sucked!” to someone who just threw a great party. Because just saying, “Your party sucked” might get taken seriously, see. Question marks have an interesting function, too, softening a tone of command or complaint: “My impression, despite what you’re saying, is that I was invited to the shower?”
And just the language in general. As with text messages, I just use regular English most of the time, no matter the cost to my thumbs… (Note that ellipsis; I use many in this brave new world, where periods just aren’t enough to give a sense of tone, make you seem curt…) Because early on I got a Facebook message from a friend who is 74 years old, something like this: Hola Bill OMG, hr u r on FB! Isn’t it gr8?” And then like two whole paragraphs in the same code (if she’d typed it out it would have been pages long). It reminded me very much of the way she goes around wearing Uggs and micro-miniskirts, no bra. But I <3 her anyway!!!!!!!
There’s also the friend-differential problem. You know? You’ve got these perfectly normal-seeming people with 4,867 friends, who never seem to notice you’re out there devotedly liking every little squib and photo. And then you’ve got your old high-school pal with 32 friends, who treats every post you make like it’s a love letter, an amazing display of old affection (two of these guys now live in my basement).
And can we speak of unfriending? What’s that all about? Like, you go to write your 500th note to that girl you had a crush on in grade school and you find her GONE?
Um, comment threads. Comment threads terrify me. You jump in drunk and that little joke you made before rushing on turns out to be readable two ways. Which you don’t realize till morning. Or you make a witty riposte and next day scroll up to find six other dips have made the exact joke. And comments on photos that don’t quite turn out: “Your ass doesn’t look that big here–not like in the beach photos.”
Did you see Sherman Alexie’s poem “The Facebook Sonnet” in the May 16 New Yorker? Here it is. I find it infinitely sad, since it’s awfully true:
The Facebook Sonnet
Welcome to the endless high-school
Reunion. Welcome to past friends
And lovers, however kind or cruel
Let’s undervalue and unmend
The present. Why can’t we pretend
Every stage of life is the same?
Let’s exhume, resume, and extend
Childhood. Let’s all play the games
That occupy the young. Let fame
And shame intertwine. Let one’s search
For God beomce public domain.
Let church.com become our church
Let’s sign up, sign in, and confess
Here at the altar of loneliness.
All this to say that Bill and Dave’s is starting a FB fan page, not that we know what that means. If anyone has suggestions for what to do with a Bill and Dave’s FB fan page once we get it running, let us know! Smile face!!! … !!!!!!!