By Brian Arbenz
Several computer nerds of his generation could have mastered the technology involved in creating Facebook, but Mark Zuckerberg’s healthy social skills, which are unusual for a techno-prodigy, gave him an edge on making his invention user friendly.
He knew that dispensing with the questionnaires other social web sites required new users first to answer, although it would sacrifice a ton of instantly marketable data, would fill Facebook’s ranks rapidly.
And thus, the 21st Century’s “Ma Bell,” the new monopoly we just can’t argue with, was off and racing — way past any competition.
You’ll never again plan a reunion, form a new club or walk past a clever “viral potential” business sign without the name “Facebook” flashing across your mind.
You also may never again get as many as two or three consecutive good nights of sleep, as the need to refute that misguided zealot in Spokane or find out if your fifth-grade teacher is still around makes the next two hours go by like ten minutes.
Then, there are the sort of cyber street fights, into which inexperienced Facebook users can wander.
In one grueling 24-hour span during my neophyte period, I was attacked and ridiculed by a former professional colleague — who had unexpectedly turned hard right — for my refusal to agree with her call for mandatory full body searches of Moslem- or Arab-appearing airline passengers. The next night, I was skewered just as harshly by a leftist because I would not agree to implore President Obama to deport Rupert Murdoch from the country.
Feeling like the only reasonable person on this medium, I was prepared to bolt from it, but then, while browsing the personal profile of a supervisor at my workplace, I realized that she and I had been childhood acquaintances and that our grandparents had been next door neighbors and close friends for decades.
So Facebook was saved by a delightful find. The pleasures have continued to outweigh the tensions, so as an expression of gratitude to the son of a Westchester, N.Y. dentist who while barely out of his teens started this company, I offer my greatest skill – classifying things. Here are the types of Facebook statuses:
The Time Bomb
A friend posts, “I’ve just finished the dishes and now I’m going to do a little work in the garden. Perfect day for it!”
Wanting to post an equally cheerful comment about your own recent gardening experience, you tranquilly scroll down past more than 80 posts, the most recent of which is someone you’ve never heard of telling someone else you’ve never heard of:
“Take the s#it out of your stupid arrogant ears and pay attention to the facts, idiot! The governor’s a fuc&ing crook and dupes like you who voted for him are bottom feeding lowlifes!”
Maybe you’ll just send your gardening friend an e-mail instead.
The Aw, Look At This.
Someone has gotten an inspiration that life can be good after all from this picture of a jaguar eschewing its predator role by cuddling a fluffy white rabbit, or one of a tiger shark doing duck face with a 10-year-old swimmer. Swept up by sentiment, your Facebook friend immediately links to this photographic evidence that a utopia is possible after all! You then remind them that whereas utopia hasn’t arrived, Photoshop has.
The CLICK – Another Problem Solved!
These end with personal appeals like: “Repost if you care about homeless koala bears with ADHD.“ It eases your conscience knowing you have “raised awareness” about some distant problem — while you are oblivious to having worsened the “First World problem,” of data mining, the real purpose of most of these crusading memes.
The Ewe No Your From…
The folks back in Walapehagua Falls were the greatest to grow up with, and for a few minutes, your face lights up in a nostalgic glow from all of them posting about those Friday nights hanging at the mall and making popcorn at slumber parties and cheering on the WFHS Fighting Giraffes hockey team all the way to the regional! Then, you notice this thread has four its/it’s errors, five non-punctuated sentences and three accusations that Obama is planning to secretly microchip newborn children, and you realize why you left Walapehagua Falls.
The Integrity Junkie
For a second, you gear up for a laugh over what looks like a classic George Carlin-style observation about why we go through our silly conversational habits. But five sentences into this status bemoaning our ritual of asking, “How’s it going?” you still don’t see a humorous pay off, and you realize, OMG, this person means it!
In an indictment of the evil of scripted banality, the person posting asks: “What do we mean by ‘it?’ And ‘going?’ Going where? This sort of mindless conformity blocks people from genuine communication, blunting our spiritual growth, leading to school shootings, global warming, flatulence and…”
The Eternal Vigilance!
This status features a link to some catchy meme about how awful it is that Facebook enables the government to violate our privacy. Amen, we all say, liking it in droves in a show of solidarity for the principle that our private lives must remain private!…. Then, over the next week, half the likers post statuses about their latest “episode,” which abusive person from their past caused it and what medication they are taking to get through it.
The Surely Everybody’s A Fan
“How’s that marmalade, Dexter?”
Just as baffling as that vague status are these following comments:
“Ever tried Neptune?”
“Just because that floats my boat!”
“Bring your own porcelain next time!”
When you post the begged for question, what in the world do all these mean, you are asked in return, “Don’t you watch ‘Lentil Fusion?’ ”
A quick Google search reveals that this is the name of an early 1980s satirical comedy show aired in Finland and Tierra Del Fuego which launched several trademark expressions. It also reveals to you how suddenly you can be out of the loop for the lack of the 400-channel dish required to pick up reruns of Lentil Fusion.
So the next time you casually assume anyone worth their salt in hipness must share your cult classic passions, please stop, Dave. My mind is going. Say no more. Nudge, nudge.
The Angry American!
Someone links to a story about a senior citizen center in Pocatello, Idaho renaming this year’s Christmas Party the “Holiday Party,” then bemoans this as another example of God being taken out of the season.
No sir, don’t dare say “Happy Holidays” to them, for that defiles Christmas! Singing about a reindeer with a nose that lights up? No problem! Just don’t be anti-biblical by using a secular term like “holidays!”
The Breakfast Joke
This status starts with the oldest form of ecumenical relations known – “A priest, a minister and a rabbi walk into a bar….” Well, you were about to log off and go to bed, but hey, what better way to end the day than with the chuckle you’re guaranteed to get from this classic formula for a joke!
After the third paragraph, you decide to scroll down to see how long this will take, and when the scrolling seems like it will never stop, you realize just how tired you are. So you decide to log off and maybe you’ll dream the perfect punch line.
The “Oh, Sno-opes!”
The government of Ecuador just voted to allow ground up lizard tails to be sprinkled into lattes served in coffeehouses, so boycott (insert product name here).
This column is featured in “Lost And Found In Louisville,” the third book by Brian Arbenz, a journalist, activist and researcher based in that city.