Information Overload

I was talking at church the other day to man whose age, I’d estimate, is in the 80-years-old range. I had just showed him my new BlackBerry, and how it could engage me in such activities as following Minnesota Twins’ game updates and giving me access me to Facebook. He told me he and his wife were considering getting on Facebook, as they keep getting friend requests from people they know.

Personally, I think it would be cool if this couple joined Facebook. They would certainly be the oldest folks I know on the site, for one thing. But I’m not sure if they would be particularly fond of much of what this social networking mecca offers. Besides the already well-documented privacy issues with the site, I can easily cite numerous other examples of Facebook … and here’s a word we in the newsroom like to throw around … ridiculousity.

For starters, anyone joining Facebook has to be prepared to get the occasional friend request from a person they don’t know. For instance, I have been deluged by repeated friend requests from somebody named Paul McGaughey. I know of no one by this name among even my most extended family, and I’m 100 percent sure I would have remembered meeting a non-related someone by this name if, in fact, I had. So, everytime Paul McGaughey sends me a friend request, I simply deny it. And, like a hapless fellow who keeps on geting turned down for dates by the same girl, he isn’t getting the message.

I make it a personal policy to have met everyone I “friend” on Facebook at least once. There are people who friend friends of their Facebook friends (get it?) to simply make their number of friends larger, or obstensibly do this in an attempt to network. Honestly, I don’t need to know the minutae of the lives of people I don’t even know, which leads to my second point.

Sometimes Facebook, like a “Seinfeld” episode of infinite length but nowhere near as funny, gives a person more insight about others than they may ordinarily want. I may be friends with John Doe, for instance, but I don’t necessarily what he had for dinner that night or how his son is learning how to use the potty. One Facebook friend of mine told me how she accepted a friend requestfrom a girl she barely knew in high school, and as a result received updates multiple times per day about how her pregnancy was delivering (posted as status updates to all that person’s friends, not just the person who told me this story). Apparently, she also regularly posted Facebook updates while in labor at the hospital. It seems there should be a 12-step program for such an illness.

One more point about Facebook I’ll make in this blog: if you want to be involved in Facebook on a fairly active level, you will need to be prepared to have to scroll through posts related to such games as Farmville, Cafe World, Mafia Wars and so forth (I admit I still play Farmville; as to why, I don’t exactly know). You can hide these posts, though, so that’s not a terribly big deal. Still, when I’m engaging in the somewhat asine practice of virtual farming, I try to keep my sharing of mystery eggs, lost chickens and lonely red bulls to some degree of a minimum, in an attempt to respect my fellow Facebook friends’ on-screen clutter.

I haven’t even begun to talk about how people can ask you to “like” all kinds of crazy things, but that could probably be a blog post all to itself. In the meantime, to the couple I know considering joining Facebook, my simple advice is the following: Have fun, and proceed with caution.

2 Responses

  1. PM

    You can hide anything that annoys you on Facebook, including those people who share every little part of their lives.

  2. John Doe

    It’s strange how you tout privacy sometimes and then you demand real names for credibility other times.

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