Yes, it's true. After making a somewhat noisy exit from Facebook (dead link) a while back, and having some uncomplimentary things to say about it, I've signed up again (sorry, S-P!).
Why? It's complicated, but paradoxically also simple. It's not that I've changed my mind about anything I've said or written--I still think Facebook is the AOL of the 21st century, I still think that Facebook the corporation is fairly untrustworthy, and I still think there are serious privacy concerns. I still think Facebook comes with an awful lot of baggage and cruft that I can live without.
That said, none of that matters. What matters is where the people are. The fact is that the world has increasingly adopted Facebook as a standard communication platform. There are people I want to hear from, photos I want to see, and things I want to share, and it is getting more difficult to do that without being a Facebook member, rather than easier. It's all well and good to say "I have a blog and a Flickr account and a Twitter feed, and people can follow me there," but the reality is that, people being people, they're not going to go to three different places when they can log into one and see everything there. It's not a question of laziness; it's a question of time management, of how much information individuals feel able to manage in the time that they have, and how they can simplify the process of information gathering. I have come around to the opinion that if you want to be a connected global citizen of the 21st century, you need to have a Facebook account, whether you like it or not, in much the same way that a mobile phone has become a necessity.
I tried to achieve the same thing with Google Buzz, but Google Buzz is a mess. It can't decide whether it wants to be Twitter, your blog, or your Facebook page, and in the end manages to do none of those things very well. Maybe Google will have better luck when it rolls out its rumored Google Me social network, whenever that may be, but in the meantime we have to deal with the world we have, not the one we wish we had.
And so, rather than be "that guy"--you know, the one who lives in the ramshackle house at the end of the block, insists that OS2/Warp is a superior operating system, refuses to carry a cell phone or get broadband, and drives a rusting Peugeot that sits in the weeds where the lawn used to be--I've chosen to acknowledge that the world won't mold itself to suit me. Except for me and a few other cranky geeks, nobody cares, so I'm back.
However, I'm approaching it a bit differently this time. I'm back with a new philosophy, which is as follows:
- Privacy is dead. Rather than expect Facebook to protect my privacy, I'm opening everything up wide, and assuming that whatever I post will be public now and forever. That way, I have no worries the next time FB changes its privacy settings, terms of service, or defaults.
My friends are my friends, and I reserve the right to choose them. If we're close friends or family, if you're part of my church community, or if you're one of the few I've entrusted with my cell phone number, you're in like Flynn. If you're somebody who dated my brother twenty years ago, or sat three rows behind me in 8th grade social studies in 1979, it's not so automatic. I hope you have a wonderful life, and I'm sure you're a fine human being, but I'm really not here to reminisce about an awkward childhood. I'm here to keep in touch with people I know in real life, who I really care about, and I only have so many minutes in the day to do that.
That isn't meant to be harsh, just honest. I'm not trying to violate Wheaton's Law, I'm just trying to firewall my time and my personal life in a way that makes sense to me and doesn't create a huge timesuck. I once calculated that since entering elementary school in 1971, I've worked and studied with literally thousands of people--significantly more than a thousand in my restaurant career alone, and that's not counting customers. I have to draw the line somewhere, and I will. Please don't be offended by that.
No games, apps, or virtual gifts. No Farmville for me, thank you very much. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's not my thing.
I'm going to make a supreme effort not to get dragged into political stuff. If you think Obama is a Muslim, or Dick Cheney is the devil, or Sarah Palin is the savior (or destroyer) of American civilization, fine. But I'm not getting involved. From where I stand, the American political scene has gone mostly nuts, and I'm taking a step back from it. "Put not your trust in princes, in sons of men, in whom there is no salvation…"
Finally, a word about The Name. I'm participating in Facebook under my baptismal name (no, I'm not going to tell you what it is here, for various reasons, although if you know my Gmail address you know what it is). For some reason, Facebook won't let me add my birth name (Larry) to my profile, so all of you who know me as Larry will just have to get used to seeing the other name instead. Relax--I'm not insisting that anybody call me that, although I'll answer to both, and that's what my church community mostly knows me as. But I'm most emphatically not insisting that family and old friends do likewise--that would just sound weird to everybody.
Also, using my baptismal name has another advantage. In all candor, there are a few people I'm not terribly eager to be found by, and it will throw them off the scent somewhat. I've set up corresponding accounts on Twitter and the like under my Orthodox name as well, and over time I may very well transition over to them more and more--but that's a subject for another post.
So, to sum up, Facebookers, I'm back. See you there.