Monday, October 27, 2008

Facebook Friend or Foe

I’d like to say to everyone who is reading, that I have truly missed you. I kind of bailed on the blog last week for a bunch of different reasons. One reason was that I was freaking exhausted. I always save my writing for Out-Numbered for Sunday evening when the kids are asleep. It’s a great way to wind down and put my thoughts together. It’s also fairly therapeutic most of the time. Last week I had a ton of shit on my mind and found that I was way to preoccupied to dedicate my pea brain to anything one track. Another reason was that I had arrived home late from a weekend excursion with my family and three other families at a resort in Pennsylvania. When I say families, I mean kids and all. That would be six kids and eight adults in one house. I probably shouldn’t get into the minute details of the trip. My wife and I have been friends with these people for longer than we’d all care to admit and I respect their privacy. There are really only two things from this trip that still resonate with me one week later. The first one is the bruise I sustained to my windpipe or larynx or trachea or whatever that thing in the middle of your neck is. Us guys decided to play a little football before dinner and forgot that we were kind of out of shape and soft. It wasn’t long before I was on my back, bleeding and unable to breathe. I’d like to think that my buddy purposely threw a wicked forearm but I think he just fell about a half second before I fell and bam! I pretty much ruined a good pair of jeans too. Who the hell plays football in jeans anyway? That should have been the first sign of unpreparedness but certainly not the last. I’m definitely getting old. I think I’m about at that age when any type of fall usually results in a broken hipbone. I always wondered why old ladies were always being rushed to the emergency room with broken hipbones. Now I know…

The second thing that sticks out in my mind about the trip from last weekend is Facebook. Yes, Facebook. Don’t pretend you didn’t get excited there for a second. I would be willing to bet that half of the people reading this blog still have their browser open with Facebook waiting and the other half stopped reading when I wrote the word Facebook and haven’t come back yet.

So we’re all sitting in the living room of this gorgeous country house. The kids were finally asleep. The fireplace was raging. The 80’s music was playing. Everybody was sipping on either a cold beer or a glass of wine. Five years ago we would have been playing some ridiculous board game, like Jenga or Pictionary. I’m really not a huge fan of the board game to be honest with you so I’m not completely disappointed. What struck me as very odd was that I realized that no one was talking to one another. Not a word. Not out loud that is. You see I picked up my phone by force of habit, I guess, and I opened up my browser to check Facebook. Just writing that down makes me feel like a complete loser. But when I checked the recent status messages of my friends, I noticed that at least five out of the eight of us sitting in the same room together had changed their status within the last ten minutes. What’s even more insane is that all of the status messages had to do with what we were doing right at that very moment. For instance, “ so and so is watching so and so on Facebook.” Or “I’m so hot sitting next to this fireplace.” Or “So and so is happy the kids are finally asleep so I can hang out with all my friends.” If I wasn’t in so much pain from my broken windpipe, I think I would have gone around the room and given everyone a good shake. It seemed absolutely ludicrous to me that the eight of us had traveled 150 miles away from home, paid a ton of money to stay in this gorgeous house, the kids were finally asleep and we couldn’t even muster up a game of fucking Charades? Come on now. Can we be that lazy? Do we hate each other that much? Or is Facebook that addicting? I know it’s extremely tough to stay out of the photo albums of your high school crush. It’s also pretty damn fun to read that guy from college’s status messages. After all, he was the funniest guy in Sigma Alpha Mu and you think you made out with him. Wait! Give me a second; I just need to send out one last Little Green Patch request. Holy Mackerel! This is too much. I was just doing some math and this is how it shakes out…

Let’s assume the average Facebook user / addict (that includes me and probably most of you.) spends about 30 minutes a day on the application. I think that’s a pretty conservative assumption for most of us, considering how easy it is to get lost for hours at a time on this thing. That would mean that most of us spend about 210 minutes a week, 840 minutes a month or 10,080 minutes a year talking to people that most likely haven’t even met our kids, seen our homes or shook our hands in… well, ever. Now don’t get me wrong. I just spoke at a conference the other day and I was asked, “What is the single most exciting thing about the future of your business? My answer was Facebook. I know that sounds stupid but it’s really pretty awesome. As far as the whole social networking phenomenon goes, it’s truly a miraculous tool for business. After all, business thrives on people and relationships. Facebook allows you to connect with people from all over the world with the click of a mouse. It’s a personal database management system like we’ve never seen before. It’s enabled us to reconnect with friends and acquaintances that for all intents and purposes could have be hit by a thousand Mack trucks and we would have never known if not for the “Friend Finder” or “People you may know” link.

But you know what? There are also a lot of things that suck about it. For one, I’ve probably spent a good 50 hours on the computer over the past year looking at useless garbage when I could have been reading a book or a newspaper or even talking to my wife. Go figure. I’m absolutely horrified to admit it but I have definitely called out to my daughters at bed time that I’d be right there to tuck them into bed and by the time I had finished checking my inbox, they had already fallen asleep. What a dick!

Sitting with my friends in that living room last week made me realize that not all of the latest technology is good technology. There has got to be a time and a place for everything. We need to keep the human element well within our reach before we lose it all together. Our kids aren’t like us. They were practically born with a playstation in their hands. They will grow up with the world at their fingertips. It’s going to be hard for us to understand just how much information technology will be in their collective consciousness’. But we CAN be the link to that part of the analog world that is still so important. I’m referring to the part of human nature that used to make us laugh and sing and run and play. I’m talking about touch, conversation, books, music and games that don’t have sound effects and “might” cause seizures. Jeez, didn’t any of us see Wall-E?

The real reason I didn’t write my blog last week was because I was so angry with myself for spending so much time in front of the computer lately that I took a vow of internet abstinence that night so I could tuck in my kids and talk to my wife without being distracted by which profile picture I would start the week with.

So my friends, I’m going to leave you with one very important piece of information for the next time you find yourselves sitting in a room with anyone you love and you have a choice between analog or digital… See Below:

***The rules of the acted charades used vary widely and informally, but these rules, in some form, are common to most players:

The players divide into two teams.

Each player writes a phrase on a slip of paper to create the phrases to be guessed by the other team provided with a randomly selected word or phrase in secret (usually on a slip of paper drawn from a container), and then has a limited period of time in which to convey this to his teammates.

No sounds or lip movements are allowed. In some circles, even clapping is prohibited, while in others, the player may make any sound other than speaking or whistling a recognizable tune.

The actor cannot point out at any of the objects present in the scene, if by doing so he is helping his teammates.

Usually, any gesture is allowed other than blatantly spelling out the word, but some play that indicating anything about the form of the phrase is prohibited, even the number of words, so that only the meaning may be acted out.

The teams alternate until each team member has had an opportunity to pantomime.

Hopefully when it comes to choosing Facebook over Family, we’ll never be Out-Numbered…

***The rules for charades were taken from Wikipedia.