Being an addictive personality, I live in accord with the motto, “If you are going to do it, do it to the extreme.”
So it’s been with Facebook.
I got so carried away, I was given an official time out.
Put on probation.
Slapped on the digital paw and temporarily suspended.
Let’s go to the beginning.
Mere weeks ago, and for several years before that, I was a steadfast opponent of Facebook and in an ugly mood when it came to the digital universe in general.
I refused to play.
My pal BFD worked on me relentlessly: “Karl, you have to get on Facebook and on other sites. You need to promote yourself on social media. You need to get your writing out there now that you no longer write for print, get more of your art out there. That’s the way it’s done now.”
Same with my brother, Kurt. “Karl, viral awareness: that’s it, that’s what you need to think about.”
It’s not that I was unaware of the Internet and its possibilities. After all, I had been the editor of a newspaper and a print journalist for many years in order to make enough money to keep painting. If anyone knows the power of the Web, it is someone in print journalism (many of them are now either unemployed or working as greeters at Wal Mart). The value of a Web presence to a newspaper of any size has been known for a long time and has been used by any publication still in business.
No way, I thought. I’d checked Kathy’s Facebook page many times when she was away from the computer and what I found there distressed me, saddened me at times — a torrent of self-congratulatory and superficial drivel. “My tooth hurts,” “My dog died and I am alone and unloved,” “Look what I made in my blender,” “Do you think my new haircut is wonderful? Do you?”
Despite this, no longer able to resist the pressure from my digi-competent pals, I did some research.
Specifically, I went to a couple of friends’ sites — friends deeply involved in the art biz, the writing game. I checked their friends, checked their “likes,” looked at the posts.
There was, indeed, a lot of crap there, but there was also much of value taking place: exchange of information suited to certain interests, show notices, displays of work, links to notable sites, occasional engaging and sometimes amusing comment chains.
So, I started taking names.
I figured: this is how you make friends, isn’t it? You walk into a room filled with strangers, you grab a drink or three, you get slightly toasted and you introduce yourself. You chat, you become familiar with others, you discover folks you like and some you do not like. You resolve to stay in touch with those you like.
That’s the social process. And Facebook is a social medium, right?
Made sense to me.
So, I set up a Facebook page. I connected with a lot of folks I already knew, then I set about making friends. As in “Friends.”
How did I do this? By walking into the digital room, spotting folks on other sites with, I assumed, similar interests to mine, and sending them friend requests.
I did so while slightly toasted, so everything seemed on track.
And many people replied. We became friends. Nearly 500 of us, in short order. I felt warm.
Apparently, however, some of the folks I sought out for friendship did not fancy the notion of a relationship. They rejected me. In no uncertain terms.
Facebook got wind of it and got peeved.
Seems the broadside approach is not how you are supposed to be “social.”
Ten days and 500 friends into my friendship frenzy, I get a note from Facebook.
No more friend requests to folks I don’t already know (even though Facebook suggests options all the time).
Moreover, no friend requests at all for one week. Verboten. Violate the injunction and, kablam!, you never existed.
Whew. Talk about a spanking. Here I am riding the crest of the Big Wave, relishing my ascension on Friend Mountain, languishing in the embrace of widespread digital companionship and I am sent to the principal’s office.
I was reminded of the many times I made the trip to the principal’s office when I was in junior high school: flushed with shame but perversely proud of myself.
I waited a week, and I promised to behave. Just like I promised to behave in junior high school … so I wouldn’t miss lunch.
I have 632 friends now — all those added after my banishment coming aboard in justifiable fashion: with few exceptions, they’ve made the requests.
During my short ride on this electronic pony I have learned that, indeed, Facebook can be used to communicate — in particular with the message function — and can be used to direct readers to blogs, art sites, etc.
I have also learned to mind my comments. Not everyone appreciates irony or has a sense of humor. There are some world-class jerkoffs out there. Best not to feed them.
Now the problem is to restrain myself without the help of the Facebook authorities.
A Facebookie can spend endless hours poring over the posts, the memes, the sassy interplay, the reports of intestinal troubles, the lost animal stories and the propaganda. I have done it and, true to my addictive profile, I have been spending entirely too much time being social. All at the expense of time that should be spent finishing a book, writing essays, working in the studio, tending my sites and hustling sales.
Facebook has become yet another intoxicant that lures me, another siren diverting me from my necessary course.
I had to tear myself away from a fascinating chain of comments about Sun Ra’s birthday and another concerning the best way to make French toast in order to finish this missive.
I feel Facebook lurking behind this screen, trying to push its way through to the forefront, heft its content through my Word doc. I’m not sure I can turn off the machine and go to the studio. I can almost hear Facebook calling me: “Karl, come on — just a few minutes, that’s all I ask. Renata has changed her profile picture and Sid is with the kids at a Tee Ball game. The kids are so damned cute. Oh, and your sister has sent another ten photos of horsies. You love horsies, don’t you? And there are a couple of friends arguing about the gluten-free lifestyle. You need to see this: It’s incredible!”
How to temper my desire, fight the urge to give in.?
I need to ask my friends.