Saturday, December 8, 2007

Meeting Face To Facebook

I have been spending a lot of time on Facebook.com lately. So, MySpace.com, if you are reading this, you know where I have been most nights these past few weeks. I hope you won't be mad. It's not you. It's me.

My first online social love was Friendster.com in 2003 and it was a glorious adventure. Friendster is a dream for stalking people, which is why I link to it so liberally in my blog. It's always the first and easiest place to find anyone you casually bump into at a party or meet at Bowery Bar. I was one of the first gay adopters of Friendster in NYC (Hell, one of the first adopters period -- user number 2876 thank you very much) so I like to think I personally turned it into the server crashing nightmare it was when most everyone I know abandoned it a few months later. I still keep my Friendster profile up and, to a certain degree, running, but it is a little bit like colonial Williamsburg now. A functioning place trapped in the past.

I dabbled a bit in Connexion.org land. The nice thing about Connexion: no straight people! If you saw a cute guy, he was a homo. The downside was that he was probably a Denver homo, but a homo just the same. Connexion seemed mostly to be a quickie Friendster knockoff with a political edge to it. It can also be useful for online stalking, but functionally much less interesting than Friendster. Connexion is basically Friendster's slutty kid sister. Different, younger, faster, but still sharing a LOT of the same DNA.

After the radio show launched, music artists kept raving about MySpace.com. I resisted because it seemed like something for the kids. But guests on the show kept talking about what a great organizing tool it was and how useful in informing fans of upcoming events and new developments. So as a show, we jumped in feet first. We each made profiles and we even created a show profile. When I launched my video podcast, it got a page too! Soon, MySpace became the space for me to wallow in during all my free time. True, I was lax in updating my top eight friends, and any new changes there just caused grumblings from those who got dropped or never were included.

I don't know why MySpace became the rock that everyone's ego shattered on, but such was the case when people didn't rank where they thought they should. I have no patience for this. I was only on there for the show, so why would I highlight friends and family who have no connection to the show at all? It is a skewed perspective on what my life is. A public profile for a public life. But private people didn't always see it that way.

More recently, the invites to join Facebook started coming in droves. As soon as it opened up outside its college core, I had to start avoiding the requests like they were calls from creditors. If MySpace was for the kids, Facebook (in my mind) was for the babies. There was no way in hell I was joining a primarily college network. The offers kept coming and serious friends tried to assure me that it was a place for grown-ups. I wasn't buying it. But then everything changed at the Gay Life Expo.

There was much chatter from Terry Goldman and friends about Facebook. Cast in the Doubting Thomas role, I threw myself into the part body and soul. But Jonathan made me see the light. During the course of our brief conversation I determined that we liked the same TV shows and he was even reading "The Nine," which like the Alexander Hamilton Exhibit at the Natural History Museum in 2005, I had been meaning to check out for weeks but had not gotten around to it. So, with his credibility firmly in place, he persuaded me with the final, crucial piece of information that changed my mind: you can play Scrabble on Facebook.

Now my waking hours are spent cramming QI into triple word scores on Scrabulous and battling Australian high school students on Bogglific. I am practically untouchable at Boggle so it is nice to have an outlet for that since Games.com got so sketchy after 9/11. Scrabble is another matter and I remain ever vulnerable to endless defeat as my romantic side is always lured to the fancy word over the high point score. Story of my life. Go for the joke or the bit instead of the money or ambition. Since Jonathan is the reason I joined Facebook, I spend an enormous amount of time being beaten by him at Scrabulous. Not only does he have a fancy education (you know Johns Hopkins is a good school because they throw in that extra S to confuse and thus weed out the idiots), but he is smarter than I am. He does the Sunday Times Crossword in ink, which I would likely only attempt after a pitcher of mimosas and no will to live.

However, I like to think my quick wit has the upper hand. In between rounds of Scrabble, I spend a lot of time leafing through his many photos looking for snappy photo caption opportunties. A photo of Jonathan smiling from inside an apple tree gets "Lot of fruit in that tree" while a strict rectangular pattern of flowers in a garden is declared "The Tomb of the Unknown Florist." He has a strange habit of being photographed with weird blank expressions where his mouth is hanging open which has led to an unfortunate string of captions related to short buses and the Special Olympics. This is probably all just passive-aggressive misery on my part at being bested constantly on the Scrabble board, but mostly I just amuse myself endlessly. He seems enormously patient while I commit this travesty on his treasured photo memories and I apreciate that.

With all of the applications on Facebook, it is easy to kill thousands of hours in a single day without even noticing. Yes, some of them are mildly irritating (do we really need more than one travelled world map application?) while others are downright bizarre (nevermind, the obvious gay angle to my profile, why does Compare People keep asking me if I would rather marry my sister or my sister-in-law? What kind of choice is that?). My friend Alex Kang just keeps lashing out in all directions on Facebook with status updates that started casually enough ("Alex is thinking he still don't "get" Facebook. What do people do on here besides send vampire bites to one another? Do we not have any thing better to do?"), progressed a bit ("Alex is so bored with this site. And he doesn't want to be bitten by vampires, or given eggs to hatch, or the millions of other pointless stuff on this site.") and now borders on mutiny ("Alex is tired of comparing people, stripper naming and defining himself. Is this ALL there is to Facebook?").

Personally I am willing to judge this Facebook by it's cover. It's a game of modern socialism. A website for people with tons of time of their hands (i.e. college students and adult gay men with high powered careers). None of us have kids of our own, so why not just play in the sandbox a little while longer. Lighten up, Alex. Maybe a few rounds of Scrabble will help balance out your Qi.

See? I am learning something! Johns Hopkins here I come!

2 comments:

Trouble said...

OMG I can't wait until Paul and Alex read this post. Check out my post about Facebook on my blog yesterday.

eric said...

hey lady-- I remember inviting you to Friendster (and, later, Connexion) and you being so convinced it was another stupid fad I was hooked on. luckily, you were an easy mark for fads, just like me. and now... viva le Facebook!