What’s on your demented mind?
That’s the question Facebook, my evil master, demanded I break my concentration to answer when I started writing this column. If you’re like my wife, who is blissfully ignorant of all things online and thinks the site is called “MyFace,” perhaps that statement doesn’t mean anything to you. It’s more likely, however, that you are one of the 175 million users that are intimately familiar with the unstoppable addiction of social networking. I’ll bet you’re Facebooking right now.
If the use of Facebooking as a verb didn’t strike you as funny, it’s already too late for you. You’re contributing to the 3 billion minutes spent, 18 million statuses updated and 4 million fan pages fanned each day (Source: Facebook). You’re an online junkie wanting to be loved, openly befriending near-strangers (Source: Me). Consider this your Internetvention.
If you don’t quit now, humanity is doomed, because Facebook no longer just wants to know what you’re doing – it wants to know what’s on your mind. Facebook was frightening enough as ubiquitous stalkerazzi, capturing our every move…now it’s inside our heads! The machines are taking over, and neither Arnold Schwarzenegger nor Christian Bale can stop them.
It’s clear from recent postings that many feel Facebook’s new look represents the apocalypse (just like their last devastating software upgrade), and yet detractors choose the site itself to speak out. Still, I’ll take the angry protest status update over what has become an almost vegetative process. I am lucky to know several clever people who treat their status as a venue for entertainment, but a dreadfully high percentage fill the screen with Mark Twain-quality quotes like, “Glen is at work” or “Stacy is sleeping.” If you really are sleeping, Stacy, can’t you dream up a better status? Let us know when you start Twittering so we can stay informed each time you roll over! My favorite status goes something like this: “Krista is in HAWAII for 10 days! Booyah!!!” That’s when I change my status to “Bill is robbing Krista’s apartment without fear of interruption! w00t!”
Facebook has privacy filters, but some people don’t. The level of trust is insane. The company recently took heat for changing its Terms of Service to give itself ownership of property uploaded by its users, including photos. Good thing you got all your slutty bachelorette party pics uploaded in time for that rule! I’m not saying you should limit your creativity to a driver’s license photo, but perhaps that picture of you passing Michael Phelps the bong was ill advised. Sure, you can trust your friends, but can you trust your Friends? Friends with a capital “F” no longer means the people you care about most, or even Chandler and Joey. It means Facebook Friends. The meaning of the word and the number of people it represents differs drastically by generation.
If you’re in your teens, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about right now (or ever). Everybody you know is also on your Friend list. Today’s newborns are being issued Facebook logins at the hospital with their Apgar scores. (Now teens definitely don’t know what I’m talking about.)
In your twenties? You can probably remember a time when you actually had to Send a Drink to somebody before you Poked them. With social networking, you don’t even have to know the person. Through hundreds of available applications, you can also Throw a Snowball, Punch somebody, or go on a Mafia Wars killing spree. It’s a scary thought that our nation’s mobsters won’t even leave their desks to put a body in the trunk any more. How long before all of our activities are virtual and we turn into the chair-riding chubbies from WALL-E?
Thirty-plus Facebookers, check your Friends’ profile photos: we’re almost there. Facebook is not just for building new relationships; it’s for catching up with former acquaintances and ex-lovers to determine which ones are fatter, grayer and balder than you.
My wife doesn’t realize the irony of her “MyFace” misnomer. The truth is that much of the over-30 crowd does not show their own faces. Why? We’re huge. Some people post a photo of their children because they are truly proud of them. Some simply can’t upload an image of themselves because even a compressed .jpg file is too much (waist)bandwidth for the Facebook servers to handle without crashing.
Don’t gasp, you hypocrite! The Germans had a phrase for deriving pleasure at the expense of others’ misfortune: Schadenfreude. These days we call it Facebook.
It used to be that you had to attend high school reunions to once again gather with your old crew and belittle your classmates. Today, you can do it from the privacy of your own home. Most Athletic has become Most Pathetic! Most Likely To Succeed has become Most Likely to, well, Suc. And that girl that stood you up for the homecoming dance? I bet she’s an aging hag with bad teeth and…click…oh, DAMN. She still looks incredible. Not to worry, she’s probably a divorced, shamed criminal…click…Hmm…happily married with children and running a million dollar company that benefits the environment? Even online, there is always somebody cooler than you. Better add some slackers to even it out. Corky McHalitosis, Bill Zam has added you as a friend on Facebook. Childish? Hell, yeah. Facebook is a fantastic place to connect with dear old friends, but it’s also the world’s largest junior high school. Clique here to sign in!
Aside from the weight, I must admit that there is growth in a good way. I have rekindled friendships with people I truly cared about and thought I would never see again. I have become Friends with people I knew for years, but never really knew. Facebook claims that it “gives people the power to share and makes the world more open and connected,” and I do appreciate some of the unlikely associations. Like a college keg party, Facebook can be a great equalizer. Each one of us can be a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal.
So what are you doing right now? If you liked this article, I hope you’re changing your status to, “I am recommending Bill Zam’s Facebook article at zamblings.com.” I tease the shallow, but the truth is that the original reason I signed up for Facebook was to promote my writing. What can I say? I’m an online junkie wanting to be loved, openly befriending near-strangers. With your help, I’ll have 175 million visitors before the next soul-crushing software update.
 If nothing in this column strikes you as funny, please e-mail your credit card number to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will refund your money.
 Literally, “scrotum foot.” Literally, I’m a complete liar.
 (, Baby)
 If you don’t recognize this Breakfast Club quote, you might as well not even exist at this school. Check it out after you finish looking up Apgar on Wikipedia.