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An Op-Ed In Which I Am Informed I “Hate” My Friends

April 22, 2011

Gizmodo’s Sam Biddle is imploring people like me to get over ourselves and just get on Facebook already.

Oh, yeah, I’m not on Facebook. Like, it’s so invasive.If you’ve said anything like this, I feel bad for you.

Facebook has over half a billion users. Almost everyone I know uses it. I use it. You probably use it. But ubiquity isn’t equal to universality. Everyone knows one of those self righteous Facebook abstainers. Social media luddites. Pushing aside modern society in favor of a purer lifestyle, devoid of pokes, tags, and feeds. Defenders of something more natural and independent than Zuckerberg’s friendship hive.

Except really, these people aren’t defending anything except antisocial, extremely annoying behavior. And if you’re one of them—you need to stop.

I will grant you this: Facebook, much like Twitter, has a lot that sucks about it. A tremendous amount. You’re exposed to inane human behavior on a scope and volume unprecedented in the history of mankind. And yes, there are privacy eyebrow-raises that are warranted—it’s a little weird that people I barely know anymore see where I work, where I live, and who I’m talking to. And there’s plenty of crap. Pokes from creepy people. Photos of idiots. Moronic comments. Racism. All the worst parts about our species, sandwiched between poorly-targeted banner ads.

And yet, Facebook is a spectacular tool.

Facebook is the most important way we touch our friends online, period. Birthdays, parties, Passover seders, graduations—they’re all organized on Facebook. Wedding photos, baby photos, stupid college parties photos you’re nostalgic about already—they’re all on Facebook. Everyone you might still care about in your life, despite distance, work, stress, money, and time—they’re (mostly) all on Facebook. And all there to grasp, with the most minimal of effort. Really. Just click a bunch. If you care about any of these things—socializing, memories, friendships—you should be using Facebook, in spite of all its sour, vexing flaws.

Basically, if you don’t like Facebook, it sounds to me like you don’t like your friends. And what kind of terrible person doesn’t like friends? Even Hitler had friends.

If you don’t believe me, believe history. Remember those self righteous morons who took such groundless pride in not having a cell phone? Ten years ago, those people were left behind. Sure, we liked them. But they became annoying to get a hold of, forcing you to go out of your way to be friends with them because they labelled some new technology as beneath them without even taking the time to understand it. They didn’t want to learn how modern friendship had evolved. They choose to look at a brand new social tool as a hindrance rather than a convenience. This is all happening again, but with Facebook.

So, don’t be that grouch in 2011 who misses out on connecting with the rest of the world because you’d rather sound like a 21st century rebel; some sort of obnoxious pseudo-Thoreau, whose Walden is just an empty computer and a lonely life.

Use Facebook. Even sparingly. And not because Facebook doesn’t suck. But because your friends are completely awesome.

Without having to resort to ad hominem attacks or pointing out the blatant Godwin’s Law violation, or rehashing my old arguments regarding Facebook, I think it’s fairly easy to see that this entreaty has its flaws.  Mr. Biddle apparently thinks that Facebook is the exclusive platform for certain forms of social interaction, and therefore we must accept its flaws altogether.  Mr. Biddle implies that the internet provides no other viable applications for messaging, picture-sharing, party invitations, or chat.

To acknowledge his main point: yes, Facebook has its half-billion devoted adherents, including the vast majority of my friends and family. And yet, I find myself enjoying my friends and family to mostly the same extent that I did before leaving Facebook.  There are surely friendships I’ve failed to maintain, and I feel sorry about that.  But the converse friendship maintenance I would have felt self-satisfied in performing on Facebook seems shallow in retrospect.  If I value these friendships in real life, it seems kind of shitty that the only way I keep in touch is by a virtual thumbs-up of approval every few weeks.  This is why Facebook is dangerous; the definition of friend becomes a lot more elastic and facile.  But I guess only someone who hates his friends would say that.

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