Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Facebook Column

Published January 11, 2009
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

Today, I learned a few things about my friends. I learned that Amy put away all the laundry. Jauna is wondering why kids like Teletubbies. Aimee is taking “that stinkin’ dog” to the vet for a bath. Mary thinks whoever invented Lofthouse cookies should probably rule the world. And Carrie is BREAKING BENJAMIN!!! XD. (I don’t know what that means, but I’m very happy for her if it’s a good thing…though I can’t help feeling sorry for this Benjamin person.)

I learned all of this exciting news on Facebook. For those of you not in the know, Facebook is a social networking site on the internet where friends and family (and the occasional reformed grade school bully and his now grown victim) come together to share news and updates, comment on each other’s pages, and, uh, throw sheep at each other.

Okay, the sheep throwing is something I haven’t quite gotten used to.

If you’re feeling like giving in to your agoraphobic tendencies and are looking at a Facebook membership as your default connection with the outside world, or if you’re just like me and enjoy keeping tabs on everyone, including your childhood babysitter, there are a few things you should probably know.

First, no Facebook page is complete without a profile picture. If you’re of the young female persuasion, this means taking a series of self portraits with your camera phone until you get the shot that makes you look most like a starving goldfish, lips puckered into a position I can only imagine you think looks sexy. If you’re an adult, all you need to do is post a pic of your face, either taken by a friend or scanned and cropped from your latest family picture. As you get better at the Facebook thing, you’ll start to branch out. My current profile pic is a view of my feet dangling over the edge of Angels Landing. I think it says, “This woman is adventurous and daring! Don’t throw sheep at her!”

Next, you’ll need to add friends. This is the super easy part. Find one person you know. Send a friend request. The rest just happens. Once people see your scanned and cropped face on that person’s page, it’s all just a matter of doing the math. I don’t want to actually DO the math, so I’ll just say that roughly half of that person’s friends and three quarters of their friends and two thirds of their friends will all request to be your friend because you see them occasionally at church, are best friends with their relatives, or used to sit next to them at lunch.

Having a large cache of friends isn’t enough, though. It’s now time to augment your Facebook relationships by joining some groups. My advice? Be choosy. Don’t accept every group invitation just because you’re lonely and in need of adult conversation. Look for people with some actual connection to you or who share some common interest. I’m currently a member of the “Clark Family” group and a group titled, “I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar.” You’re going to get at least 27 invitations to a group called, “Let’s See if we can get all Facebook members into one group.” Don’t fall for it. If I’m never going to join, which I’m not, there’s really no point in your joining.

Finally, you must decide on applications. This is the make or break moment for most Facebookers. Apps are a form of online entertainment which run the gamut between fun and annoying, the sheer volume of which can be overwhelming to a newbie. Take it slow and be mindful of your time. Don’t try to be a hero. If you want to join your former Sunday School teacher’s Oregon Trail team, be aware that you might not make an effective Mobster partner for your niece. Don’t promise more than you can handle, because that only leads to hurt Facebook feelings.

And that, my friends, is where the sheep throwing starts.