Sunday, March 1, 2009


When I first signed up for Facebook a year ago, I didn't get it. I knew it was a social networking site where you try to collect friends, but what did you do with it? It just felt like another place I had to log onto and visit on a regular basis. Another login and password to remember. For a long time I had about six Facebook friends and never did anything with it.

Then my wife moved out and I found myself seeking out every social opportunity I could. A good friend from high school found me on Facebook and friended me. We got in touch and I ended up visiting him in North Carolina last May.

Then I started meeting more people, and the question, "Are you on Facebook" became part of the conversation with new acquaintances. I'd make a new friend and then look them up on Facebook to find out more about them. Or I would think about old friends and wonder, "Hey, are they on Facebook?"

You can't discount the nostalgia factor on Facebook. It's never been so easy to track down old friends you've forgotten about, or have them track you down. But this leads to interesting discoveries about your changing values. In grade school and high school, I never thought about things like liberals or conservatives, so it's interesting to see where all of my friends ended up on the political scale. Who knew that the nerdy, quirky guy you knew in English class is now a Republican? Or that your best friend from Catholic grade school is an atheist?

Like with any technology, there's a learning curve to Facebook. It's a great way to try to express myself in clever ways, but I'm still trying to learn all the protocols and features. When my marriage ended, I wanted to surreptitiously remove my relationship status from my profile. I didn't want to list myself as single, I just wanted to delete the category altogether. So I did that, but then an update was sent out to all my friends, "Tim is no longer listed as married" with a little broken heart icon. Arrgh, that's exactly what I didn't want to announce! It's like trying to slip out of a meeting unnoticed and tripping over the power cord to the PA system, bringing the entire meeting to a stop and having everyone look right at you.

As the months have passed, I've become more active on Facebook and collected more "friends." The neat thing about it is how it's such an unlikely collection of relationships I've had throughout my life. Family members, friends from grade school, high school, college, grad school, and current friends "hang out" together with the guys I got drunk with last week. There's never been a place before where I could interact with all these disparate people at the same time. It's bizarre.

I don't have very many "friends" there. Unlike most people on Facebook, I don't have a network of hundreds of people. Whether that means I'm too selective or just not very popular, I try to keep it down to a manageable number. I currently have about 38, and that's about enough for me not to get overwhelmed.

Being the geeky demographics/statistics junkie that I am, here's a breakdown of my Facebook friends, divided into different categories based on how I know them:
  • Library school friends (8). This is the largest single category, probably because librarians are such big technology dorks and I still come into contact with them at professional meetings.
  • People I knew in high school (6). The nostalgia factor. I've only seen one of these people in person in the past 19 years. Four of them are guys from the wrestling team.
  • New local friends I've made in the past year (not tennis- or drinking-related) (4).
  • Guys I've gotten drunk with in the past year (3).
  • People I play tennis with (3).
  • Undergrad college friends (3).
  • Spouses (and friends) of friends (3).
  • Ex-girlfriends and women I've dated (am dating) (3).
  • Best friend from fourth grade (haven't seen since junior high) (1)
  • Best friend from junior high (haven't seen since high school) (1)
  • Family member (brother) (1)
  • Someone I met once at a party (1)
  • Someone I've never met in person. She lives in another country, discovered my blog last year and we started a correspondence (1).
So there you have it: a lifetime of relationships listed out on a single Web 2.0 page. Of course there are many, many holes; lots of people I've forgotten about or who just don't have a Facebook page (i.e. the vast majority of my huge family). And this list is constantly in flux as I meet or discover more people on Facebook.

What would you call a Facebook fan-- a Facebookie? I guess that's what I've become.

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