I want to punch a nerd
by Kelvin Wade
I’ve got a love-hate relationship going with Facebook.
I’ve almost forgiven Facebook for watering down the concept of a friend. A friend used to take time to find and cultivate. Now, you can “friend” someone in seconds. And you don’t even have to know that person at all. You see that you have 32 “friends” in common so the guy/gal seems like a safe bet. One mouse click later and you’re “friends.”
But are you really? How can you be? You’ve never laid eyes on this person before. They’re definitely not give-you-a-ride-to-the-airport friends. They’re not even acquaintances because you haven’t even acquainted yourself with them. When you ask a friend that you do know about the new “friend,” they’re more apt than not to say, “I don’t really know him/her myself.”
Then there are those that you interact with on Facebook and develop something akin to a relationship but you’ve still yet to meet the person. Faecbook has created a new kind of relationship that needs its own word. Maybe “friendie,” “cyberfriend” or “phantom-friend.”
Then this past week, Facebook implemented a host of new features, with more to come later. One of the things they’ve added is a ticker on the right side of the screen that shows you your friends’ likes and comments in real-time.
The flaw in Facebook is that it gathers all your friends and puts them in the same room. Do you really want to be in the same room with your pastor, the girl you used to do in high school, your prepubescent nephews, current girlfriend, boss, grandma and drinking buddies? What would that conversation be like? Your words would have to be so sifted and processed and mentally scrubbed before hitting the screen that you end up talking like a politician or HAL from 2001.
Along comes this new ticker on the side of Facebook that tells your nephew what you just posted to your drinking buddies. Who wants that?
Now of course all of this stuff can be customized, but what Mark Zuckerberg and his merry band of nerds don’t seem to understand is that we’re not all nerds or 8-year-old computer wunderkinds. We’re just a middle-aged guy trying to rekindle an old college flame. Or a Florida grandma trying to stay in touch with her grandkids in Oregon. Or party girls with a hangover trying to share pics of the wild vacation without sharing it with Granny in Jacksonville, or the lecherous middle-aged guy we friended because he was mutual friends with 14 of our pseudo-friends.
With a ticker, smart lists, and more notifications, as well as future “improvements” like telling people what music and videos we’re watching on Facebook, there’s too many bells and whistles going off at once. Facebook used to be a cool place to hang out. Now it’s like Facebook is one big snitch. At best, Facebook is the fugly, non-drinking girl who keeps an eye on you so you don’t take advantage of her drunken roommates.
It makes me angry to think of 20-something geeks, who jacked up the curve at whatever university they went to, and who’ve never seen the inside of a gym or what’s under a girl’s shirt, sitting in front of their computer terminals listening to OneRepublic on their iPods while eating Pop Rocks and Mountain Dew and coding Facebook changes that disrupts everything. I want to punch one of those geeks.
These guys weren’t around when Coca-Cola shocked the cola world by introducing New Coke in 1985 to contend with rising Pepsi sales. Coke drinkers hated it. People hoarded old Coke. Coca-Cola Inc. was stunned because blind taste tests showed people preferred New Coke. What they didn’t realize is that Coke drinkers weren’t just drinking a sugary carbonated elixir but a whole lot of liquid nostalgia in every can or bottle. Those were our memories they were trifling with. Coca-Cola reintroduced old Coke as Coca-Cola Classic and the public forgave them.
So I can understand Facebook being frightened by Google+. They want to quickly add similar features to Facebook for fear people will switch to the new upstart. (Legitimate fear. After all, most of us had MySpace accounts. But we ditched MySpace when they changed it so much it became unrecognizable.) For the most part, we’re satisfied with Facebook. That’s why dang near everyone uses it. Having a Facebook page is like having an email account or a cell phone. It’s almost a given these days. So since a gazillion people use and like Facebook, one needs to take care in changing things. Gradual change is better. Whiz-bang change overnight? Not so much.
Are you listening, pencil-necked geeks? Don’t make me punch one of you guys!