Facebook is ruining my life.
Every time I’m at a computer with internet access, the website is lurking in the shadows taunting me to endlessly check my page and see how popular I am.
At the moment I’ve got 27 “friends” on Facebook.
Several of my “friends” have friend listings well in excess of 50. Some have double that number.
I thought I had left the worries of popularity back in high school.
But such is the twisted reality of Facebook that I’ve suddenly regressed back to being a 17-year-old who worries more about my status in the schoolyard than pretty much anything else.
A friend here in Whitehorse got me hooked.
“Don’t use Facebook — it’s like cracker-jacks,” he said two weeks ago.
So, naturally, I checked it out.
Within hours of joining, posting my picture and a few details about myself, I had people from across Canada and around the world requesting me to add them to their friend list (and they in turn became part of my Facebook friend list).
In less than a day, I had discovered an old friend I’ve lost touch with in Ontario is about to get married.
One friend is completing her master’s degree in New Zealand. Another is working in Hong Kong.
And several of my rougher high school buddies are doing the same thing they were doing when I left home 10 years ago.
Many of their profile pictures include bottles of whiskey or an elevated middle finger to boot.
Some former friends have gotten fat. Some have lost weight. Some have no hair. Some have a bunch of kids.
How did I find all of these people?
Well, Facebook is like a giant 24-hour reunion held for every phase of your life.
Did you go to high school? There’s a network for almost every one of them in Canada.
Did you work at a large company? Same thing.
Or did you live in Ottawa, Vancouver, Halifax, Toronto or Calgary at some point? There’s a Facebook network for those places, and many others (though there isn’t one for Whitehorse yet).
To locate you in the Facebook universe, all people must do is search through these meta networks.
When you sign up, the site demands you to enter chronological information about yourself (where you went to school, worked, lived) that it feeds into these networks.
The result is that anyone you’ve ever known — heck, anyone you’ve ever met by chance — who remembers you, can find you in cyberspace as easily as your real friends.
Enter forgotten and even once non-existent anxieties.
A friend of a friend — whom I went to high school with but barely knew — added me as a “friend” on Facebook.
“Oh my GOD, how are you?!” she wrote on my page.
Said person and I never really were friends.
But I now have access to her page and anything she posts, including photos of her partying in my hometown with people I knew in high school.
All of her Facebook friends can now see my picture through her “friend” listings.
And I can see those same people and their friend lists, too.
Suddenly I’m Jimmy Stewart in Hitchcock’s Rear Window, just without the leg cast.
You find strange friend connections you never even knew about.
One of my friends on Facebook is apparently a friend with a former roommate of a friend whom I no longer talk to.
For some superficial reason, the link makes me think differently of all of them.
There’s an almost predictable comedown to the buzz you get when you find people you’ve lost touch with and almost forgotten about.
Facebook brings you together again. But you no longer have anything in common.
Because of this damn website I find myself pondering pathetic questions like a pimple-faced teenager.
‘Why are some people friends with others but not with me?’ I wonder.
‘Why haven’t these people sent a request asking me to be their friends on Facebook? Was I a loser in high school, university, Vancouver, Ottawa?’
Or maybe, as your grandma will tell you, you lose touch with people for a reason.
Facebook includes something called a ‘Newsfeed’ that posts, in real-time, what all your “friends” are doing, such as adding new friends or posting new photos.
It’s little more than a spy wire.
It also creates weird anxieties as you see how popular some people are while you haven’t added a friend in days.
Things get even more difficult when it comes to university “friends.”
Remember that former university fling who broke your heart?
Well, she’s on Facebook now. And she’s probably posting pictures of her wedding.
She can easily find you too — but she doesn’t bother adding you as a friend.
The result of all of this sudden voyeur-power is a nasty habit of spending way too much time snooping around on Facebook.
Marshall McLuhan talked about technology creating a global village. Facebook has made the village into a global high school.
So just what is Facebook?
A second-year Harvard student named Mark Zuckerberg created it in 2004.
In about a month, half of the Harvard student population was using the social network site, which was called The Facebook at the time.
In less than one year, there were more than a million Facebookers.
There are now about 8 million users, but numbers are swelling at viral rates of late, as requirements to join the site have been lowered.
You no longer need to be invited by a Facebook member to become a Facebooker.
Zuckerberg has become an internet darling who turned down offers to buy his site for $750 million.
He recently mused that Facebook is worth as much as $2 billion.
MySpace, the internet’s largest social network, has more than 20 million users. Rupert Murdoch and the News Corporation bought MySpace last year for $580 million.
How can Zuckerberg think Facebook is worth more than MySpace?
Well, it probably isn’t.
But Facebook users have a monthly average page-view count of about 785, according to one blogger.
MySpace has more users, but they view other MySpace pages only about 350 times per month.
Facebook is tops in internet addiction. The power it gives you to spy, to feel popular and to inflate yourself is its secret.
Some have started protesting against Facebook habits.
I wrote a message to a friend on his Facebook page recently, instead of emailing him or calling him.
“Don’t leave a message for me on Facebook,” he wrote in a terse e-mail. “An email is good enough!”
It’s strange that I’ve been hooked by this hype-site.
I managed to avoid all other needless timewasters being created by the internet revolution — like messenger programs, Lava Life, or writing blog entries about brushing my teeth or waiting for a plane at the airport.
But Facebook is different: I’m hooked harder than a junkie and I’m looking for an antidote.
In fact, during the writing of this story, I checked my Facebook page more than 10 times.
Like I said, Facebook is ruining my life.
Consider yourself warned.