Thursday, June 7, 2012

a newspaper column about the inescapable network

This week's column for the St. Clair Times is about the inescapable nature of the internet. The headline says something about Dad's Facebook, but it's really about everyone's Facebook. And Twitter. And everything else. And yes, I'm probably part of the problem, since I started this and continually advocate for you to direct your complaints to Twitter. Whatever.
The last straw is my dad’s Facebook account

Not so long ago, I really tried hard to quit the Internet.

It wasn’t anything personal between the Internet and myself. The whole thing just sort of reached a tipping point for me — too much noise and not enough value. I realized I was spending more time searching for the latest rumors about “The Dark Knight Rises” and sacrificing time cutting grass or exercising.

Actually, that’s not the real reason. The real impetus was when my dad signed up for Facebook.

Facebook — as I’m certain virtually everyone reading this column already knows — is the most ubiquitous of social media platforms. It started with a couple friends at Harvard and is now so invasive that it’s probably deleting every negative word I type about it before it can make it to the printer. Its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, owns a piece of my soul and is sharing its status with people on Mars.

It’s not surprising that he owns a piece of me, though. I’m part of the crowd Facebook was created to ensnare — it originally made it to Tuscaloosa around the time I left. Eventually I gave in, kicking and screaming.

The sad thing is, most of the free world followed close behind. Including both my parents, most of my extended family and high school friends no one cared about in the first place.

Here’s the best way I can describe it: Everyone has a favorite restaurant, probably an out-of-the-way place that not everyone has discovered but that always has a great entrĂ©e available for a reasonable price. You want the restaurant to stay open, obviously, but you don’t want to spread the word too broadly, lest it lose the characteristics that made it a destination point in the first place.

Facebook has long since passed that point. If Facebook were that restaurant, the line would be a mile long, the familiar waitress would be replaced by a snotty maitre d, they’d be selling tacky merchandise in a gift shop and the price tag would be outrageous. Sitting in the middle of the room would be your parents, your grandparents and every acquaintance you ever knew, wanting to tell you why you should be having babies.

It’s essentially rendered high school and family reunions completely unnecessary. No, thank you — I have no interest in spending a weekend with you. I already know everything you do and everything your children do, and I find it all quite horrific.

I’m not foolish enough to pretend that social media has no benefit. Virtually every news event has been reported and dissected over social media before it ever makes it into an “official” news release. And there must be some value in keeping up with your neighbor’s every movement, in case of an emergency or something. Seems more efficient than smoke signals, anyway.

Still, the most refreshing part of summer will be vacation. And the most refreshing part of vacation is the part where I’m no longer chained to my social network. I hope you can say the same.

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