Guest Column (3/26/09)

All a-Twitter about Facebook

March 26, 2009

By Tom Kearney

I guess I expected something more when I joined Facebook. But I didn’t get it.

Facebook is the place where Americans go to meet these days, at least in the virtual sense. It supplanted MySpace as the hot social networking site.

Linked-In is more crass; it’s mainly about making money. Twittering is for lemmings, a place where you can find someone whose opinions you like, and then follow them to the ends of the earth.

But I expected Facebook to be more than the place where fourth-grade bullies try to reconnect with you, or where old flames want to see your profile photo so they can see how much weight you’ve gained, or where friends expose their most banal feelings.

Here’s a sample of comments, and comments on those comments. These are real comments; just the names have been changed:

    • Bill Smith is getting the bike ready ….

    Sally Callahan: I was just thinking the same thing.

    Jimmy Suggs: Let me know if you want to ride:)

    • Liz Hurley has a turkey in the oven.

    Christine Waller: When will it be ready?

    Liz: 4 p.m.; come on over.

    Kim Stevens: Dinner at Liz’s. Yay!

    • Brad Shaw is motivated — have hit the elliptical five days in a row! Happy Monday everyone!!!

    • Jane McHugh wants to tell Monday “thanks, but no thanks.”

    • Melissa Crean did not sleep well and is very tired.

    • Jane McHugh wishes voodoo really worked.

    • Bob Allison is lucky to have Lisa to take care of me when I am sick.

    • Liz Hurley is feeling blissful.

    • Jane McHugh is home from Connecticut and misses her sweetie already.

    • Brad Shaw: Pizza time — Yum!!!

    • Jane McHugh is tragically unhip.

Then, there are gifts and causes and groups and quizzes:

    • Bobby Jones placed a delicious Cadbury Egg on Jill McSorley’s profile.

    • Kyle Friedman took the “Where should you live?” quiz and the result is:


    • Shirley Jenkins took the “Where should you live?” quiz and the result is:


    • Brad Shaw is the 867,569th person to join the cause A World Without Breast Cancer. Join him.

I figured there’d be something more substantive. Ha!

I’m not that big a fan of syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker, but she sure nailed the social-network weakness with this comment:

“Twittering isn’t entirely new, of course. The Facebook generation has been sort of twittering for years, posting prosaic bulletins about their whims and whereabouts, providing a glimpse of what the world would be like if hummingbirds could type: ‘Jordan is busy busy!’ ‘Josh is driving to the mountains today.’ ‘Kate is sooooooooo never drinking martinis again.’”

Problem is, once you sign up for Facebook and acquire all these friends, how do you bail out? How can you tell 20 or 30 people you don’t want to be their friend anymore? You could blame it on Facebook, saying you can’t afford all the time it sucks out of your life, but that would be like saying you don’t have time for their pizza and bikes and Cadbury eggs.

So, here’s my idea for a new line of work. I think it could be quite lucrative.

Call it the Social Networking Profile Attendant.

What you do is hire somebody to tend to your social-networking connections. You give the attendant your user name and password, and a dozen thoughts or comments or ideas.

The attendant minds your Facebook account, and looks for comments that might actually be important; those comments can be forwarded to you by e-mail.

Twice a day, the attendant drops in one of your evergreen comments, and all your friends think you’re right there with them, paying attention. You might need to update the comments every three months or so, to keep up with the seasons, but if you’re particularly creative, maybe not.

Think of the upside: You never have to visit Facebook and its ilk again. You keep your friends, you stay in touch, you’re informed if anything important happens in your friends’ lives — and you get your own life back.

How much is that worth?

Tom Kearney lives in Montpelier. He is managing editor of the Stowe Reporter.