An Innocent in the Land of Facebook

It started innocently enough. An acquaintance e-mailed me and, using a new verb with which I was unfamiliar, asked if she could “friend” me. Considering she was already a friend, her request was not readily understood. Is the verb “friend” more intimate than the noun version? Will this involve touching? Should I consult a priest or parole officer before replying?

Being the trusting individual that I am, I clicked on the link in her e-mail, followed the on-screen instructions to fill out a few lines of personal information—name, gender, criminal record—and clicked again. My life hasn’t been the same since. It was as if I had walked through the back of a wardrobe and emerged in a snow-covered woods illuminated by a single lamppost, against which leaned a huge and menacing ape-like monster with only one eye. (Sorry. Sometimes I get that Narnia book mixed up with Lord of the Rings.)

Apparently, I had signed up for something called “Facebook,” a virtual universe where people stay in touch with each other on a daily basis with—and this must be some kind of Facebook rule—the most banal humdrum that simply must be shared. “I’m having coffee and reading the paper,” a friend writes on her page, an idle comment that God Almighty—who knows all and sees all—would probably fail to note, but which nonetheless triggers an automatic e-mail telling all her friends that she has just “updated” her page. This is now archived into a permanent space on the World Wide Web, despite the fact it would be of interest only to a parent (“What, you can read the paper but you can’t call your mother?”) or criminal investigators looking for behavioral clues as to why, after finishing the newspaper, she walked out of her house carrying a meat cleaver.

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Sojourners Magazine March 2009
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