Monday, February 9, 2009

Facebook: Worlds Collide Edition



Worlds Collide Theory
A theory which states that a man must keep his personal life (i.e. friends) separate from his relationship side (i.e. girlfriend). Should the two worlds come into contact with each other (by means of his girlfriend becoming friends with his friends), both worlds blow up.
"If Relationship George walks through that door, he will kill Independent George! A George divided against itself, cannot stand!" - George Costanza

Facebook is the Elaine Benes of the new millennium. Elaine's befriending George's fiance threatened a cosmic collision of epic proportion. Elaine was the instigator only because Seinfeld happened in roughly 10 BF ("Before Facebook"). Today, Facebook realigns the cosmos, constantly putting each of our worlds at risk of collision and in some cases, I fear, supernova. I wrote Facebook's missing buttons before - I would still love to have a "what are thinking?" button - but as the population grows, the issues multiply exponentially.

George dealt with a relationship life and an independent life. Each of us may have a relationship life, professional life, college life, high school life, summer camp life, hobby life and who knows what other kind of life. In BF times it was easy to keep these lives separate. Every once in a while an errant email would cause worlds kiss against each other, but it was always easily explained. Living in AF it is if teleporters were installed between worlds with special closed circuit broadcasts filling in the spaces in between. The situation would not be so bad if the growth was not so insidious.

First you find a settler from another world asking for entry. Some waft in like a fragrance on a summer wind. Others hit you like a brick in your face. The requests from people who with a few pixels on the screen are able to let you relive an extraordinarily painful childhood memory in a special way heretofore reserved only for your mother can only be ignored. Sadly, we can't do anything worse. The others, let's call them settlers, are accepted in what feels like a benign move at the time. As these people grab a freehold in your world, they leave the door open to all the other members of the world from which the come. They are not your friends, they are scouts from alternate personal universes. Once they are in, the teleport is open and there is nothing you can do.

I have to admit, I take some voyeuristic pleasure in looking at the friends listed in these scouts' profiles. Some have a broad range of friends. Some have completely stagnated and are frozen in time with profiles populated only by people present with me in that distant world 25 years ago. These are the most dangerous. They are trying to suck you back in. "Wow, we found you, I haven't seen you in 25 years and we never really talked, but look at my kids." Followed quickly with come to the reunion, everyone will be there." Of course "everyone" is comprised of all of those people you chose not to speak with for the past 25 years. A single friend may be lost by accident of time. An entire group, or in this case world, is by design. Others have full rich lives populated by people I never heard of. They moved on. They are safe. The reconnection is only a mildly interesting sidenote to a moment in a day. "Hey, I remember that guy, I'll say hey."

In the beginning I thought it was ok to accept someone's invitation when they were on the cusp. I do know them - a bit - I don't hate them, and I don't want to be rude and ignore them. I quickly learned its not. There seems to be an obvious and apparent inverse relationship between how much I care to know about the person and the number of status updates they make. I just wish these people would think before broadcasting to everyone in the world. Do I really have to know someone is "happy the window is open" or "clearing out the clutter" or "is preparing for a meeting." I may be a bit of a curmudgeon. No, scratch them, I know I am an asshole, but do I really have to know these things. I never thought I had anything significant enough to update in a status line until yesterday, when my population reached critical mass and my worlds collided.

My wife of 18 years, Sari, joined facebook and filled out her profile. Sari was pulled on by one of her friends. She would really rather talk to people than auto communicate. As Sari crosses worlds which have never been crossed by me, this one action, tipped the balance. When she joined, I updated my relationship status and we said we are married. Facebook took it up on itself to celebrate our special day. It sent an update across all my worlds, saying I am now married. I guess this is technically accurate. I am "now" married. It did not mention, I was also married yesterday and every day before yesterday for the prior 18 and half years. Again, not such a big deal, unless everyone thinks it just happened.

I started to receive congratulations on line from business contacts who never met Sari. Friends sent sarcastic comments. I also got a bunch of emails asking when the wedding happened, and suggesting disappointment at not being invited to the special day. I could either respond to each one individually, or do the thing I hated most. Act under the assumption they cared, and send a message about my life to everyone I know through facebook. I rationalized I had to do it before people started sending gifts.

So like Bruce Willis blowing up the meteor to avoid a cataclysmic collision in Armageddon, I typed a status update. It stung for a bit, I felt a tinge of narcissism as I pushed the button, but it went out. A bright light and strong wind blew me back in chair, I recognized this as the wind deflected from the force of the near miss. I took it as a warning.

I now stand, ever vigilant - like Emperor Palpatine at the center of his intergalactic chamber staring at Senators from potentially warring worlds - monitoring communications, controlling defense lines at the borders and watching interworld play to make sure each world is safe for its citizenry. For those of you who are connected to me through facebook or linked in, with this blog post, I pledge to keep you safe from the shrapnel of my world's colliding




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