IN THIS ISSUE:
S. A. Victory >>
Alice Lundy Blum >>
Natallia Meleshkevich >>
The Benefits Of Social Networking
playing a board game with some cousins at a recent family gathering, I
noticed my 12-year-old cousin Abby sitting in a corner typing with
purpose on her laptop computer. I figured she must have an important
homework assignment due soon. I quietly walked up behind her and
glimpsed at the computer screen, intrigued by an assignment that could
demand so much attention.
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She typed “my family is so lame.”
I figured it must be a book report on one of those teenage angst
vampire novels, but upon further inspection I realized she was typing
on the website Facebook.
As I sat back down, I told her to give her fingers a rest and join us in the next game.
“Board games are so boring and old,” she said. “I can play better games on Facebook.”
When I told her I did not have Facebook
at her age, she furrowed her brow and cocked her head as if
confused. When I continued to tell her that I did not have access
to the internet, her jaw dropped, and it appeared brain aneurysm was
“What did you do?” she asked. “Did you have text messaging on your phone?”
“Do you mean, how did I keep in touch with friends?” I asked. “We biked and—“
“No!” she interrupted. “What did you do, like, for fun and stuff.”
Growing up in the early nineties was
rough, no doubt. I didn’t know it at the time though. I
thought that biking a mile to a baseball field and playing ball for
five or six hours was fun. That was social networking in
1992. My friends and I would meet at the ballpark and chat about
everything from girls we had crushes on to what teachers we hoped not
to get in the upcoming school year. When it started to get dark
out we would bike home and go to bed, all without touching a mouse or
keyboard. We didn’t even use phones, we just showed up at each
others houses the next day when we wanted to do something.
“That’s dumb!” Abby said, after I explained how I had fun as a 12-year-old.
I started to believe her. She
began ranting in only a way a 12-year-old girl can, and all I could do
was listen and nod my head. Knowing I would not be able to get a
word in, I reclined in my chair and surrendered the next thirty minutes
of my life to a long winded diatribe on the benefits of social
networking in the year 2009.
For instance, I didn’t realize that you
could begin dating someone and dump them the same day, all with the
click of a mouse. That is possible on MySpace. That would
have come in handy when this good looking girl, Jenny, dumped me in the
sixth grade in front of the whole class. I thought that picking
my broken heart up off of the floor in front of snickering kids helped
build character and confidence, but I could’ve avoided that lesson and
the pain that came with it all together. I learned that today
when you get dumped online at worst you may get a mean classmate
instant messaging you with cleverly placed numbers and symbols
depicting faces mocking you. You can turn the number eight, a
parenthesis, and a bracket into a face with a tongue sticking
out. The closest we came to anything that ingenious was getting
the calculator to spell “boob” when you turned it upside
“You just have to go to Twitter,” she said.
With Twitter you can go on vacation and
while you are still lying on a beach in Mexico you can post pictures
and updates of what you are doing so everyone back home knows what a
great time you’re having. My uncle told me that Abby
spent a total of two to three hours a day on her family vacation
updating her multiple blogs. Some might think that is vacation
time wasted. I think they are wrong. When I was in Las
Vegas earlier this year I could’ve blogged every time I won big at the
blackjack table. I went midweek, so most of my friends were in
the middle of a grueling workday while I was having fun. I know
they would’ve loved to take a minute or two of their time, every hour
on the hour, to keep updated on how great my life is.
Or would they? I asked Abby,
“Do these constant updates have tendency to annoy people?”
“Who cares,” she replied. “And sometimes, the point is to annoy them. Duh!”
“I see,” I said. I definitely have friends I’d like to annoy.
Abby showed me some sample entries, or
tweets as they are called. [Authors note: These are actual
tweets on her page]
“Super hungover. I must’ve puked about ten times last night.”
“I hate being on my period. I hate my boyfriend, he can be so clueless.”
“Took my dog Junior for a walk. He
went to the bathroom all over the sidewalk at the park.”
Is this information I need to
know? Probably not, but now I know which sidewalks and angry
girlfriends to avoid.
After praising Twitter for about fifteen
minutes she finally got to Facebook, the king of social networking
sites, at least for the next few months.
“Facebook is the best,” she said.
“All my friends always gather to chat there. I have 789 friends
I was a little
embarrassed. I have lived twice as long as she and I’m not sure I
have met 789 people in my life, much less befriended that many. I
was certainly eager to learn about this better than reality
world. She rattled off the endless possibilities. Want to
buy drinks for your friends? You can do that. Want to
become a fan of the Jonas Brothers? Check. Want to partake
in polls about your sex life? Yeah, I don’t know about that one.
The best part about Facebook, and Abby
left this part out, is that every piece of information you enter on the
site becomes the property of Facebook, so you won’t ever lose it.
Even if your account were to somehow get deleted you won’t lose those
pictures of you passed out next to the toilet with black Sharpie all
over your face after your 21st birthday.
As we sat there, she passed a drink to her friend.
“You can pass out virtual sodas? Milk?” I asked.
“No, I am passing my friend Sarah a Cosmopolitan,” she replied.
Apparently, the drinking age in
Facebookland is much lower than the drinking age in the real
world. I just hope they are able to get virtual cigarettes,
because nothing goes better with a virtual beer than a virtual smoke.
I left the family gathering excited to
get home and create a Facebook account. Maybe I’ll find that girl
who dumped me in high school who said we would always be friends.
Or that guy from my dorm freshmen year that punched me in the shoulder
and called me a “wussy” every time I saw him. I’ll definitely
look up my Aunt Judith because she posts daily updates about her kid’s
high school sports and activities. It’ll be like one of those
great detailed letters people send with Christmas cards updating
everyone on their family only I will get one everyday.
Finally, if you have a Facebook account
search for Brent Giesen and send a friend invite. That’s
G-I-E-S-E-N. I have a long ways to go to catch up with Abby’s
friend list, and I only have thirty or so friends in real life.
Brent Giesen grew
up in the small farming community of Belle Plaine, MN. After high
school he attended the University of North Dakota for two years before
moving to Minneapolis and transferring to Metro State. He is now
a senior, slowly but surely inching towards a writing degree. Besides
reading and writing he enjoys music, sports, and spending time with his