I must confess to a tiny, delightful, shiver of unctuous moral superiority when I explain to stunned listeners that “I don’t do Facebook.” The expression on their faces is priceless – as if I had just haughtily informed them that “I don’t use electricity… or those telephone thingys.” But the fact remains that I never had the slightest interest in opening a Facebook account, starting a Facebook page or whatever it is one does does when one decides to occupy the internet fishbowl created by Mark Zuckerberg.
Three years ago – when the Facebook craze was ascending to its zenith – I demurred from all entreaties to create a FB page with an elegantly simple response: why would I want to bother with Facebook when I have my own website? After all, every FB page is, roughly speaking, a mini-website where users can post their pictures and writings while receiving comments and pictures posted by others – the difference being that they can choose who can or cannot see their page.
There are other, ineffable reasons for why I remained outside the FB loop and recently those reasons have found their voice in the person of AmSpec’s Daniel J. Flynn in a recent article titled “Facebook is the New Myspace.”
Facebook the site, like FB the stock, thrives more on hype than substance. FB’s price-to-earnings ratio hovers near 60, about four times greater than for the average S&P 500 stock. Facebook’s user-to-spammer ratio is nearly equal, with the anti-spam company Impermium (consider the source) estimating that spammers start as many as 40 percent of Facebook accounts.
“Facebook friend” is another way of saying “stranger.” We allow people into our personal affairs who we may not even know personally. The site displays America’s shameful aversion to the greatest word in the English language: no. We are afraid to reject entreaties of online attachment, so we put our lives on display to people we wouldn’t let within fifty feet of our medicine cabinets. And to the extent that we do reject social-network solicitors, we do so in the passive-aggressive manner of ignoring, rather than refusing, their friend requests.
Computers have that dehumanizing effect on humans. They encourage people to treat the person at the other end of the computer like a computer.
If nothing else, the social network provides affirmation for why you don’t actually socialize with your reconnected friend from fifth grade. Whoever said “leave the past in the past” never said it to Mark Zuckerberg.
For the people who have yet to land their own reality television program, there is Facebook. There, exhibitionists can overshare and voyeurs can peep. But peoples’ lives grow boring to the people not leading them. So while the exhibitionist impulse of Facebook may never wane, the voyeuristic side of it eventually does.
In pre-Facebook days, an awkward encounter with a long lost acquaintance might result in a painfully-long three-minute tutorial on the stories behind all of the pictures trapped in a wallet. Now, people willingly embrace this treatment — at least for a time.
This is the Facebook phase. Like cramming a crowd into a phone booth or talking to truckers on a CB radio, this fad fades.
But Facebook, with its ubiquitous presence online and on television, refuses to let America defriend it. The site’s creators, as the events of the last two weeks suggest, have too much to lose.
The fatal flaw in the Facebook concept is that there is no “there” there: it is precisely what Flynn described it to be – a fad. The cold, unrelenting and remorseless marketplace pulled back the curtain shortly after the IPO was launched last month and investor reaction verified what my hunch told me all along.
The big question is: long after Facebook devoured MySpace, what will come along to devour Facebook?