I‘m still trying to figure out how best to use Facebook to further my aims. I’ve had an account for a couple of years now and the best I can manage is occasionally hit the “like” button or add insipid comments to things other people have posted. The only other thing I do with any regularity is hide people whose posts have become tiresome.
Yes, it’s a tragic misuse of a resource that is currently valued in the neighborhood of $50 billion. Mark Zuckerberg didn’t put in all those hours just so I could ignore people more efficiently.
For awhile I was thinking Facebook would be a good way to increase the visibility of this miserable blog, but I am a modest man and it always seems gauche to post links to it — kind of like standing outside a fast-food restaurant in a clown suit, waving at passers-by. I’ve also been known to post links to certain opinion pieces I agree with, but that’s kind of dumb too, when you consider that we all have access to the same Internet. If anyone cares to know what Paul Krugman or Gail Collins have to say on any given morning, they’ve already read it on the New York Times web site. If anyone cares to view the latest amusing mashups involving cats or babies or foolish people, they’ve already gotten the e-mail link from about a dozen friends and relatives.
So how to account for Facebook’s amazing popularity? It’s not the useful links. So it must be that impossibly wide and exponentially-expanding circle of “friends” — although you don’t really keep in touch on Facebook; you keep track. And you’re not really reaching out to anyone so much as adding them to your audience.
But that’s the key, I think: An active Facebook account is just an extremely efficient way to put your best face forward. It’s not a window on your real life; it’s a silver screen upon which you may project a heavily censored and soft-focus version of it. It’s an ongoing commercial for your personal brand. On Facebook, all people are happy and all their kids are geniuses. Their wit is sharp and their lunches are delectable. Their pets are adorable. Their causes are just. They are all people you would like to run into at a cocktail party.
Except that’s increasingly unlikely, because most of us remember that real-life encounters tend to introduce an unacceptable margin of error — certain visual, auditory and olfactory cues that might belie the image of a cool and comfortable life. Anyway, any person you meet at a real-world event will probably be Tweeting about it and too busy to talk. Better to stay home and monitor the feeds. There may come a time when we have so much invested in our online personae that it will seem counterproductive to risk it on unfiltered contact.
Something to shoot for. For me, I think that might require an all-new Facebook profile. One that is visible, for starters. And one the bears a closer resemblance to Powers Booth.