Facebook and the Age of Angst

“You’re not one of those people who derives worth from the number of Facebook friend’s, are you?”

On a normal day, I’d like to think that people would not even consider asking me this question. I view Facebook as something like a social tool and a lot like a toy (oh, wait, isn’t that former part similar to what they say?). Facebook offers a myriad of applications that range from semi-practical to totally useless. I use it as my primary method of sharing tidbits of entertainment with friends as it provides an easy way to link video clips and images. The wall provides a slightly warmer (and considerably more mindless) way of connecting with friend whom you don’t care about/know well enough to call. When I’m bored, I can peruse my friends’ photo albums, looking to see how they have fared since the last time I saw them thirteen months ago. Additionally, I can leave comments solely for the purpose of entertaining numero uno. All of the above functions, as well as Fight Club, Superpoke, and all 9 to the nth power applications are fine and dandy in and of themselves. Even using them to a point that would make even the most reclusive computer nerd sick is understandable.

Now, I don’t want to isolate my reader (yeah, I’m talking to you as you are the only reader), so I’ll admit that I’ve had my share of Facebook faux pas, one such being my goal to catch up with my brother in the wall post count (currently, he’s at 3294, but I’m on my way with 1067). And back in April of 2005 when Facebook had just opened up to Whitworth, I entered an unspoken competition with Cole Casey to have the most friends. It was so unspoken that he didn’t even know it was going on until quite some time down the road. *

But there’s a limit that should not be crossed. In my opinion, that limit is more qualitative than quantitative. Of course people will exceed that limit, but when I think of these people, the preferred weapon of choice is World of Warcraft or Second Life.

But today, something was different. I woke up this morning, overwhelmed by the number of items on my to do list and slightly dismayed at the inadequacies of the previous day’s text message conversations. So I began compulsively checking Facebook. I began with my profile but that only kept my mind occupied for a couple of minutes. As Facebook is a two-way street, I ended up posting on some friends’ walls. I needed to get things done today, so I paced around the house trying to figure out my schedule. Distracted, I returned to Bridget, my faithful MacBook Pro, and in order to show my concern for my friends, I checked the mini feed to see how other friends were doing. And then I got to reading others’ wall posts and wishing more people would contact me. But I stopped myself as I was feeling kind of creepy. I updated my status. I edited and filled in some information on some photos I had uploaded yesterday from my mobile. Then I paced around some more. Others’ photos came next. I found some missing tags and filled those in. I took a shower. I commented on a string of profile pics. I ate some M&Ms for breakfast. I began messaging friends and responding to new wall posts. I actually began searching for YouTube videos to share with friends. I updated my status again, this time with something half-way witty.

At one point, I had enough and, leaving Bridget upstairs, I had a quiet time in the basement. It was the hardest 40 minutes I experienced all day.

Shortly before noon, my dear friend Penny came over. But she wasn’t quite Facebook; obviously she wasn’t relieving my social angst and feelings of insufficiency. Then I realized I was way beyond that line. Actually, it was Penny who helped with that when she asked me the question that opens this post. One word for Penny: Ouch.

But what hope was there for me? The answer is there was no immediate hope. I left for a secluded place, namely Westminster Hall’s lounge, with hopes of clearing my mind and maybe even getting some leisure reading done. There, I found myself on the department computers at three different times checking Facebook, making sure that friends’ finals and gin bottles were being finished off well. Trying a last-ditch effort to rid myself of Facebook-induced angst, I switched my method to real life. Maghan and Kamesh, you saved saved me.

So, if there’s little to no hope for me, what hope is there for the generation of angsty high school students brought up on coffee drinks and emotional music? When I was in high school, I was lucky to have a cell phone. But I still communicated with my friends primarily through face-to-face conversation. What will happen to these people if one person’s Internet is down? If Facebook is down?

My closing thoughs: panic and chaos will prevail. Not every child would make it through. Miscommunication would be responsible for some of the resulting hysteria and the hysteria will be responsible for the rioting and the rioting will result in bodily harm. There would be a reverse baby boom as an entire generation with no social skills dies off without ever procreating. And the old people and those socially awkward will have the last laugh.

*Oh, and just so you know, I’m currently beating Cole in my competition by a 15% margin.

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One Response to “Facebook and the Age of Angst”

  1. ohwaitwhat Says:

    Oh hi Neal.

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