I’m on Facebook. There, I said it. I even “poked” an old friend last week. He “poked” me back. “Poke back”, Facebook urged.
Why? I didn’t quite see the sense of this dubious exercise. As I write this, I have one “friend request” pending, one “group invitation” and one “wanna kiss?” invitation pending on my Facebook profile. Two weeks ago, I didn’t quite see the sense of Facebook, the website that was launched by a Harvard undergraduate from his dorm room in 2004 and within a year had attracted hordes of users — and investors who poured in $ 12.6 million into the site a year later.
More power, I say, to the 60 million who will be on Facebook by the time you read this. They will connect with old friends, reconnect with older friends, poke, send “friend requests”, write on “walls”, share videos, photos, and keep themselves otherwise entertained. I still don’t see the sense of Facebook. I’ve successfully stayed away from Orkut and other mind-deadening exercises that in an age of 24/7 jobs and insular lives pass off as “social networking”.
I see no reason why I should transfer my social life onto a computer; why I should get back in touch with someone I barely remember; or why I should hurl Shakespearean insults (you can call your friend a “venomed, muddy-mettled varlot”). But I can see why Facebook is such a draw, an addiction even. Imbued with a manic energy, the wife, for instance, has been scooping up friends like trophies from the Internet. “I got 10 additions to my friends list,” she said triumphantly last week, after a supposedly hard day at work. She has 70 friends. I have 20.
Even that seems too many. One of my closest friends and I — both once champion eaters and drinkers — have been silently feuding over a simple Facebook feature that lets you to describe how you met. If you don’t accept what your friend writes, it doesn’t go up. He claims I eat a fraction of what I once did. I say he waters his whiskey and steams his food.
After two weeks of this incredibly silly conversation, we settled on a pre-programmed inanity: “He is in my extended family”. Last week, I thought I found a friend from another life: Noel Ndhlovu, a South African who was my closest friend when I was at graduate school in the American Midwest 14 years ago. How could there be more than two people with that name? I sent out a friend request. It was promptly accepted. The next day I happily trawled Noel’s “friends”, a somewhat voyeuristic Facebook thrill. With some alarm, I stumbled on a group photo and realised this wasn’t my friend.
I sent the imposter a message. “Sorry, I got the wrong Noel,” I said. “My friend’s name in Noel Ndhlovu, but he’s not you.” Unfazed, the fraudulent Noel replied: “Hey, that’s hectic hey.” Yesterday, I found another Noel Ndhlovu. I just poked him.
(You can contact Samar at firstname.lastname@example.org . Just don’t poke him)