Last Christmas, I sat at my parents’ dinner table and listened to them complain about Facebook to my cousins, who, being baby boomers themselves and therefore incapable of admitting that certain things might not be tailored towards them, nodded in agreement and added their own lists of complaint. Facebook, they said, was befuddling and exasperating, a ceaseless stream of meaningless words-without-vowels and surreptitious time-share offers in the margins of their computer screens. I listened to them go on for about twenty minutes, each of them casting furtive glances in my direction while bemoaning the website, possibly waiting for me (the nearest available thing to a representative of the twitter generation) to vigorously defend the institution of online social networking. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that that I, myself am too old for this phenomenon, merely clutching the shirttails of each passing advancement, bitterly admitting that it’s a matter of shortening time until I must shrug and face my own technical obsolescence. After listening to a good session of them bitching about Facebook, I said, “You don’t have to use it, you know.”
It seems like every advancement is perceived either as an evolutionary leap or a useless excuse to procrastinate, depending on who defines it. I bet when cavemen discovered fire, some nosy mom immediately scolded them for looking at the fire for so long, you’ll go blind. Right now, the company that knows every minute detail of your online life, google, is beta testing a social networking application to rival Facebook, one that’s already integrated into existing google products. I see people online declaring that they’re going to be much more selective about who they add to this new app, called google+, and that they’ll use its exclusionary features to good effect. They won’t abuse it with senseless updates and photos, no, only hard-hitting links to fucking Back to the Future fan fiction or your latest drivel will be permitted on the well-paved stretch of information superhighway that is google+. If the problem is that too many extraneous people are seeing your personal material on Facebook, or if you are somehow annoyed by the Facebook posts your junior high school boyfriend makes, then I have one weird tip: stop using it. It’s like the joke about the guy who goes into the doctor’s office and says, “Doc, every time I slap myself in the face, my cheek stings. What should I do?” And the doctor replies, “Here’s a prescription for Risperdal, fill this at the nearest insane asylum.”
The indignation that Facebook, twitter, google+ or whatever aren’t what they “should be” is ridiculous. These sites are time-wasters and never purported to be anything more. Yes, now you can be in contact with some guy you haven’t seen since kindergarten. These sites provide a swell way to see pictures of other people’s kids or pets. But these websites aren’t going to save humanity, they were never intended to be fonts of enlightenment, as if some disaffected teenager was going to seize the opportunity to speak his mind, man over the internet and bring the world together with pure, naive wisdom. Disaffected teenagers on the internet have the same thing to say as disaffected teenagers have to say in real life: go fuck yourselves. Optimistic people thought the television was going to be a premiere tool for education, it turned out to be an idiot box. They thought the personal calculator would put complex mathematics in the hands of the common man, but I haven’t added anything above a double digit without one since I graduated high school.
My point is that attempting to “preserve” google+, or tumblr, or any networking site in a continually shifting market is silly. What are you preserving? A clean slate where your link to some youtube of a kid breaking his balls on a staircase bannister will be taken more seriously? If the intent is to make your online social life reflect your real one, what’s the point? The people you are in touch with regardless of their electronic connection, these friends will weather all new developments in online stalking. The internet is not going to make these relationships better, or more pure. So feel free to add people willy-nilly to google+ and your other applications, because everyone knows the only object in online social networking is to have the highest number of connections possible. Smaller groups can be relegated to the Top 5 contacts on your cell phone and family get-togethers.