On pretension.

No post yesterday, likely none today. Something came across my non-desk that I want to talk about with impunity.

From the Facebook note of a dear friend, who I hope won't take this personally. [Names removed!]

"I've tried several times to compose an essay about Facebook; but it's hard for to write about something I feel so ambivalent towards. Our generation has been given a wonderful online tool to communicate with friends and express ourselves creatively, and yet we consistantly use it to post drunken party photos, create groups whose sole purpose is to acquire more members, and Facebook friend people from high school we wouldn't give a nod to if we saw them on the street.

The concluding point of said essay (which I started three times and abandoned every time) was that Facebook is a tool that we choose to use poorly much of the time. I was trying to explain this to ________ (one of the few people I know who doesn't have a Facebook; ____ has the distinction of being the only one with a group petition demanding that she join Facebook) in an e-mail where I listed some Do's and Don'ts for how I think we should ideally be using Facebook. The list expresses all the frustration I wanted to fit into that essay in a more readable format:

- Use Facebook to obtain people's contact information, especially when not available elsewhere
- Say hi to people you still care about, but don't keep in touch with in greater capacities
- Post hilarious and/or awesome pictures
- Do something distinctive with your profile
- Create clever fictitious Facebook alter-egos
- Post articles or musings that other people might actually want to read
- Use Facebook to organize Mix CD Swaps
- Make fun of Facebook

(Notice that this list is much longer)
- Use Wall posts as a substitute for actual conversation
- Friend people from high school you will never see again
- Post dozens of drunken pictures of yourself and others
- Brag about how many Facebook Friends you have
- Make a Facebook event and invite people without first speaking to them in real life about said event
- Change your profile picture to you and your significant other doing something disgustingly cute
- Brag about your recent engagement, how great your significant other is, how you "always knew you were meant for each other," or other such garbarge
- Post pregnancy photos
- Change your status to something really emo
- Act suprised if people ask you about your really emo status update
- Clog your profile with tons of random 3rd party applications that make the page load slowly, and make it difficult for me to find your Wall
- Mindlessly invite friends to add various 3rd party applications
- Join groups whose sole purpose is to acquire more members than other groups
- Make standard "Happy Birthday" Wall posts without adding so much as a personal message
- Get married, drop your maiden name, then expect people to know who you are when you friend them

- Don't use Facebook as a substitute for real communication!

New Facebook, for all its shortcomings, seems to have at least fixed the swarms of 3rd party applications problem.

As always, any thoughts on this topic are much appreciated. "

Notes like this bug me. Maybe too much, and I tried to be nice and not go off about it. But this kind of note just kills me, and here's why.

The reasoning behind this kind of note is incredibly transparent. This is a person who, even if I did not know them, I can tell immediately had a few preconceived notions about Facebook in the beginning, before they used the service, and more importantly, had many preconceived notions about the kind of people who make use/extensive use of the program. To the former, words like "stupid," "ridiculous," and "pointless" likely fit. I would imagine to the latter, anything you'd think about someone that used something stupid, ridiculous, and pointless would likely be apt.

But then, something changed. Said person with these notions joined Facebook, for whatever reasons [likely peer pressure which they usually claim not to be affected by], and found website useful. Interesting. Perhaps even a little addictive, or maybe just a nice place to center their online life and personal contacts. They found it a good place to find people to share their favorite internet goodies with, or locate old friends, or set up events and get togethers for nearby friends. And suddenly, they had a confliction on their hands.

Perhaps they were faced that they might have been "wa-"... er, "war-" wait, "wa-ron..." No. No sir, that's a word the Fonz just can't say.

So, instead, they had to find some way to make their new found tool [Re: Facebook] okay to use, while still somehow seperating themselves from the throes of others who use it in "inappropriate ways." And so, arbitrary rules are created, based on only what they find useful about the program. And the line is drawn. On this side, everything they do, with no rhyme or reason, is right -- everything on that side is the reason they had those preconceived notions in the beginning, why Facebook still sucks and is stupid, and why the majority of people on it are hipsters, tools, and morons.

And I understand, I really, really do. Hell, I went to art school -- this reasoning I'd guess dominates like, 75% of Facebook users who are also close or like-minded friends of mine. But do we really need to think like this? I will admit, I held the exact same [wrong] opinion about Facebook in the beginning, thinking everyone on it was just using it for shameless, petty, emo pretenses. But one day, I sucked it up, and joined Facebook. Why?

Because my girlfriend was on there. And I thought it'd be cute if there was a web page that said we were in a relationship somewhere.

So, you know. There are your shameless, emo pretenses.

Facebook's useful. Using it doesn't make you like everyone else who uses it, and even if it did, there's nothing wrong with doing something that everyone else does if it makes your life easier. And if you use Facebook, and maybe even like Facebook, and then sit there and talk about how stupid, and useless, and annoying it is, and praise people who don't use it [something you probably only know because you never hear from them anymore these days], well... what does that say? Are we not allowed to just like something anymore?

This sort of pretension runs deep. I'm guilty at times too... don't have a friend who's not. I know one guy who started disliking Robert Kirkman because his letter pages were getting a little too "you know how awesome I am...", but then the guy met Kirkman at a convention, and remembered, hey, this guy knows his stuff. He's good, that's why I liked him in the first place.

Or another friend, and she turns against almost anyone who doesn't act humble after they've reached success. I mean, really? Even when people do good work, work that we like, we have to turn against them for not being a nice person too? Do we work so hard to get good at what we do, only to have to turn around and say "Oh, I'm not that good." I know I don't put the time I do in my writing so one day I can pretend to not be as good as I am.

A third friend, who hates stoner movies -- but when Apatow makes a stoner movie he likes, it makes him like Apatow and Rogan less for it? [Actually this one I'm simplifying... it's probably a little more complicated than that, and said friend actually brought this strange impulse he's having up to me. ]

And is this what we value now? People who use cellphones but hate cellphones, and people who are bad at their job but they know they're bad, so we like them for that? Or worse, they're good at what they do, and then they have to condescend to us to make us think "Hey, they're okay. They're just like us."

This, of course, isn't an indictment of my friends, though I imagine it sounds like it. They can have their opinions, and I value what they think, I truly, honestly do. I'd even say "I don't think any less of them for it," but my god, that is a really condescending bullshit kind of thing to say.

It has been irking me lately, because these opinions rattle around sharply in my own head -- because yes, some of my favorite writers and creators are absolute assholes, yes, with my own work I try to write things in genres people don't normally like but will like, and hey... I don't follow the Facebook "Do's and Don't's" close enough to not to fall in the emo-hipster-trash category. All of this makes me a bit uptight, and defensive, because deep down, I'd like to think the things I do and aspire to aren't going to make people like me less. But by the logic I see by the people I consider closest to me, the people who's opinions I actually value... its hard for me to feel justified in that. I don't like the thought of sabotaging myself.

Of course, before I wrote this, I was likely only drawing quiet ire.

I apologize in advance. For stirring up shit.

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