EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 9, 2013

Armerding column: The changing face of Facebook has more wrinkles

Taylor Armerding
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Sometimes I’m so cutting-edge I scare myself. So ahead of the curve. So next year.

I’ve read recently in major national magazines and metropolitan newspapers that young people are getting bored with Facebook – almost as bored as they are with email. And I think to myself that maybe there is something to this AARP fantasy that “Sixty is the new thirty.”

Because I’ve been bored (and frequently creeped out) with Facebook pretty much since it started waaaay back in 2004, when I was only 26 in AARP years. At this point, I’m younger than my thirtysomething kids.

I read in these stories that even if young people like me forsake Facebook, the company faces a bright future, at least for a while, because people aged 50 and older are signing up – because “older” people tend to be slower to embrace hot new trends.

And I can feel my sunken cheeks flush with youthful pride, because when people turning 50 were being born, I was getting ready to go to high school. But today, I’m younger than they are.

This apparent collapse of infatuation with Facebook has now been documented by prestigious academic institutions like Cornell, which reported that a third of users it polled have deactivated their accounts before and one in 10 never comes back.

It has been studied by prestigious institutions like the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, which recently reported that 61 percent of Facebook users had taken a hiatus from the site for reasons that range from “too much gossip and drama” to “boredom.” Some respondents said there just isn’t enough time in their day for Facebook.

Or, as Business Week reported, young people are disenchanted “because so many parents and grannies seem, creepily, to be all over Facebook these days.”

And I wonder once again why these big-time institutions didn’t just come to me first. I could have told them this stuff for half the money and in far less time.

Or they could have spoken to Paul Friedman, a 59-year-old dentist in New York City, who told Philly.com, “Ninety-nine percent of it (Facebook) is a waste of time anyway. If it wasn’t for the 1 percent, I’d close my account.”

You want examples, I have examples. Here are a few of the millions out there that people somehow think all their “friends” want to know about. I made no grammar or spelling corrections:

“So if you an unmarked police car late is trying to stop you late at night or in an isolated area drive to a gas station or store with activity and call 911 and don’t stop until there are marked cars with you. My previous post did not pass the snopes test.”

“I’m just about ready to go off grid and just talk to bees and trees.”

“Name a country without the letter A in the name – bet you can’t.” (To which I thought, You mean, like Mexico?)

“Awake for 32 hours, then asleep for 17 … hello jet lag.”

“I’m in a ‘legal’ state, but because of a bad head cold, I’m not smoking tonight.”

And so on. Most Facebook posts range from boring to insufferably self-absorbed to creepy or nasty. In what little time I spend on my news feed, I’m amazed at the number of my alleged “friends” who think anybody with a brain simply must agree with them on major political issues that divide the electorate – the environment, the president, abortion, gay marriage, war, immigration, Fox News, MSNBC – whatever. Their posts, for the most part, are bumper-sticker talking points generated by their “team.” And, if you disagree, you are worthy only of ridicule, not a respectful hearing.

If you make the mistake of trying to engage one of them, even in a low-key, civil manner, you are generally pronounced a hater or a bigot or worse. And your “friend” cannot BELIEVE you think that way, when they thought you were at least sort of OK.

I know of only one or two who are thoughtful and welcome opposing views.

A disclaimer here: Yes, I have a Facebook account – my extended family members talked me into it, and I do enjoy going on it once every couple of weeks, to see the pictures my nieces and nephews, who live several thousand miles away, have posted of their kids.

But that’s just lurking. And that’s pretty much all I do. I almost never post. I don’t update my status. I don’t change my profile picture because if I do, all my “friends” get notified.

I have friends in real life who report being stalked by would-be suitors who want to know why they won’t meet them or go out with them because they haven’t included in their profile whether they’re married or “in a relationship.” As if it is mandatory to report the details of your personal life.

There is also a creepy kind of social pressure from people who apparently have much more time than I do to hang out and post on everything they’re thinking about. Why didn’t I comment on their post? Why didn’t I “like” their pictures or their link? Why didn’t I wish them a happy birthday? Why didn’t I accept their invitation to join their group?

As a growing number of Facebook dropouts have noted, these are the kinds of things that render the word “friend” meaningless.

I want real friends. You know what you can do to be my real friend? Link to this column on your Facebook page. And then “like” it.


Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at t.armerding@verizon.net