American Conservatives’ campaign to ensure Barack Obama fails is well under way, and now they want us to boycott Facebook. The Weekly Standard’s Matt Labash winges about the social networking site in the classic conservative style, which is combination of priggish anachronisms (“I bought cassette tapes until 1999”), name calling (“Facetards”), and a high school sophomore’s command of irony (“it seemed only a matter of time before she started posting the nudes, some shots I took when I was trying to break into Washington journalism (I was young and needed the money).”).
I’ve been on Facebook for a few months now and, sure, I can see how it could eat your brain after a while, but no more so than reading too much Fred Barnes—or any Fred Barnes, come to think of it. I resisted joining Facebook for a long time, mostly because I already had one online presence to maintain—this blog—and that took enough time. But as the economy tanked and the anxieties intensified, it was nice to be able to check in with other people.
Currently I have 55 Facebook friends, and one of them is a dog. I’m practically a social outcast compared to a lot of people I know who have hundreds of Facebook friends. But all of these people I actually know in real life and consider friends, including Wolfie the dog. Like everyone else, I post photos. I look at other people’s photos. I update my status whenever I’m so inclined. Sometimes that means twice a week, sometimes once every two weeks. One of my Facebook friends once posted a status update in which she claimed updating your status more than once a week meant you were a loser. A few days later, she resumed her regular thrice-weekly updates.
Facebook is a bit like high school in that it induces self-consciousness. Like all conversations, once you get going you get stuck on the rails of language, the metonymic thrust from one topic to another that can leave you feeling a little stupid when you’re done. Everyone reveals too much on Facebook, except when they’re not revealing as much as they’d like to.
As for the evils of social networking, if you’re an information worker, chances are your social network is abstract to one degree or another anyway. Studies show that most Americans are much more likely to socialize with people who share their positions in the political economy than share a physical space like a town or a neighborhood. In other words, we’re more likely to socialize with someone in the next cubical pod than with someone who lives on our block.
Matt Labash would rather sit alone at home, hugging his tax breaks and listening to The Best of Rush Limbaugh on cassette tape. If that’s how he wants to spend the Obama presidency, that’s his choice. The rest of us will be on Facebook, exchanging banalities while we watch the world change.