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facebook of hours
the five stages of facebook
by jael mchenry (@JaelMcHenry)
pop culture

One: Comprehensive Panic.

When you finally stir yourself, after months of resistance, to join Facebook… it freaks. You. Out. Everyone’s there! Your exes! Your college friends! Your high school friends! In some cases, your parents’ friends! You think carefully about who you want to friend. Were you really friends with that person, or do you just recognize their name? Will they be offended and ignore you, thinking that “friend” isn’t right? You get a warm fuzzy whenever anyone accepts your request. You’re flattered and pleased when people find you and ask to be your friend too. Aw, friends! You crack 50, then 100. Can you do 150? Sure you can. Facebook is awesome. You are awesome. People love you. They want to know what you’re up to these days. Facebook puts you in touch with the people you used to know and the people you used to be. You are so interesting. Why would everyone be asking you how you’ve been if they didn’t want to know?

Before long, your worlds collide. You see the name of someone who hasn’t seen you since you were 17 listed between your husband’s name and the name of someone you met once at a writing conference. It’s kind of like your wedding, but on your computer, and multiplied.

You very carefully select the most flattering pictures you can find. This takes you longer than it should.

You’re overwhelmed but so excited. You have better things to do, but forget them! You’ve got 14 notifications! ZOMG! One of your old professors wants to be your friend! You must write on their wall RIGHT NOW. And it’s someone’s birthday! You better get over there tout suite.

Two: Wistful Disappointment.

While you are still adding friends at the absurd rate of 20 per day, you’re starting to get sad about the people who aren’t there yet, or who are there but don’t update. And seeing pictures of people you came to a bad end with gets you down. The deep, post-initial-euphoria irony of Facebook: you’ll be “friends” with people you barely remember, but the ones who meant the most to you are usually the ones it ended badly with (or you wouldn’t have needed Facebook to find them again, would you?) and therefore, friending them or being friended by them is kind of out of the question. And you can’t find some of the people you’re most curious about. Not if they have names like Andrew Martin or Steve Smith. You know that someone’s kid’s favorite book is Hop on Pop but you don’t even know what country some of your once-upon-a-time favorite people are in.

(On the other hand, you can see people’s profile pictures, so you don’t have to friend your college ex to know he has four kids. Unless somebody lent him an extra for the photo.)

So sometimes you’ll log on and there won’t be any new notifications, or you wrote on someone’s wall but they didn’t write back. You’ve got a bunch of friend requests just hanging out there. Don’t people know how important it is that they friend you right now? You guess you can wait, but… geez… maybe you’ll check again in 10 minutes and see what’s up.

And then people start tagging you in photos where you look like ass. Not cool.

Three: Obsessive Performance Anxiety.

Okay, so to recapture that initial Facebook joy rush, maybe you just need to try harder. You change your status every few hours. You wonder what people think of it. You check to see if anyone has commented. You change your status again so it will show up on more people’s screens. Maybe they’ll notice this time. You make clever comments on other people’s statuses in hopes that they will see and appreciate your cleverness. You spend way too much time thinking about this. That goes double for your pictures, by the way.

And the reason you think people are judging you on your status and your Wall posts is because you are totally judging them on theirs. You try not to, but you judge. Come on. You know you do.

Maybe you should change your status again. “X is secretly judging you.” But that might come across too strident… ah, just leave it.

Four: Tentative Withdrawal and Confusion, and General Whatthehellishness.

You start friending people you wouldn’t have dreamed of friending two months ago. Famous authors? College friends you think probably don’t remember you? FRIEND REQUEST! What do you have to lose? Whatever! It’s Facebook! They get the deal, right? They know that “friend” doesn’t mean friend, because there isn’t the option to send an Acquaintance request or a Former Coworker request or a Hm I Can’t Quite Remember Which Dave You Are request.

You leave the same status up for a full week because you just don’t think of changing it.

Five: Boredom and…

After some period of time, you get completely bored with Facebook and stop using it entirely. This may take three weeks or three years. Then your long-lost friends who friend you get no reply and think you hate them secretly. See, even when you don’t do anything, you’re still doing something. But nothing’s new anymore. You’ve found the people you wanted to find. Updates are just noise. Not much to say.

Maybe you come back once a year on your birthday. Because, hey, maybe somebody wrote something nice on your Wall.

Oh… hmmm… you actually remember that girl in People You May Know from your college paper… better friend her and see what she’s been up to…


Jael is tired of being stereotyped as just another novelist/poet/former English teacher/tour guide/"Jeopardy!" semifinalist/bellydancing editor-in-chief with an MFA who was once an overachieving oboe-playing alto newspaper editor valedictorian from Iowa. She was also captain of the football cheerleading squad. Follow me on Twitter: @jaelmchenry

more about jael mchenry


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joe procopio
2.4.09 @ 7:34a

Pitch perfect assessment. I was just thinking that over the last year or so I have gone from ignoring facebook entirely to sorta-kinda using it to actually posting status and photos, and based on where I sit in the relative curve of adoption of this kind of thing, how much time it has left. I think I see the shark.

Also I wonder if this is you or "you" that you're talking about.

jael mchenry
2.4.09 @ 8:56a

Eh, it's about 45% me, 55% "you".

erik myers
2.4.09 @ 9:54a

I actually use the crap out of it, but I don't think I've hit many of these stages. I like it as a distraction, but I have a hard time judging my self-worth based on Facebook.

And then there's Scrabble. I like it for Scrabble.

juli mccarthy
2.4.09 @ 10:26a

I think the only thing that pisses me off routinely about Facebook is NOT so much the absolute barrage of application invitations, but the people who routinely write notes or status updates that say, "I'm not adding any more applications, sorry!" Just friggin' hit "block" or "ignore," will you? The people who send the invitations are not notified that you did so, and you don't look like a pompous ass. Win-win.

alex b
2.4.09 @ 5:23p

Heh. I'll never get over phase one.

adam kraemer
2.5.09 @ 12:04p

I was gonna mention Scrabble.
Even with its bugs.

I think I've always thought in status updates, I just didn't know it until Facebook happened. It was "note to self..." Or "For the record..."
Now I just have a forum.

jael mchenry
2.5.09 @ 12:27p

And we all know about it. For example, we know you're fretting over your column.

sandra thompson
2.6.09 @ 9:11a

One of my grandgeeks made me join Facebook. I don't even know most of the people I've agreed to be friends with. What does that mean?

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