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A few months ago, against my will but with the strong push of fellow friends, I decided to take the plunge and sign up for a Facebook account.  Here's the only thing I know for sure about Facebook:

This mutha is maybe the biggest time-suck since the Internet went mainstream.

I went ahead and set up my profile, including a picture, some nice words about myself, odds and ends about music, movies, blah blah, and then I went live.  When I was asked to "add friends" or "use the friend finder", I decided that I liked having friends, so I decided to see who else was officially "out there."

At this point, Facebook becomes one of two things, assuming that you don't just set up your account and then never use Facebook again:

  1. A nice place to check up on your friends, see how their lives have turned out, boast about recent engagements/promotions/movie deals, and occasionally post a picture of your three-year-old making a mess at the dinner table.

  2. An absolute blowout obsession that literally consumes many hours of time every single day...and that's just during the work day.

I have probably, over the course of my time with Facebook, logged on for more than ten minutes maybe five times.  Now, when I did that, I was on for a couple hours each time, rediscovering friends from high school, going "Wall-to-Wall" with people I hadn't talked to in years, looking at pictures of people I used to date (to, ahem, make sure they turned out okay), accepting friend requests and doing a little instant messaging with friends like Alison "The Whis" Zawatski or "White" Justin Fromm.  I'm not caught up in how many friends I have, but I am intrigued by the fact that most of my close friends don't use Facebook...and when they do, it might destroy my life.

However, the lives that are really destroyed?  The obsessive Facebook user, the kind of person I am truly frightened for as I watch their Internet time slide completely into inane chatter.

While writing this piece, I got a call from Tricia Barry (formerly Ocampo), a friend of mine who worked at the sports agency I worked at right out of college.  Tricia, like me, is someone who didn't join up with Facebook at first, but she also received a number of e-mails from friends who were shocked that someone like her was "not on Facebook", akin to the rub that you "voted Republican" or "had your money on the Nazis" when it comes to social slaps across the face.  Tricia, also like me, had a good number of friends in high school, college and in her work experiences that she kept in touch with, so it was a no-brainer that eventually, she would sell out and join Facebook.

In November, Tricia signed up for an account, and now she's on the site three or four hours every single day.  "I'm actually amazed that they still allow people to use Facebook at work," Tricia said after laughing about her sick amount of usage.  "You just get lost [on Facebook]."

There was an article on the USA Today website about this recently, and I think it speaks volumes about the power of Facebook--clearly, companies have raised this issue with IT departments about blocking it, and at most companies, you can still access the site...too many people would clearly be inconvenienced if they lost access to the nation's greatest time-suck going.  Facebook--so far--has stared down the barrel of the firewall gun many times and come out a winner.

Tricia didn't say this, but it can be implied by her usage--she is that second-level profile of FB user, the kind of person that can be counted on for a number of gimmes when it comes to overusage:

1.  She's guaranteed to update her status 30-40 times a day, mostly for no reason at all.  I have used the status update line to mainly throw a funny idea out to the people, like my recent post about Kashi cereal.  However, the majority of status updates look EXACTLY like this (I just pulled this from the feed on the 25th):

  • Wendy is running out for Chinese food.

  • Teresa is finally home.  Tired and starving.

  • David had a great night's sleep!

  • Blair is looking forward to dinner tonight!

I am constantly amused by the status update page; what I have learned is that I'm in the minority when it comes to witty status updates!  I'm actually supposed to say things like

  • Justin just got back from the gym.

  • Justin paid cash at the movie theater.

  • Justin loves his nap time.

  • Justin set his alarm for 6:15 AM.

2.  The hardcore FB user really USES Facebook.  Over the course of a week-long stretch, I was invited to a dozen FB clubs, I was "tagged" in three photo albums, I was asked to participate in numerous polls, I got "poked" by two guys I knew at high school, and--no lie--eight people tagged me in their "25 Things You Should Know About Me" write-ups.  I actually felt bad by the seventh and eighth tag that I hadn't written one, since so many people kept taggin' my ass.

Look, I'll give the FB people credit--there is a shitload to do on Facebook.  Even if 99% of it is completely aimless, you really can get lost on Facebook; the amount of applications on there is ridiculous, and then you add in profile browsing and instant messaging and we are talking the difference between logging off at 9:30 PM and logging off at two in the morning.  God forbid you live on the East Coast and you have a bunch of West Coast friends; yikes, just as you are logging off at midnight in DC, you get an IM from a buddy in Seattle who you haven't talked to in a while, and then it gets rolling all over again.

3.  The hardcore FB user has a FB page open 24 hours a day.  There are a few people who have been online every time I have popped open the application; they don't even appear to be "idle."  Now, some of these people are like my buddy Tchaka (who has gone with the admittedly funny "Tcharack Obowen" moniker since Barack took over), who is online 25-28 hours every day.  But, some have families, for God's sake!  Some have real jobs, jobs that require 8-12 hours of thought every day!  Some of these people used to have lives!

The net effect of Facebook?  Even I can admit that the tool is a good one, and last week I had lunch with Hank Tseu, a guy I went to high school with; I reached out because of a business reason, but it was really cool to catch up with a person I hadn't laid eyes on in 15 years.  It only happened because we are both on Facebook, and that made it all the better.  I discovered a number of long-lost friends from UVA and high school, and now, a few old work friends are starting to surface, too.  I don't have a need for most of the applications within Facebook (social gaming, or group pages, or polls, or the like), but just some of the pictures of people, the places they have visited or their current families have been cool and they're all cobbled together in one place.

I don't think I will ever be an obsessive, but as a check-in site, Facebook is a keeper.


Random Bellviews, courtesy of Bell & Longer Community Trust:

  • Wednesday nights at the local Hard Times:  Opening Weekend

  • Hugh Jackman's versatility:  $9.50 Show

  • Another year with no snow days:  Matinee

  • "Lost":  Rental

  • The Georgetown men's basketball team:  Hard Vice



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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 02/25/09