I google myself. Vain, I know, but I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’m proud of my amateur HTML skills because my personal website’s homepage is sometimes the first result. My main competition is “Lacey Martinez | Facebook.”
I’m not on Facebook, but there is a Lacey Martinez on Facebook. Like me, she has light skin and dark hair, but she’s much prettier than me. I’m okay with that, because if people are searching for pictures of me, I want images of pretty girls to show up.
Lacey Martinez looks young. She has big babydoll eyes, a cool nose ring, and a pair of nicely manicured eyebrows. I wonder if she gets them waxed or threaded. In her most recent profile picture, she’s wearing black-frame glasses, a black top, and a stylish scarf. It looks good on her. She looks like a cool chick.
Her friends, on the other hand, look kind of boring.
Lacey Martinez doesn’t list any interests, which I think is interesting. By not listing any interests, she’s nonverbally telling us to study the context clues if we want to get to know her. She’s saying: “I’m interested in rockin nose rings and stylish scarves and associating with boring peeps.”
There are other Lacey Martinezes out there, too. There’s a teenage Lacey Martinez on MySpace who goes by the handle Love to Hate. There’s a Lacey Martinez on Twitter who’s username is SexyAssLacey. Unfortunately, her sexy ass tweets are protected. Another Lacey Martinez on Twitter goes by the username laceyj26. Her tweets aren’t protected, but she only has one. It’s from June of 2009, and says “just got back from the ER.” Damn. Sorry to hear that. I hope you’re okay, @laceyj26. Lastly, there’s a Lacey Martinez on LinkedIn who lives in the Washington D.C. Metro Area and works as an Independent Military Professional. Perhaps she’ll someday recruit me and my doppelgängers to lead us in an army of Lacey Martinezes.
So why am I not on Facebook? Well, for starters:
(1) I don’t want weird introverts like myself analyzing my profile and making gross generalizations about me and my friends based on what they see, like I’ve done to the Lacey Martinez who is on Facebook.
(2) I’m stubborn to an illogical degree, and fiercely loyal to my past decision to abstain from joining. Somehow not being on Facebook has become an ethical lifestyle choice, like being straight edge, or a virgin, or a vegan.
(3) Facebook scares me. I’ve always been wary of social networking sites. I never joined MySpace or Friendster or PubliclyDeclareYourselfFriendsWithOthersOnline. But I’m scared of lots of things. Umbrellas scare me. People walk with them so carelessly, and I’m convinced those pointy tips are gonna poke my eyes out. I still use umbrellas though. Telephones also scare me. Disembodied voices snaking out of little plastic holes are terrifying. I hoped cellphones would be a fad when they first came out, and I said I’d never own one, but now I do. It’s a dumbphone, but eventually I’ll upgrade to a smartphone like everybody else. I’m not what you would call an early adopter. I like to think of myself as a rebel, but really I’m just a lazy conformist. It takes me time to fall in line.
What scares me about Facebook is what all those handwringing op-ed pieces in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere have already so eloquently pointed out: that it focuses on accumulating friendships rather than cultivating them; that it reduces friends to commodities; that it indulges narcissistic tendencies in its users; that it creates awkwardness in the form of friend requests from acquaintances who were gladly forgotten in middle school; that it enables oversharing, envy, jealousy, bullying, cyberstalking, voyeurism, masturbation, and extramarital affairs; that ironically, it can ultimately increase feelings of loneliness, disconnectedness, and isolation.
Most recently, Malcolm Gladwell argued that Facebook and other forms of social media are better at reinforcing the status quo than they are at enacting social progress. And in her dual review of The Social Network and You Are Not a Gadget, Zadie Smith argued that Facebook flattens our identities and relationships, making them more superficial. Malcolm Gladwell and Zadie Smith are both successful writers and public intellectuals. People pay attention to their insightful opinions. But neither one of them is anywhere near as influential as that young autistic billionaire Mark Zuckerberg. Thanks to his social networking site’s sophisticated algorithms, media-savvy marketers can datamine your personal preferences to more efficiently target you with their new-and-improved ad campaigns for life-affirming, tooth-whitening toothpastes.
Because Facebook is about more than just forming friendships. It’s about business. Apparently, if you’re interested in branding yourself—and if you’re not, then you must be reading this on your humble monastery’s wi-fi—than Facebook is essential. It’s not good enough for our generation to be mere consumers. We want to be consumed. We want to be objectified, sought after, wanted. We want to be googled and tagged and poked. I’m not above this trend. I am, after all, the webmaster of my aforementioned personal website.
A friend of a friend who works in advertising said he would never hire someone who didn’t have a Facebook page. I’ve intermittently been trying to get a job in advertising. Maybe I haven’t been having any luck because Lacey Martinez doesn’t list any of her personal interests, and my potential employers find that off-putting. I worry about what Lacey Martinez is doing to her public image.
But that’s another thing that bothers me about Facebook. It encourages us to be ourselves. We already have to be ourselves offline, no matter how good we are at lying or wearing disguises. In fleshspace, we’re limited to our bodies. But in cyberspace, we’re reduced to data, which means we can be anything. We can photoshop Adriana Lima’s head onto Godzilla’s body and leave comments on Odd Future’s YouTube videos as DrSquidyEisenhower, or post Yelp reviews of local TexMex restaurants as AlbertaPoopypants alongside a picture of a cuddly kitty cat. They say you should make a name for yourself, but why limit yourself to one name? Or for that matter, one face?
Facebook disturbs me, but it also kind of disappoints me. It seems like it should be better than it is. Nonetheless, I’ve thought about joining pseudonymously so I can friend my friends and family and click through their photo albums. I can certainly see Facebook’s benefits, and I know that by not being a member I’ve missed out on invites to parties. Sure, my friends and family have my email address, but I shouldn’t expect them to take the time to write me an old fashioned email when they can do something cooler and more convenient on their favorite social networking site.
“Facebook me!” acquaintances tell me. “I can’t,” I say. “Why aren’t you on Facebook?” they ask, genuinely confused. “Because I’m scared of it,” is my most succinct answer. They look at me like something is very wrong with me, like I’m paranoid, or insecure, or emotionally deranged. “You should join.” “I know.” I worry that by not joining I’m refusing to evolve, like the caveman who distrusts fire, and as a result has giant jawbones and no children. But I keep resisting. I keep telling myself that despite Facebook’s ubiquity, it’ll eventually go the way of Friendster. I’m probably wrong. It seems like Facebook is here to stay. Maybe someday I’ll give in and join. Maybe someday, Lacey Martinez will be my friend.