August 19, 2009

The ‘Book of Faces’ and me

My sister visited me last year and had a new hobby — playing on Facebook. Are you kidding me? She was raised better than that!

She was addicted. She sat at my desktop for hours and then carried my laptop to bed with her.

“What the hell is it with you and this ‘Book of Faces’ thing?” I asked.

She sang its praises, glowed and implored me to join.

“No thanks — that kind of stuff is for kids. You have fun, though.”

I really thought Facebook, MySpace and the rest of the social-networking world were for the kiddies. I had no interest in them and viewed adults who did with a leery eye.

The whole idea was crazy to me. Facebook “friends”? People you’ve never met or can’t call when the proverbial “ish” hits the fan are not friends. I don’t know what they should be called, but definitely not friends. And who has the time to write or read all those crazy little updates? “I’m getting out of bed; I’m working on my car; I’m going to work; I’m taking a dump; My kid is drooling; I’m watching (insert any TV program); I’m in love; I’m out of love; I hate my ex; I’m eating nachos; I’m contemplating mean people and why they are mean; I’m praying that God will save the mean people; I’m putting my kid to sleep; I’m sleepy; I’m losing my damn mind!”

Madness!

Then a few months ago, I was blindsided. I received an e-mail from Amanda Saltin, one of my old high school classmates who organizes all of our gatherings and reunions. It was a quick note telling everyone how much fun the latest outing of Northside High School’s Class of ’85 had been. I wrote back to let her know that I was actually in Atlanta at the time, but had missed the get-together because no one sent me an e-mail to alert me about it.

She wrote back and politely informed me, “Ricky, I sent you an invitation to join Facebook a long time ago. Our class has a Facebook group and that’s how we share information.” She was backing me into a corner. Cruel!

“Can’t you just send me an e-mail when stuff is going on without the Facebook loop?” I responded, a little desperate. She didn’t bend. She was basically like, “Why don’t you just join Facebook, Ricky?”

The message was clear. I was either to join the Book of Faces or be cut off from events and information I wanted to be a part of. Last month, I finally relented. I went on and constructed my page. I may well be the last man in the world to join the cursed thing.

One thing I quickly found out was a few of my friends already had Facebook pages (though my oldest friend, Kerry “The B.O.P.” Norwood, still refuses to join). None of them are addicts or have Facebook alerts forwarded to their cell phones like many “Face fanatics” do, but they are on.

Neither I nor the people I’m closest to in the real world use the Book of Faces to let people know where we are every second of every day. I’m not searching for the next potential love of my life (though, surprisingly, I have received a few propositions from women I don’t know. Interesting.). You won’t find pictures of my daughter, sweetheart, business trips or vacations on my Facebook page. I won’t tell you when I get up, go to bed, or if I’m having a good or bad day at work. Not my cup of tea. You’ll just find a few political links, book suggestions, event notifications — stuff like that. That’s it.

The coolest thing for me is reconnecting with the old Northsiders. Seeing names I had long forgotten and catching up on how they’re doing gives me a strange sense of comfort. I’ve had exchanges with people I haven’t seen in years. So, I guess Facebook has a lot of nuts, clowns and grown children, but it ain’t all bad. Go Tigers! Oh yeah — thanks, Amanda.

Until next time …

Dr. Ricky L. Jones is professor of Pan-African Studies at the University of Louisville. His column is published the third week of each month. Visit him at www.rickyljones.com … and on Facebook.