Fast forward a few years after being on FB, and here are my thoughts about it, manifested as a fictitious and anachronistic conversation between comedians Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Younger readers can replace these two with any two of their favorite fictional characters.
Laurel: Good evening, Ollie, what did you do on Facebook today? Did you check the updates from your friends?
Hardy: no Stan, I try not to log on to FB when I am at work. Why do you ask?
L: I have been pondering the fact that it is so easy to get FB fatigue.
H: What do you mean—fatigue?
L: You know the tiresome routine that plays out every day of people posting pictures or videos of their kids or themselves and a hundred people fawning immediately?
H: Yes, it is indeed tiresome. Now that you mention it, how about the saccharin-laden wishes for birthdays that also plays out frequently?
L: I do admit, it is nice to be wished on your birthday on FB. It makes you feel wanted. It also gives you an idea of how many people actually remember your birthday. Have you ever tried not exposing your birthday to FB? People don’t get automatic notifications and have to rely on their memory to wish you. Like in the “old days.”
H: I can’t see that as being a telling social experiment.
L: Yes, that is exactly what FB is—you can think of FB as a great ongoing social experiment that you and everyone in your sphere of interaction are part of every day. It is almost like that Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show, where everyone else is acting to prop him up.
H: Stan, I have been thinking about FB etiquette. Do you have to acknowledge every reply to your post or every wish for your birthday? I hope not—though I can see you can inadvertently slight people by not responding.
L: That is why you have the “like” button. You pretty much “like” everything you want without getting involved. That is one of the highlight features of FB—the “like” button—it allows you to be involved but not too involved. But you cannot realistically be on FB all the time to react to everything everyone of your friends post unless you have nothing else to do.
H: That is funny, I have seen people update their statuses saying that they are “terribly busy” but still have the time to update FB with the fact that they are busy. Ironic indeed.
L: Very amusing, Ollie. This leads me to another fascinating observation. There are some predictable responses for different events—a child performing, or a child being a child. “Cute!” “Adorable!” and a whole litany of sugary adjectives ensue. And of course you have to acknowledge all of them.
H: Another way of looking at FB is that it is your personal performing stage where you can announce anything to the world.
L: Not to be too accusatory, FB can be good for many things like announcing a family or an entertainment event, a sports victory or any such event. It is a one-stop blow horn to inform all your friends. It can also be used to convey your genuine happiness about something, or your disgust about something you feel passionate about.
H: Stan, another fascinating pastime is to look at the activity of FB friends with whom you are in regular contact outside of FB—for example someone living in your neighborhood or someone you meet socially on a frequent basis. Their FB posts add a new dimension to their personality.
L: Ollie, you are right, what is even more interesting is how common friends react to the posts of someone in a circle. On the chatty side—one can also wonder why a friend did not respond to a specific post when they are known to comment or “like” almost everything.\
H: Yes, the bottom line is FB is an awesome entertainment medium where we have enthusiastic and serial posters, holier-than thou-posters, fawners, news posters, “kids achievement” posters, inveterate likers, good cause posters and of course, lurkers.
L: It is great fun to lurk and watch the silliness on Fawnbook, er Facebook. Gotta go Ollie, I have to check out the latest post from my favorite FB’er.
H: Bye Stan, have fun !! Thank god for FeeBee’s—I mean FB entertainers.
Dinakar Subramanian has been a long-time resident of the Philadelphia area after his graduate study at Penn State in the late 80s. He is an avid reader, blogger, Karnatik musician, music and cricket enthusiast. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org