Friday, November 20, 2009

Bold Social Experimentation

I don't know if you're on the Facebook, but a few weeks ago I noticed something new. Over on the right side of the Home page, the one that has your news feed and all that, a little box of "Suggestions" has appeared, nominating friends that Facebook feels I'm not paying sufficient attention to, and offering ways I might reconnect with them. Have you seen this? Like, "You haven't talked on Facebook lately. Write on her wall." For me these helpful suggestions, rather than making me want to reach out to that friend, actually had something of an opposite effect. I asked my Facebook friends if they thought this Suggestions thing was weird. Here are a few highlights from that discussion:

  • It is very weird. If I haven't talked to them in a while, Facebook, there's probably a good reason.
  • Yes, here on my page the call to "Write on her wall" is preceded by "Make facebook better for her." Um, really?
  • Ooh, my page just told me to "reconnect" with Speaker Pelosi. Nancy, you have a very fine invitation to play Wordpath coming your way.
  • If you would stop ignoring your friends, you would not get that message.
  • I find the suggestions extra creepy. It's one step away from "Shouldn't you get that laundry done today?" and "Did you really need that second piece of cake after dinner?"
  • "Your friend has been down lately. Encourage her."
  • My page keeps telling me that my mom only has 9 friends, and I should suggest more for her. It makes me feel kind of bad every time I see it, even though I know she only wants 9 friends.
  • "Your friend has no Farmtown neighbors. Stop the hurting. And call your mother. Why are you so selfish?"
  • "You know that guy that you're facebook friends with 'cause he's married to your friend and it would be rude not to accept his friend request? Even though you think he's a tool and you think your friend could do MUCH better than the guy who cheats on her and would rather drink a fifth of whiskey than help her take care of their kids? Why doncha poke him?"
So the consensus seemed to be, yes, it is weird to receive friendship tips from Facebook Central Command. What struck me about the little suggestions was their imperative tone: "Write on her wall. Reconnect with her. Help make Facebook better for her. Help her find friends. Welcome her." Finally, I just caved. OKAY, ALREADY! I will reconnect and make Facebook better for all of them! I am only one woman but I will try! GEEZ.

I decided that maybe I should just do everything that Facebook said. Everytime I saw a new suggestion, I clicked over to fulfill its demand. I drew the line at friending people I did not know simply because we had mutual friends in common (everyone knows that a high percentage of those people are People You Hate, because if you have that many friends in common but you aren't friends already, well. . .), and I didn't "Become a Fan" of obscure things that my friends are fans of. I remain a fan of three things on Facebook: Michele Obama (hey girl), The Backyardigans, and Papa John's Pizza, for reasons that are between the Papa and me.

So I clicked, I wrote on walls, I reconnected. I let the love flow. I figured Facebook might know what's good for me and that, like when George Costanza decides to be "Opposite George," good and surprising things might happen. Mostly it was fun to go around and visit the pages of friends I don't chat with that much. I really hesitated, though, when it got to Nancy Pelosi. Yes, the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. She has a Facebook page and we are friends. And two other Facebook friends of mine are her friends (hey Gretchen), which means, of course, that when I gave in to Facebook's demand and wrote on Speaker Pelosi's wall, our two mutual friends would see that I had done that, and I would feel like a giant tool. Not that you're really a tool if you're into writing on the walls of famous public figures, but you are kinda. I did write on her wall, though. It was the Monday after the late-night health care vote in the House, and I left her a chirpy rah-rah note. I'm sure she was heartened by it.

Okay, so I did that for a few days. And did it work? Did flowers bloom in the desert of my neglected Facebook relationships?

Nope. Everyone except one person ignored me. One of the people who ignored me was my mom. The friend who did acknowledge my overture was an old boyfriend. I wrote on his wall to tell him that Facebook kept wanting me to suggest friends for him, but that I figured he wanted to be left alone, but that he should let me know if he requires assistance in that regard. He replied, "Thank you for your concern, but Smeagol and I are both perfectly happy here with our precious." That made me laugh. Thanks for that, Facebook.

It dawned on me eventually, duh, that what this little suggestion feature does is to generate more clicks and visits to Facebook. You get a message that some dude you used to work with has sent you a hatching egg, even though you haven't talked in a long time and you don't really have a hatching egg relationship, so you wait patiently for the egg to hatch, and then when it does, it's a teddy bear holding a sign that says "Be My Geisha." So who wins in that situation, except Facebook?*

Anyway, guys, thanks for making the internet better for me. We are going up to the mountain house this afternoon to stay more or less all next week. My brother and sister-in-law will be there, which will be a great time. I'm bringing my 30 Day Shred DVD, a new Little People nativity set I got for Hank, liquor, and magazines. Also the dog has had a bath, so life is good. I'll be checking in and blogging one way or another. Have a great weekend and don't forget to reconnect. Or even poke someone.

*Actually, my friend David sent me that exact teddy bear one Valentine's Day, and I have never stopped giggling about it.


Jenni said...

Oh god, I HATE those suggestions. They really irritate me.

What's the deal w/your brother? I just visited his blog - love it. I did union work in my former life, so I'm just curious.

Lisa Lilienthal said...

I hated those suggestions too, until they told me that my really really bad ex-fiance was a friend of a friend, and wouldn't I like to friend him too? I dug up the best looking profile picture I could find of myself and posted it pronto, because hey - living well is the best revenge.

Keely said...

The thing I find offensive about those things is how they rate the other person's "progress". Like, "Your friend Stuart only has 15 friends - he's 50% there! Help him make PROGRESS, he's not a real, 100% person until he's TOTALLY ENJOYING FACEBOOK!


Solid said...


Beth said...

I actually wish Facebook would tell me when I've had enough cake or encourage me to have another glass of wine. Get ON it, Facebook.

Amy said...

Oh, how this made me laugh. You are hilarious! And what's up with Nancy? Didn't she call or email or ANYTHING? I have been avoiding FB lately and this is one of the reasons. I, too, am merely one woman.

Oh, and also--waaahhh! I wanna go to the mountain house with y'all and Dave and Katie. Stupid Australia! Stupid Pacific Ocean!

Ginny Marie said...

You made me laugh tonight! :)

melondonkey said...

the formula seems to be people who aren't that active on facebook that the FB lords want to get in on the conversation.

gretchen said...

Facebook told me I should reconnect with Speaker Pelosi too! Little do they know that she and I are really very dear, dear friends, who speak on the phone often, and therefore hardly need to "reconnect" on a social networking website.

I'm a wee bit upset that no one has sent me a "Be My Geisha" egg.

Oh, I think I'm going to go poke you now.

The Dental Maven said...

How did we evolve to the point where computers tell PEOPLE what to do????

Amy said...

My once-addictive relationship with FB has cooled significantly, I find. I'm thinking the newest interface incarnation might be to blame. (Or maybe if my friends, or I, were more interesting...)

I did get a laugh when I was told me to "reconnect" with a certain friend. Apparently FB felt that though I share my bed nightly with him, some aspect of our relationship is lacking...

David said...

Phew! Thanks for the footnote. For a few seconds I thought I'd been demoted to "some dude you used to work with"! :D

Great post!

The Stiletto Mom said...

Okay I was just this very minute laughing about this in a sick sort of way. One of my fb friends tragically died a year ago. I didn't know her all that well, but she friended me and I don't think I ever visited her page. I'm pretty sure now that she is dead, I can't make her fb experience any better unless fb is way more powerful than I thought....

A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

Facebook just plain scares me. I'm a techno-coward. Just the thought of being unfriended chills me to the bone.

A Day That is Dessert said...

I neglect facebook so much that I've never even noticed the box of 'suggestions'. And ahem, I don't believe you wrote on my wall recently Becky.

Have a wonderful holiday week! We have that nativity set and my kids love it (the musical one, right?). xo

Casey said...

What I took away from this post was that I'm able to become best friends with The Papa through Facebook and so I will be doing just that. Right now.

Those suggestions suck. I actually hate FB and ignore people's emails and such and then get crap from them in real life for it. Hello? We're standing here talking face to face, why do I need to go online and take some stupid quiz you sent me?

Becky said...

Ha! Lecia, I am often clicking on your pictures, so I guess that satisfies Facebook about our relationship!

And Casey, getting crap from people about a facebook quiz is super DUPER not okay!