This idea came to me one day while I was on Facebook, that ingeniously designed social networking site which has quickly become the place to be for staying in touch with family and friends, sharing pictures or videos, and having some laughs. I came to notice that a friend of mine, Dale, had voiced his displeasure with a mutual friend, Bill, over a rude comment made during one of his conversations, or “threads.” Among my circle of friends, I may have said he was “popping beef” with Bill. Also, in that same circle, his comment probably would not have raised an eyelash. The problem was, as Dale complained, his family members, both young and old, were on that same site, and it was disrespectful. Bill replied that Dale shouldn’t take things so seriously and that it was only a joke. Actually, they were both right.
There was no reason for this to happen, but unfortunately, the premier site for socializing on the web needs a place where you could let your hair down and loosen your tie. It just isn’t natural to combine your social relationships into one big melting pot. You probably wouldn’t invite your dear Aunt Mildred out to the local bar to watch football, which, incidentally, may not be the best place to whip out pictures of your new puppy. Everything, from your use of language and your subject matter to your appearance, conforms to a different set of standards at a family function or a company meeting than at your pal’s keg party. Both events should be enjoyed and not ruined by incivility or smothered with censorship.
Facebook as it stands is brilliantly designed, and unlike its prototypes, remains rather true, free of spam and other cheapening pranks like ridiculous aliases or phony characters. It is cleverly coded to simulate a social environment and has an uncanny way of connecting you with those from the past or far away. However, it fails to take into account that unwritten divide between a person’s interactions with close peers and those with authority figures, elder statesmen, business associates, and family members. As hard as Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has worked to tap into the virtual reality of society, the task is still not complete, and since he is too busy donating $100 million of his new-found fortune to charity, I’m not sure he cares.
There needs to be some way to draw that imaginary line. True, his site does allow the option to create and join groups, but there are thousands; they are very specific and actually become annoying. Most users ignore them completely. I know I do. There are also profile options which hide certain things from certain people, but it’s complicated. Trying to get everybody on the same page would be nearly impossible. Instead, the boisterous college buddies, whose ultimate gusto would be a mardi-gras of drunken debauchery, must settle for pictures of their newborn cousin and the electric slide, on to the wee hour of 9pm. Say something out of line, and there’s mom and dad. That kind of intrusion would’ve been a nightmare growing up. Who remember’s the old “Operation” commercial?
Insert my idea, “Facebook, spring break edition” or “FunBook.” Ok, we’re working on the name, but you get the idea. We (my partners and I) aren’t expecting to gross a half a billion dollars a year like the original, because most of the leg work has been done; the code is in place, and it works like a charm. Of course, we’d be replacing those rated-PG apps with something more suitable; ideas are welcome. This would also be the place to pull out that “other” photo album, not a haven for Internet smut-peddlers, but somewhere Lindsay Lohan and Miss Nevada can feel comfortable. Finally, I’d like to add some music and a little more flair, a la MySpace, the site where it all began, and we’ll promote the old way, invitations and flyers. Oh, and guests will need a majority approval, to avoid embarrassing parent pop-ups.
There you have it. You may say it’s too late to get in on the Facebook craze, especially now that it has hit the big screen with this year’s release of The Social Network, the popular movie about its founders, but I would disagree. In life, a person has more than one social network. So, with Zuckerberg and his partners basking in their new fame and enjoying their billion dollar fee for facilitating the world’s greatest wedding reception, I’m orchestrating the after-party. Look for your invite. Everyone who’s anyone will be there. Drinks are free. Just bring your party hat and your thick skin, and leave Aunt Mildred on Facebook.