Comedian David Chappelle once ran a skit where the Internet was a real, physical location wherein you could browse through the stores and services like you would at a shopping mall. The skit was funny, albeit coarse… certainly NSFW.
After having finally been driven to de-activate my Facebook account, I thought I’d take a look back at Facebook as if it was a real place.
Things started pleasantly enough; like a class reunion in a small town. The banquet room was clean and simple. Some old friends were there, as were some distant (and not-so-distant) relatives. I put on my nametag and walked into the room – cautiously at first. But things seemed so pleasant I lightened up rather quickly. Within minutes, we were all exchanging photos, catching up on old times, and sharing topical jokes. All the while, nobody seemed to mind that I was wearing paint-stained sweatpants and walking around with a Manhattan in my hand! Pretty cool! I’m sure some of the other partiers were imbibing too, as evidenced by the occasional “uncomfortable” comments about ex-wives or co-workers. But hey, nobody was here to judge anybody so the party rolled on.
Like so many parties that go on longer than they probably should, stresses began to appear in the happy façade. Some woman on the other side of the room (not really a friend of mine – more like the friend-of-a-friend) yelled at me about a conversation I was having with the friends sitting next to me. We were discussing the financial crisis and suddenly she starts yelling something about a “vampire squid” to the top of her lungs.
Do I know you?
Unfazed, I continued to exchange pictures with my friends. Here’s my dog. Here’s the Chicago-style hotdog I bought at O’Hare. Here’s a bottle of grape soda someone left on my desk. EVERYONE else had pictures too. Here’s my kid, standing up. Here’s my kid, sitting down. Here’s a picture of the pie I just baked. We were so busy trading pictures we hadn’t notice the new guys who entered the room.
These new guys were carrying something that looked like rolls of wallpaper and glue. They walked over to the simple, clean walls and began gluing up advertisements. The walls began looking like the billboards running along the highway – only more distracting.
Not to be outshone, some of my friends began handing me ads they had carried in their pockets. “I like these boots, you should too.” “Samsung’s Galaxy III is the best device ever.” The religious in the group began handing me placards with biblical passages and spiritual witticisms. The political were pitching Obama, or Romney, or Ron Paul. The Ron Paul guys seemed very passionate. Gradually, the party seemed to be deteriorating into a chaotic reenactment of a time-share presentation.
There were also groups of people who seemed to be obsessed with the mafia; others who were really involved in farming. The obsessions seemed to make them unaware of anything going on outside of their tight little circle.
Then, something happened that began to really unnerve me. Remember those guys who were pasting ads on the formerly pristine walls? Now, they were lurking behind me; eavesdropping on my conversations. If I said I liked fishing, they’d run to the wall and post an ad for Rapalla. I like Swiss watches? Bam! The wall now is pitching Rolex.
By now, I could hardly focus on the reason I came to the reunion in the first place.
A little later, a smug, juvenile-looking guy (wearing a hoodie) came around the room and asked all the revelers to give him their business cards. “Why?, ” I asked. “I see you enjoy your Manhattans, ” he replied. “I’ll note that on the back of your business card and send the information to Knob Creek or Blantons or Bookers. That way, they can contact you directly to explain the merits of their wares.”
At this point, I could see the party was irreversibly heading in a direction of which I wanted no part, so I began making my way to the door.
On my way to the door, I heard news of a national tragedy breaking from a TV in the room’s corner. Word of the tragedy spread through the party quickly, and reactions to it were severe. People began screaming their views, berating those who disagreed, and generally trying to shout over each other. Maybe it was the magnitude of the event that made the attendees act without inhibition. Maybe they had a little too much “smart juice.” Maybe this was the logical extension of the already deteriorating party. Or maybe this is what happens when semi-anonymous people have chairs to stand upon from which they may shout.
I’ll probably never know the answer, since I quietly slipped through the exit and closed the door behind me.
Let me tell you, the cool outside air on my face was really refreshing.