Sunday, June 5, 2011

Charm Class for the 21st Century: Facebook Edition

I'm sort of an irritable person.


I'm sure that comes as a huge surprise to no one everyone, but people really drive me crazy.  Even a quick trip to the grocery store inevitably results in my thinking evil thoughts about at least one person, and sometimes I actually have to unclench my fists during a social outing, lest I actually throw a punch.

Note: You may be wondering why a person as irritable as myself would actually choose a profession in mental health?  Well, it's because I enjoy wanting to rip all my hair out on a daily basis, and the feeling of anger growing in the pit of my stomach until it consumes my whole body and steam comes out of my ears is actually akin to the feeling of running through fields of flowers in the sunshine.  AKA, I'm a masochist.

My mother and I often have conversations about the idiots wonderful people we interact with on a daily basis and their absolutely heinous disregard for the rules of decent human behavior.  My mom's favorite thing to say is, "Well, I learned in charm class that you should... <insert some pretentious mannerism here> ".

I'll give you a minute to chuckle over the idea of taking "charm class", because let's face it, that seems like something out of 17th century England.  But I have to say, after dealing with the gross social improprieties of men and women alike for the better part of 28 years, I'm becoming an advocate for the resurgence of "charm class" in the 21st century... For both men AND women.

Of course, all you lovely readers are exempt from the need for charm class (I HOPE!), but for the remaining ass-hats that run around stealing parking spots, sending unwanted text messages repeatedly, or ignoring very blatant social cues, "charm class" would be a definite help.

I've developed a tentative curriculum for my class, which, after starting to write this, I realized is actually going to take a lot longer to impart than I thought.  So, I've decided to make Charm Class a series of blog posts, which will be modified and informed by YOU, my dear readers!  What things would YOU like to see happen in Charm Class?

So let's start with the obvious staple of the 21st century that has stolen the social skills of millions of people everywhere:


With the advent of social media, it seems that certain rules of polite behavior have become lost in translation, so to speak.  Hiding behind the mask of a generic profile and a laptop, apparently it is no longer necessary to be a decent friend, talk to people, or even leave the house!  Breakups are prolonged due to excessive Facebook stalking that does nothing but incite anger, hurt, and Haagen Dasz binges.  Friendships dwindle because of the nights out on the town you didn't invite everyone to, as depicted by the pictures of your head in the toilet and you and your friends making duck faces with strangers at the bar.  

While some of these casualties are unavoidable (if you insist on posting said pictures.  Ahem.), others are not.  Here's my tentative lesson plan on the Facebook portion of Charm Class.

Disclaimer: It is not my intention to offend anyone who uses Facebook in any of the following ways.  Perhaps I am just old-fashioned in my expectations of people, or maybe I am just overly neurotic, or maybe I'm just a bitch.  But whatever the case, this is my personal opinion, and is not meant to be taken seriously.  

Well, not too seriously anyway.  Ahem.


Before Facebook, one had their classmates in junior high and high school to make them feel unpopular, disliked, and shunned from society.  A good old-fashioned "Where's the flood?" taunt when your pants were too short was enough to make you feel like you'll always be just an asshole when everyone else is.. well, some way cooler and less stinky part of the body.  Now, you have Facebook!!

People's vast insecurities about their popularity has translated into a barrage of Facebook friend requests from people you actually know, people you may have known at one time, or perhaps just ran into on the subway.  Here's a graph for the visual learner:

Truthfully, I feel I was pretty generous with the "Actual Friends" piece of that pie.

When I was young and stupid, I accepted all of these friend requests to satisfy my own narcissistic need for feeling popular.  As a result, I have 343 Facebook friends, only a handful of which I would actually call my "friends", or interact with on a regular basis.  The sad part of all this is that years ago, when I actually got off my lazy ass (and I say that figuratively, as actually doing it did not, in fact, require me to get up at all) and deleted all my Facebook friends that I no longer (or never did) speak to, a good percentage of them added me again in a week or two.

Why?  Because somewhere, deep in their brain, they have convinced themselves that back in high school, when the extent of our interaction was them copying off my science homework, we actually were friends.

So where's the lesson in all this?  If you don't want to actually talk to me, DON'T friend me on Facebook.  Generally speaking, you will know when someone only wants to add to their Facebook numbers when you experience the situation in Lesson 2.


When I have accepted a friend request from one of the aforementioned groups, usually I have some interest in what you're doing now, or I wouldn't have accepted.  Usually, this manifests in the form of the following:

Sadly, that last part is all true!
Seriously.  I don't type a message to you for my own health, I do it because I genuinely want to know what's going on with you.  Is it too much to ask to respond to a message in a timely manner, even if it's just to say "I'm super busy right now so I can't say much, but thanks for your message, it was great hearing from you!  I will get back to you very soon!"

Hmm, nevermind.  The five seconds it took me to type that actually was kind of a long time.  Seriously put a dent in my schedule for the day.  Scratch Lesson 2!


Get priorities straight: Check!
Also, where are the doctor's hands???  #oops
If you are an actual friend of mine, it might actually interest me to know that you got engaged, are pregnant, or got that awesome job you interviewed for last week.  Or, God forbid, you've actually birthed a child after a nine month pregnancy we all had to suffer through in the form of status updates about your cramps, strange food cravings, and public flatulence.

Perhaps this is old-fashioned, but is it now unheard of for someone to actually pick up the phone and call those who might actually be interested in major events in his/her life to let them know?  Is it just a given that I am constantly stalking your Facebook profile to garner said information without you ever having to lift a finger?

Wow, your kid looks an awful lot like the weather radar...or perhaps Anthony Weiner's wiener.
In the old days, situations like these were meant to be shared with people who actually knew you, not the vast population of Facebook friends outlined in Lesson 1 (especially pictures of the inside of your uterus - why the hell would you want everyone to see that??!).  Then when something cool happens, your actual friends just look like tools when they Facebook you to say, "Congratulations!", especially when that middle-aged guy you met waiting in line at McDonald's just wished you "all the best" yesterday.


People who know me in "real life" know that I am constantly harping on about "boundaries", or the lack thereof, that people in this day and age seem to have.  Facebook only exacerbates this problem by not only making it easy to check up on people and communicate with them, but it is also made public so your whole FB universe is subjected to the airing of your dirty laundry.  Here's one of my favorites:

The Breakup.
I don't want to be rude, but I surely don't want my News Feed clogged with your asinine Facebook fights, where complete sentences become some useless thing you learned in grade school and English becomes incomprehensible.

Here's some more:

The cry for help.
The sad, loveless person.

These types of statuses only make everyone uncomfortable.  There is no decent response for any of these scenarios, and no one wants to be responsible for sending you over the edge because they made the mistake of asking you "what's wrong?".

There's a time and a place for these types of statements, and they include a phone call to your best friend, dinner with your mom, or a therapist's office.  The rest of us would prefer to think of you as that really sloppy funny drunk person at that party we went to our freshman year of college, not as a person with really poor grammar and relationship problems.


A new favorite Facebook annoyance of mine is the "wall blocking" technique.  This is when someone you used to be friends with, someone you used to date, or perhaps someone you don't even really know, chooses to specifically block you from posting on their wall.  You can still see their status updates, other people's comments (so you are sure to know that YOU have been singled out), and their endless photos of their unsmiling three-year-old, but you can't post anything of your own.

Thank God I can still see your friends' idiot comments, and those beautiful baby photos.
If only I could indicate that I "Like" them, so that you will know for sure that I am a stalker. 

Get over yourself, much?!!?  Unless I have given you reason to suspect that I am a crazy stalker (which of course I have never done... Ahem.), please don't kid yourself into thinking that I care enough to post something on your wall.

I'm curious, what do these individuals think we are going to post?  Expressions of undying love for them?  A dirty joke?  Political propaganda?  Perhaps the wives put them up to it?  But thank you for being thoughtful enough to allow me to see the vacuous comments you and your friends can make!

If you're going to block someone from posting on your wall while still subjecting them to your inane comments, you may as well just un-friend them.  Because if we can't even have the option of publicly telling you what a d-bag you are, then being your friend just isn't fun at all.

Note: I do see the value in blocking certain individuals you choose to remain friends with, such as teachers or family members. But, in these scenarios, I tend to completely block the person from my wall or my photos (or both), so then they just think that I am a boring person with no friends and no wall to speak of.  Though admittedly, that isn't that far from the truth.  Ahem.


In the old days, when you didn't want to do something with someone, you simply didn't answer the phone.  Or, if you're like my mother, you have a whole handful of excuses waiting at the ready in case someone catches you unawares.  In those days, there was no way for them to know you lied unless you had the misfortune of running into them someplace you weren't supposed to be, or if they were creepy stalkers who lurked around your house and stared into your windows.

Now, you have the hassle of dealing with so many forms of social media that lying can get a bit tricky.  Let me tell you a story:

I have this friend... We'll call her Sarah.  Sarah is notorious for bailing on plans, usually using the excuse of "Ohhhh, I worked all day and I'm tiiiiiiired", or "I have a headache, I'll let you know if it clears up..", or "I'm going to watch a movie, I'll call you when it's over.."  In other words, she is, in fact, an 80-year-old in a 26-year-old's body.

I've come to terms with this particular trait over time, but the last straw came last summer when I asked her to come to an 80's party I was hosting at my house, complete with 80's music, prizes, and Nintendo!  (Who wouldn't want to attend a function like that?!!??  Seriously?!!)  About a week before my exciting social event, Sarah texted me, "I'm going to be out of town for your party.  Sorry!"

Riiiiight.  I knew it was a lie, but I guess it would have been cool had she not posted this on her Facebook status the night of the Social Event of the Season:

Liar liar, pants on fire!!!

I should hope this goes without saying (evidently not for everyone), but if you're going to lie, at least make sure your Facebook statuses back you up.

*****END OF UNIT*****

To sum up, Facebook can be an evil entity.  A cesspool of poor grammar, desperate attempts to look happy, and annoying advertisements.  (And no, the irony of that fragmented sentence does not escape me.  Ahem.)

Don't get me wrong, I think Facebook has a lot of positive qualities.  One can organize political rallies, raise awareness about a specific cause, promote music or cool events in the area, and is obviously an awesome resource for reconnecting with people you used to know.  It is nice to hear a positive update from one's acquaintances over Facebook that you would not necessarily know otherwise.  I have re-established many friendships from childhood through Facebook, many of which I would consider to be some of the richest, most enduring relationships in my life.

What I am NOT an advocate of, however, is using Facebook to replace normal social etiquette.  Just because you are communicating through a keyboard and a computer screen doesn't mean that it excuses you from being a decent person and treating people with common courtesy.

Now it's YOUR turn, dear readers, what did I miss?  Does anything really irk you about Facebook I didn't mention?

Next Lesson in Charm School: TEXT MESSAGING ETIQUETTE!!  Stay tuned!!  


Melbourne on my mind said...

In Lesson 3, you neglected to mention that the overshare-y status updates continue LONG after the person has given birth (if it's the pregnant oversharer category of friend) in the form of information about their child's snot, poo and vomit. And if you call them on it, they get all "MY CHILD IS IMPORTANT!!!!!!!!" defensive about it.

Yes, your kid is important to you. But that doesn't mean everyone you know needs to know about its every *movement*

Melbourne on my mind said...

PS. I neglected to mention how much I hate people who make their sonogram or disembodied hand (+ engagement ring) their profile picture. Last I checked, I was friends with YOU, not your hand or your foetus!!

Bi said...

OMFG the disembodied hand!! I CANNOT believe I forgot that!!! The disembodied hand can kiss my ass, and is automatic grounds for unfriending. And to go so far as to make it one's profile picture pretty much means he/she (probably she) deserves to be punched in the face.

theTsaritsa said...

"Get over yourself, much?!!? Unless I have given you reason to suspect that I am a crazy stalker (which of course I have never done... Ahem.), please don't kid yourself into thinking that I care enough to post something on your wall."

HAHAHA, I totally agree. If you don't want someone in your business why be friends on FB at all? It's stupid. FB is just like high-school, with more exhibitionism. I don't want to see the placenta of anyone's newborn child and no one likes awkward facebook updates. Your chart of the makeup of FB friends is sooo spot on!

Wanna be FB friends? :P

Meri said...

Oh holy TMI, number 4... yes.
I love your pie chart :)

MeredithDuck said...

I hate Facebook so much but it just keeps drawing me in like an abusive boyfriend. Although I've never had one of those, but I imagine that they're somewhat a like. Although that seems like a really idiotic thing to say.

Here are my two faves:

One girl from high school commented on my good friends facebook page "Hey! How are you? How are your mom and dad? I haven't seen them forever!"

Her dad died 5 years ago. Way to stay current.

And then there are the people that I've deleted for the same reasons that you mentioned that weeks later send me a friend request. And if I'm stupid enough to let them into my life again why am I surprised when they still don't comment on my page or talk to me at all? I've learned to be much more selective on who I let in, but I still think 200ish friends are way too many.

Rant over! Time to check my facebook. :)

Bi said...

@Tsarita: ARGHHH those things irritate me so incredibly much!! It is just creepy that even embryos can't escape the clutches of Facebook. Gross.

@Meri: Ugh, TMI statuses are the worst. Please let me know if I ever do that. ha!

@Meredith: I know what you mean about that "abusive boyfriend" thing... Despite my ranting, I STILL sign on to that shiz at least daily. I feel like such a tool!!

Coyote Rose said...

I totally agree with everything you said and am willing to add one:

Don't get pissed off is someone you only vaguely know doesn't accept your friend request. I have had a couple people who i only know marginally (or are fellow bloggers) who know hate me because I didn't accept their friend request. But its like bitch I don't know you, we haven't hung out, just because i read your blog doesn't mean i want you knowing where i live, etc. It's not personal but i like my privacy i don't want people i don't really know having access to like my phone number and work info.

Liddy said...

Now that I know about your 80's party, I feel a little devastated that I never had the chance to go. That. sounds. AWESOME.
A note about the sonogram and birth pictures thing: I was recently at a friend's place where she and her roommate were keeping constant tabs on their friend who was having a baby. When the father made the Facebook announcement only *five minutes* after his baby was born, my friend and her roommate complained, "Well where are the pictures? God!" So there are some very sad people, usually with iPhones where their brains should be, who EXPECT as a form of COURTESY that they have access to baby pictures before anybody has had a chance to hold it.

Lancer said...

I would open my facebook and wonder if people were born dumb asses or if it just came easy to them. Always reading about their problems lead me to have sleepless nights along with waking up to tear-stained pillows. With that being said, since I had a spare virtual shoulder to lean on, decided to lend a helping hand via facebook status which read:

Facebook is NOT a clothesline to air out your personal drama. Seriously. Some people need to add a “Curtain Falls” application along with an “End of Act I, Scene I” Fan page. Here’s a Top News Feed for you attention seekers: Nobody fricking cares so suck it up like a ghetto Hoover vacuum!

It got a little hostile for a short period, and even Mark Zuckerberg got involved by referring me to some credible counselors. Will keep you posted.

Nicki said...

This right here? PRECISELY why I don't use Facebook when I don't have to. That pie chart is SPOT-ON.