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No Friends of Facebook's, in a Generation That Is

Natasha Hawkins, 28, during her dance class on Tuesday. She is the director of the DCypher Dance Company and a Facebook holdout.
Natasha Hawkins, 28, during her dance class on Tuesday. She is the director of the DCypher Dance Company and a Facebook holdout. (Ricky Carioti - The Washington Post)

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By Ian Shapira
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tomek Kott is so stubborn about not joining his friends -- in truth, nearly his entire generation -- on any social networking site that his wife launched a mini-crusade against him. Exploiting a tactic surely befitting our times, she whipped up a Facebook group last year called "Tomek Kott Must Join Facebook."

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So far, it hasn't worked. Her husband, a 25-year-old physics graduate student who considers social networking a time-wasting cesspool of pseudo-communication, remains blithely unconnected.

"I am old-school in the personal touch way," said Tomek Kott, who lives in Silver Spring and has outsourced many of his digital communication duties to his wife, Anne. "All my friends from high school have also met my wife, and they're friends with her; my wife 'friended' them or whatever it's called."

Kott and others like him are social networking refuseniks: people in their 20s or early 30s who have gone off the grid, eschewing the ecology of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and the like. In Washington, refuseniks are not exactly operating in isolated, Luddite worlds: One is in a dance company, another is a rapper/hip-hop singer, another is a Georgetown undergraduate. Kott grew up in Redmond, Wash., where his father is a software engineer for Microsoft.

All of them, given their ages, qualify as exotic life forms.

The vast majority of their peers in the millennial generation are social networking pros: About 85 percent of all Internet users 18 to 34 visited Facebook, MySpace or Twitter in August, according to ComScore, a Reston-based Internet data research company. And about 84 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds check social networking sites at least once a week, according to a May study by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

In the DCypher Dance company, friends of Natasha Hawkins, 28, consider her digital abstinence a nuisance.

They labor to send e-mails to share photographs, reexplain personal news that has been publicized on a Facebook news feed and wonder whether she knows about upcoming auditions or performances of other companies.

"Maybe I should pressure her to get on it," said Vikki Weinberger, 27, a fellow DCypher dancer who's been hesitant to do so because she doubts Hawkins will budge. "She's a very strong person in her morals and beliefs."

Hawkins, who eons ago joined and later left the social networking site BlackPlanet, views such realms as potential for drama and rumor. She believes in forging bonds the old way and preserving a tight circle of quality relationships.

"I have close friends -- and I know how to reach them," she said. "People create arguments, actual arguments or disagreements as a result of Facebook. I am like, 'Really? It's a computer network?' We need to stop."

She knows not everyone approves of her boycott. "I probably have 20 e-mail requests to join Facebook, and I have not accepted," Hawkins, a risk analyst for the federal government, said with a half-chuckle. "My friends hate me."


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