Below the Beltway

Gene Weingarten: Get outta my Facebook!

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By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, May 2, 2010

I've pretty much given up on Facebook because -- please don't take this the wrong way -- I am tired of hearing about every tedious development in your banal, uneventful life. As it happens, I am currently squirting tepid whipped cream directly into my mouth from the can because my refrigerator is broken and this is the only source of nutrients I can find that has not yet spoiled, but you won't see that on my Facebook page because I have too much respect for your time.

So why do you tell me with whom you went kayaking on Tuesday, what you think of kiwi-flavored marmalade, or that you have become a fan of Gundersen's Plumbing and Heating Supplies in Woonsocket, R.I., and think I should be one, too? I don't want to be. I also don't want to play the word game "Scramble" with your niece, Amber, who is 11 and whom you tactfully suggest I might have a chance to beat, as opposed to you, who defeated me 40 times, even though I am a professional language engineer and you are, as I know so well from your many status updates, a dental hygienist and needlepoint enthusiast currently in a relationship with someone named Darryl, who likes dirt bikes, Rottweilers and borscht.

Sorry. Bad attitude, I know. It's my own fault.

When I first began using Facebook, I made a fateful mistake. I decided that I was not going to be a snob, that I would befriend anyone who asked me, whether or not I had any idea who that person was. And I have faithfully followed that pledge, except in one case -- a guy who applied for friendship on the grounds that we needed to open a meaningful dialogue about how I have been cruel to Dick Cheney.

Well, I've been punished for my promiscuity. I now have more than 1,400 friends, almost none of whom I have ever met, yet most of whom I hear from every time I log in, in endless pages of stultifying drivel such as this one I was just alerted to, as though it were news of an outbreak of war in Europe: "Andrea commented on Lamont's status."

Yes, I know that I can tweak my "settings" to shut off the insipid drone -- the online equivalent of putting a finger in each ear and babbling. But if I did that, I would be secretly betraying 1,400 people who think of me as their friend. That would be just plain rude. Instead, I am writing this column. Could you all please shut the hell up? Thank you.

The tech people at The Washington Post are urging me to close down my personal Facebook account altogether and replace it with a less-interactive "fan" page. I have been resisting this on the grounds that the instant I ask someone to be my "fan," I would realize I have become Justin Bieber and have no choice but to find an open septic tank in which to drown myself.

So, I'm in a pickle. On the one hand, I do occasionally get a snippet of information I find interesting. On the other hand, the relentless barrage of trivial twaddle is only getting worse: It's gone beyond self-absorption into solipsism. A few minutes ago, I got this, which I repeat verbatim, changing only the name: "Katharine M. Butterfield has become a fan of Katharine M. Butterfield on Facebook and suggests you become a fan, too."

E-mail Gene at weingarten@washpost.com.


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