The Web Hostess: Why you must join Facebook

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Monica Hesse
Wednesday, September 1, 2010; 2:00 PM

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Monica Hesse: Last chat, a chatter wrote in to ask how to monitor his/her online reputation if he/she won't join Facebook on principle. We were running out of time, and I said we'd revisit this week. And we will, but I wanted to kick off with my argument against this "on principle" argument: You must join Facebook. You must join it because everyone is there. Everyone is there, and it is well beyond the point of, "If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?" Everyone is there like everyone is on the telephone. Facebook is the telephone. You must join if you want to have contact with entire swathes of your friends and loved ones. If you are holding out because of disdain, because you look down on those with thousands of "friends," then your problem is not with Facebook. Your problem is with semantics. Nobody on Facebook -- not a single person -- believes that all of their Facebook "friends" are actually real-world "friends." "Friend" is an arbitrary word used by the site. Your contacts there could just as easily be called that -- "Contacts" -- or "Acquaintances," or "Rutabegas." The name is completely arbitrary; it has nothing to do with how you interact with people there, and it will not force you to have coffee with these people. If you are holding out because you think it is a time suck, you are only partially right. Facebook will be a time suck only in your early months of using it. That's when you will discover more about the people you know well, through their photographs and updates, and you will regain contact with people you had long ago forgotten. You may think you don't care about these people, and on some level you don't. But they are threads in the quilt that is your life story, and you will find yourself surprisingly touched, surprisingly enriched by what you gain from those interactions. Once the awe has worn off, you will stop using it. If you are holding out because you value your privacy, there are infinite ways to control your privacy on Facebook. There are infinite tutorials telling you how to control your privacy. There are infinite choices regarding what you could choose or choose not to share. If you like, you can arrange your settings to reveal no more information than could be found in the White Pages. Privacy online is an enormous issue, but boycotting one specific site is not a solution to the problem. If you are holding out because you think it's a fad, remember this: People once thought that email was a fad -- a mark of uber geeks. People probably once thought that the mail system was a fad. I'm sure that some ancient Egyptians were annoyed with some other ancient Egyptians, who wasted a bunch of time on carving hieroglyphs when they could have been having face-to-face conversation. You know what else? You are right. Facebook is a fad. Something else will come along that we will all use. Technologies change. But that something else hasn't come along yet. In the meantime, you didn't say, "The telephone is a fad; I'm going to skip it until the next thing comes. Right now, you must contact me via semaphore." Please feel free to now offer counter arguments. I'd love to hear them. But in the meantime, to the people who ask, "why should I join Facebook?" then my answer is that you shouldn't. If you refuse to use e-mail, the telephone, a typewriter, a ball-point pen, the U.S. Postal system, or verbal language, then you should not join Facebook. Everybody else, please get on board. While you're there, go ahead and friend me.

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Monica Hesse: This week on the Internet, we saw a couple of different examples of false information spreading online. Ian Shapira thoroughly describes the first in his blog post here.But the gist is this: An local blogger received an anonymous tip that the Washington Times was folding. He posted tip, and the story spread through various reputable news outlets, including the City Paper and Huffington Post. Nobody bothered to verify the information. Finally, a few days after the first posting, other news outlets reported out the story, which turned out to be false. Then the sites that had originally posted the false story began "updating" their posts to correct the story.The second example received a lot of publicity within the insulated media world; Howie Kurtz covered it in his column yesterday.The gist is this: A prominent sports columnist planted a false scoop on his Twitter account, saying that a football player would receive a five-game suspension. In actuality, the duration of the suspension was not known. Later in the day, the journalist revealed that he had planted the false information as an attempt to show the fallibility of the Web, and how quickly people would forward false information without verifying it themselves. In fact, the information was re-posted several places.The reporter received a suspension. Increasingly, even the best-intentioned news compilers post false information, simply because the story is still unfolding and they don't have full information yet.As consumers of the news, would you rather have transparency of process -- learning about new developments, even when they're only in the rumor stage? Or would you rather wait and have the full, airtight story?Also on the Internet: For those who are still up in arms over the cat in the garbage can from last week's chat, this will look like a repeat. An unnamed girl was captured in video, throwing puppies into the river. 4chan users are on the case.And: Chatroulette.com launched again this week, but some argue that it has just as many man parts as always. Anyone try it out?And: My offering for the video of the day. Someone rigged the bell tower at Iowa State University to play "Bad Romance." Go, Midwesterners, Go.

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Why I won't join Facebook: You are missing a giant point in your argument that one simply must join Facebook - that everyone cares about keeping in touch.I have no interest in finding old crushes or people that I drifted from after school. When my sister joined, she friended a lot of my old friends (we went to a small school and knew everyone). Many of them asked for my email address and emailed me. Out of the 15 people that contacted me, there was not one person that I really wanted to hear from.I know I sound like a cranky old goat, but I'm not! I'm social and have tons of friends. I have no issues keeping in touch with any of them through other means.A few give me grief about not being on Facebook, but I really don't feel like I'm missing anything. So what if a friend announces an engagment on Facebook - I'll hear about it eventually.If someone really wants me at their party they can find another way to invite me, and guess what? They still invite me.I admit I have Luddite streak - I rarely bring my cell anywhere with me and can go a few days without even looking at it. What bugs me the most about these technological "advances" is that people are now expected to be easily found at all times. I am surprised when someone gets annoyed with me for not answering my cell every time it rings or for not responding to texts right away.I just don't feel like I have to be at anyone's beck and call and part of the way of dealing with that is to completely avoid the things that cause the phenomenon. FYI, I have noticed that many of my friends have cut way back on the social networking lately - almost like it's become too overwhelming to keep up with it or maybe the novelty is wearing off.

Monica Hesse: Actually, your last paragraph is my second point. I think it's interesting that people tend to use a drop-offin Facebook usage as proof that the site is overwhelming or "done." In fact, what I think it means is that it has become commonplace, and faded into the background noise of life. We have no need to obsessively check it 5 times a day, just as we have no need to obsessively examine the telephone five times a day. The "shiny new object" phase is done. This is a good thing.argument to make if you refuse to try the thing you know you're not missing.As for keeping in touch other ways, I am cheering with wild abandonin support! But now for a counterpoint:

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You Must Join Facebook: In the late 1990s all of us in a 50-member academic department had email--except for a senior professor, John, who refused it "on principle."For several months we limped along, printing department notices, etc, to put in John's mailbox. Finally we said the hell with it and just stopped.We should have done this exactly 1 day after John declared his "principled resistance" and forced him to decide the limits of his principles.Now, Facebook is not email, sure, and a "social network" is not like a means of "business communication." But my point is that if you don't join, you'll be decidedly in a certain kind of cold.If you don't mind being there, fine with me, but you absolutely forfeit any kind of right to complain about not knowing all sorts of things that almost anyone else knows.

Monica Hesse: bit of selfishness? "I know you're contacting everyone else *this* way, but you must contact me via my carrier pigeon, Daffodil. She only eats organic grass."

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Linked In: I joined Facebook years ago, partly because I wanted to monitor the foreign exchange student I was hosting. At first, I rarely visited Facebook, but after seeing so many other friends also on Facebook, I started spending more and more time online.But, I resisted joining other social websites. I think the one other that people said most often to join was Linked In. After being laid off and spending a few months looking, I decided to join Linked In. After all, it was supposed to be good for people looking for a job.I can't say I ever really figured out what I was doing on Linked In and now it is lucky if I log on one time a month.Am I missing something with Linked In?

Monica Hesse: LinkedIn's success for you might depend on the field you're in. I know it's bigger in certain fields than it is in others.

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Why I won't join Facebook: To be honest, snobbery plays a big role. It's the same reason why I've never read the Harry Potter books: if EVERYONE loves it, it can't possibly be any good. Ultimately, however, Facebook (or any third party) is not to be trusted with your personal data. Period. This is a company, in the business of making money, and whatever they may claim, they WILL use your information in ways that will garner them a profit. If it means violating your privacy, too bad. They'll just issue a mealymouthed apology long after it's too late. Besides: the people that used to make fun of me for not joining Facebook now ruefully tell me that they wish they hadn't joined, either.

Monica Hesse: Curious -- For the people who refuse to join because of privacy reasons, is this an extension of how you live your daily life? Have you always had unlisted phone numbers, etc? Just wondering about the correlation.And thanks for being bold enough to bring up the snobbery thing. It might be the 2010 version of finding a way to bring up the fact that you do not own a television in every possible conversation.(P-squared and I, by the way, do not use televisions).

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Friends should be few and good: I avoid Facebook because I already have too many friends. Friends expect you to do things with them, or at a minimum reciprocally communicate, and in my non-work hours I like to budget my own time, not feel obligated to share my quite ordinary life. I use e-mail and the telephone.

Monica Hesse: That's perfectly acceptable -- but I would argue that very few people expect you to do anything with them on Facebook.

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cool video: Not super viral, but a hypnotizing video of stuff being shot in slow-motion. My daughter and I were mesmerized by the water bottle being shot.

Monica Hesse: Ooh, let's all take a break and watch this for a minute. the fact that it's not yet viral makes it even better.

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articles/columns: Can you please ask the editors, or whoever the powers that be are, to put your columns in the drop down box at the top of the website? I always forget to go find you....Thanks!

Monica Hesse: I have no idea who these powers that be are. If Paul doesn't know, I generally just hum a tuneless song until I've forgotten what I needed to know. But I'll ask around.

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Alexandria - Facebook: I joined Facebook in part because I was curious, and in part to monitor my sister-in-law. My sister-in-law posts scads of pictures her/my nieces (daughters of her sister, my other sister-in-law).The pictures include the girl's names and ages. We have an unusual last name and, being pregnant at the time, I was concerned about her posting pictures of my kid. Call me paranoid, but why do my sister-in-law's 1,200 "friends" need to have access to pictures of little girls? And the bonus of their names and ages?So, she's a good person and I hoped to assume her "friends" were, too, but she made an off-hand comment a while back about how one "friend" was convicted on charges of child pornography. We had a nice chat about not posting pictures of our kid (which she has respected).If my kid wants to exploit himself on the internet, he can choose to do so when he's 18.

Monica Hesse: This is an important caveat. We've talked before about parents and Facebook, but extra caution should be involved with kids -- both for the safety reasons you mention and in the interest of letting everyone reach legal consent before mucking with their own privacy.

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Facebook privacy myth: Bruce Schneier says it better than I could. He has a succinct way of exploring social network data types and the levels of control and ownership associated with them. Even with an airtight privacy profile, you are never protected unless you are not on Facebook (or other social media).With the integration of Facebook and search engines and media, they know or can infer a lot about you.Bruce's categories:Service data is the data you give to a social networking site in order to use it. Such data might include your legal name, your age, and your credit-card number.Disclosed data is what you post on your own pages: blog entries, photographs, messages, comments, and so on.Entrusted data is what you post on other people's pages. It's basically the same stuff as disclosed data, but the difference is that you don't have control over the data once you post it -- another user does.Incidental data is what other people post about you: a paragraph about you that someone else writes, a picture of you that someone else takes and posts. Again, it's basically the same stuff as disclosed data, but the difference is that you don't have control over it, and you didn't create it in the first place.Behavioral data is data the site collects about your habits by recording what you do and who you do it with. It might include games you play, topics you write about, news articles you access (and what that says about your political leanings), and so on.Derived data is data about you that is derived from all the other data. For example, if 80 percent of your friends self-identify as gay, you're likely gay yourself.His full essay is here.

Monica Hesse: Thanks for the link. Writings on derived data are particularly fascinating.

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Facebook: But it's annoying when a close friend of mine isn't on Facebook, and I post pix and whatever of the fam and vacations, and then I have to figure out how to e-mail them to this ONE friend. Everyone else can check or not.I mean, she has her reasons (she knows she would waste all her time there) so I do it for her -- since she's a close friend.But it would be preferable for her to join. The thing is just to say: oh, I don't want to keep in touch, or i don't want to join cause everyone's on it, isn't a reason.My friend wants to keep her sanity, remember to eat, and not lose her job. I get it, cause she knows herself well, etc...

Paul Williams: I'm impressed that your friend has both so much and so little self-control.

Monica Hesse: People who have addictive personalities have to be the most stringent about keeping them in check, Paul.(btw, was I supposed to save you any M&Ms from this king-sized bag?)

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Facebook Addict: Im admittedly addicted to facebook, so of course I will agree.Just please don't tell my parents.I don't want to be forced to add them, and I'm 29! Ha ha ha!!!!

Monica Hesse: Your parents are already on. They're hiding from you.

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What Personal Data?: I have never, ever understood this hilarious argument against Facebook. They only get what you give them, people, and you don't have to give them much more than an email address.And frankly, if Hot Babes XXX and Viagra Now have my email address, why do I care who else has it?

Monica Hesse: Do you think Hot Babes and Viagra Now are friends on Facebook?

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Connection between FB and HP?: I'm not on Facebook, and I've never read Harry Potter either. I wonder if there's a connection. Basically, I'm the kind of person who doesn't respond well to the hard sell.If you tell me I HAVE to do something, like join this or read that, I will do the opposite. Reading all your reasons about why I MUST join Facebook just further entrenches me in my anti-FB position.My phone number is also unlisted.

Paul Williams: You're one of those people who has never seen "Star Wars," aren't you?

Monica Hesse: Your taunt would work, Paul, except that this person was careful to relocate to a bomb shelter between 1978 and 2005, so as to avoid all Star Wars references. Thus, he doesn't even know what your'e talking about.

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Washington, DC: Facebook presents a problem for Washington types whose connections span the political spectrum. Being friends with a wide range of people is essential to success in politics, and often a political operator will be friendly with people who are downright hostile to one another. In politics it is accepted that you can never get everyone who is supporting an effort to sit down together -- at least until the last critical phase of a campaign or a legislative vote. But Facebook wants us to get everyone on the same page when there is nothing at stake.

Monica Hesse: This is a problem? This seems like a good thing. Can't we all just put political differences aside and bond over our shared love of Julie & Julia?

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Facebook is just a tool: What's so funny to me about all the Facebook refusers is that they act like it's something they would have no control over.Facebook is just a tool to be used however you want to use it. I don't have 3,000 "friends" on facebook, nor do I post updates about my every thought or activity. I use Facebook to stay in touch with people I'm actually friends with and with family. It's been especially useful to keep family members who live far away in the loop with photos (posted only for my friends, not friends of friends) and occasional posts about what I've been doing.I might post something every 2 weeks. I also like seeing their photos and enjoy being a part of their life. Since I work full-time, go to school at night, and have a family to take care of, I don't have time to call and catch up with everyone every week. But I'm glad I know that Aunt Jane enjoyed her beach trip, and it was fun seeing photos of the fish she caught. I can login on my own time and see all that without having to call during certain hours, or wait for her to send me a photo by e-mail or snail mail.

Monica Hesse: Posting this...

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Anti-Facebook post: I have to say that I really wish I hadn't "reconnected" on Facebook with people who were gone. Really, really wish I hadn't.I wasn't too thrilled to find out that my best friend from college has 2 kids now and on second thought, isn't too interested in talking to me since I'm single. That was awesome.I didn't like finding out that one of my cousins is compulsively lying. I wasn't into it in the first place, but when all the exes came back... yeah, I'd rather stay lost and out of touch than have to debate about how "friendly" I want to be vs. how much of a jerk I want to be, plus all the filtering crap. Ugh. Also, every single day someone is having some kind of Facebook drama, and it's grown old.I think I prefer being out of touch. I hate to go luddite this young, but...

Monica Hesse: ...And balancing with this.

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Time Wasting Video Warning: A friend just inflicted the following video link on me, one-hit wonder Bobby Bloom singing Montego Bay.Check out the four background vocalists leaping out of the weeds! The insidious thing about this link is that YouTube has managed to assemble links to multiple other one-hit wonders from the period.An afternoon gone. Sometimes the past really deserves to be the past.

Monica Hesse: Oh, they LITERALLY jump out of the weeds! Thank you so much for this!

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Exactly the same: I'd argue that most people are the same on Facebook as they are in "real life."I, for instance, forget to wish people Happy Birthday, even though it's right there for me to see. I log in once in a while, I change my status now and then. I'm lazy in real life too.And those people who always send thank you cards for every little baby gift and etc. are the ones who change their status every three minutes and infallibly respond with something encouraging and nice when I finally do post something new.I'm just saying: it's another tool for you being you. Like cards, email, phone, etc. are.

Paul Williams: I like this theory a lot.

Monica Hesse: Nothing more to add -- it's right on.

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Iowa State Campanile: Can I just clarify that the Campanile (Bell Tower) in the video was not rigged. Every day at noon there is lovely musician who plays the campanile. This musician started taking requests to generate more interest. The campanile is one of the things I miss most about that beautiful campus.

Monica Hesse: Thanks for the insider info. I now want to meet this bell person.

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Washington, DC: Given the vibrant case you made for Facebook, it should be noted that one owner of The Washington Post, Donald Graham, also sits on FB's Board of Directors.Facebook loses money, but everyone seems to be pushing it. Why? Well, there are numerous things that can be done with your private information, once you've keyed it in for the FB owners.For example, my FB profile photo now appears on several for-profit web sites where you go to find people's names and addresses. You can control what others see, but you can't control what FB sells.There are numerous, other applications that will also make use of your private information both now and in the future. If you key in the string "Las Vegas" anywhere in your FB information, all the ads on every internet screen you see will be for Vegas hotels.In the future, long after the heat blows over, even the most minute details of your profile will be used to better target ads to you. That's just the profile data. The people you friend will impact you as well. If you should by chance Friend someone who later hijacks a jet and flies it into an office building, then you won't ever set foot on a commercial airliner again.Even worse, credit rating agencies are exploring ways to use your social network in the calculation of your credit score.Now as for conspiracy theories, when Facebook reached its 500 millionth person, I suspected that it was just a big, government snooping project. It's a interstellar money-loser and yet people keep hyping it and pouring more money into it. It can't be about just evil money, because FB is a huge money pit.Today, I've revised my thinking that Facebook is a tool of the Trilateral Commission. I want to hold off on judgment until the millions of users reach 666. You'ld better get your FB account today before people begin to wonder what wrong with you.

Monica Hesse: Sorry for the delays today, guys -- I think that my computer might be communicating with the server via Pony Express.Thanks for the obligatory Don Graham/Facebook connection.

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Facebook is not necessary: You are really reaching comparing it things like the telephone or snail mail. These other things are unique -- until recently with video chats, there was no way to talk to someone 1,000 miles away except with a phone. Also no way to get a letter to someone except through snail mail. There is nothing that Facebook offers that you can't do elsewhere -- email, photo sharing sites, game sites, etc. It consolidates them but there is nothing unique about it so it's infinitely easier to function online without Facebook than it is to function without a phone or the USPS or pens.

Monica Hesse: You are speaking like a person who still communicates with phones and the USPS and pens. And yet I know several people who never write letters or pick up the phone -- or even bother to communicate via phone. Social Networks (Facebook or Twitter, mostly) are the best, fastest, most reliable means of getting in touch with them.And I would argue that a location in which you can see both a snapshot of someone's life-as-a-whole, as well as up-to-date information on what they're doing now -- without having to directly reach out to them -- actually is pretty unique.

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How much: How much of a check would I have to write to you (or your favorite charity) to come talk to my mom's discussion group? There is always wine and excellent hors d'oeuvre. (Or, we could do a Q&A on Skype? In which case, you'd have to provide your own wine/hors d'oeuvre.) Seriously, do you have a "public appearance" side to your life?

Paul Williams: Man, do we need to update this:Speakers Bureau

Monica Hesse: My fee is one tartlet and a wee sprig of asparagus.I get horribly awkward at parties and may spend half of the evening clutching cashews near the snack table to calm my nerves, but if you're okay with the nervous squirrel thing, then sure, I love discussion groups. E-mail me.

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re Exactly the Same: Right. And the people who complain about lots of "drama" on FB are the ones who happen to know a lot of "drama" types in real life. Because I just don't see much of that from my FB "friends."

Monica Hesse: This gets at a larger point that I think we should keep in mind when talking about Facebook or anything else on the Internet. It's tempting to talk about it like it's a destination seperate from our lives. Really, it's just a continuation of our lives.

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Alexandria, VA: As a consumer of the news, I want 2 things.1. From outlets like the Washington Post, or ABC TV, I want a fully researched, truthful story. Even if it's not the first one in the media pipeline.2. From blogs and twitter, etc, I want an honest effort - as opposed to just making up something sensation to further one's image or career. I'm willing to allow blogs and tweets to be less accurate than a fully operation news outlet. What Mike Wise did was completely irresponsible and self serving. He's a member of the main stream media and acted like a 15yo on a message board. He deserves the ripping that he is getting.

Monica Hesse: Hmm. Where do you draw the line between a blog and a news outlet? Which is Huffington Post, and how do you decide? By who founded it? By who works for it? And how do you determine "honest effort?"Sorry to respond with more questions, but I really do think the way that we navigate information online is one of the bigger cultural issues of the day.

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Facebook: Here's a current example of FB use - one of my high school acquaintances just posted a plee for a friend who works at Discovery to see if she's okay.

Paul Williams: Discovery building evacuated

Monica Hesse: And in further signs of the lightning speed information dispersal, am told that photos of the hostage-taker and hostages are already circulating Twitter.

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I even got rid of my Linked-In profile: I think Linked In is for people who think they're too cool for Facebook. You pretend it's for work, to get contacts and connections, but this is just a cover. I was on it for a little while, thinking it might help me get work. It never did anything. But it was a way for people who I hadn't heard from in years to get a hold of me so they can pad their contact list. I had thought it was them trying to get in touch with me, but they never wanted to actually exchange emails or catch up on what was going on. It's so weird. So I got rid of that.

Monica Hesse: hahaha. LinkedIn is like the stodgy book cover you hide your Facebook behind on the bus.

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Every day at noon there is lovely musician who plays the campanile. : If there was ever a job that could be downsized, I'd say this is it.

Monica Hesse: Incorrect.

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If you tell me I HAVE to do something, like join this or read that, I will do the opposite. : Good! Our reverse psychology is working. You're exactly the kind of person we don't want on Facebook.

Monica Hesse: Well, you and perhaps people who would fire the bell person in Iowa.But let's be nice.

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Facebook as fad: What constitutes a "fad" vs. (significant) step in technology/communication/evolution? The young Frank Sinatra was a "fad" until his music turned out to be timeless and a link between then and now. Expect Miley Cyrus will be "fad." We live in interesting times. Monica, have you ever thought (semantically, at least) about fad v. transition steps?

Monica Hesse: just because it's my job to think too hard about the potential meanings of random events/people/memes. You do this long enough, and everything seems that it has great meaning.RickRolling, for example, on its face seems like the definition of a fad -- but really it was one of the first sly, winking nods that the Internet was a place of deceit and that you couldn't necessarily trust what you clicked on.Is there a better way to tell what is faddish and what is transitional, other than time? I'm not sure. Thoughts?

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Monica Hesse: We'll go a little long today, for anyone who can stick around, just because I lost so much time with my stone tablet-I-mean-computer.

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Slow Motion Shooting: Thanks for the video link. I liked the tomato being shot, followed immediately by the ketchup bottle being shot, which suggests a new mode of food preparation consisting of successive shootings. .45 caliber mashed potatoes. It would give another dimension to the Quick Fire Challenge. Top Chef meets MythBusters. What really caught my attention, though, were the countless other slow-motion shooting videos on YouTube.

Monica Hesse: Particularly those that might be accompanied with the soundtrack of slo-mo Justin Bieber.

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On the danger of needing to know now: I'm almost certainly a codger, but I would much rather wait for fact sto be verified and for real reporters to do real writing than to know, this instant, that some event has maybe occurred.It seems we've lost a certain capacity for waiting, and waiting actually does some good sometimes, especially in getting things right.

Monica Hesse: Thanks. I tend to agree. Search engine specialists may not?

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FB as utility: I think it's a difficult case to make that the phone was as much as a fad as FB. With the phone, the capital investment required to create such a system (the manufacture and distribution of the phone itself, the networks of telephone poles and lines, the fees to pay operators salaries, etc.) resulted in a more intentional social contract -- we decided pretty intentionally that this is how, as a society, we would communicate, and we put resources behind it.FB came along without those anchors. We have less skin in the game and can more easily move to the next thing without sacrifice. Also, with the pace of technological change today, it seems like an application like FB could come and go much more quickly, which makes it easier for someone to sit back and wait for the next thing to come along. And the next FB like application will likely come along much more quickly than what came after the phone.

Paul Williams: Following your logic, does that mean I have a social contract to get my TV by cable?

Monica Hesse: This analysis is really thoughtful, but I'm not sure I buy the first part. You seem to be saying that the only technologies worth investing in are the ones that use tremendous monetary and social investment -- by the government, no less. It's a trickle-down theory of development, rather than a groundswell-up. But groundswell-up is how a lot of our more recent technologies seem to have come about.

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Well, you and perhaps people who would fire the bell person in Iowa.: Well, I was just kidding about both. Maybe the bell player has a FB page.

Monica Hesse: Don't think I'm not searching.

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Your life?: "Really, it's just a continuation of our lives." Really? You live in Farmville and have to fight Mafia Wars and need a poll about how President Obama REALLY IS a Secret Muslim? I feel sorry for you.

Monica Hesse: I think what the OP was saying (or at least how I was interpreting it) is that if you are the type of person to get addicted to solitaire in real life, then you might get addicted to Farmville on Facebook. If you were consistently remembering anniversaries in real life, you'll probably remember them on Facebook. It's not going to fundamentally change who you are.

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Post speakers bureau: Wow. So not aware of this before. Thanks for site; and yes, it probably should be updated or touted in some way. Calling other moms before you get booked up and overwhelmed!

Monica Hesse: I don't even think I was aware of this site, but I'm definitely seeing names of people I want to come talk to me.

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The original question: How can one monitor one's reputation on Facebook without joining?

Monica Hesse: You know what? I have no idea.My first thought was to do some research on Reputation Defender, or other companies that monitor your online lives. But that seems like using a tank to kill a fly.At root, this isn't really an Internet question so much as it's a social question, and it might be best to deal with Facebook busy-bodies the way one deals with any other busy-bodies. Contact them privately, explain that there's certain information you'd like to keep close to the chest, and ask that they not discuss it online. Someone who "gets it," will immediately apologize and explain, honestly, that they didn't know you weren't discussing the baby's sex in public yet. Someone who doesn't get it will take the discussion off of Facebook, then continue to talk about you via email and the telephone.That's a rather anti-climactic answer, no? I would love other suggestions...

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Not on Facebook, Not against Facebook: Am I the only one who's not on Facebook just because? It seems a lot of people don't do it just so they can say they don't, like those people who won't watch Star Wars or the Godfather for just the same reason - shock value. I also don't think I'm too cool for it. I don't believe in cool anyway. Cool is cold, unfeeling. I'm warm. I definitely don't have too many friends for it. Basically, I just can't be bothered. Why is that so unusual?

Monica Hesse: This is the take I like best. "Can't be bothered," is much better than a visceral anti-response, given without full research or knowledge.

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"bell person": Makes me think of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame...

Monica Hesse: Obviously.

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Pew Study: Any comments on the Pew study? I am always amused by the headlines that incorporate exclamation points!!!! when studies show that folks over fifty are using social network sites or mastering the mouse.

Monica Hesse: I haven't read the latest Pew study -- but I know what I'll be doing later tonight! (and an extra !!!!! so I can be as cool as the 50+ Facebookers?)

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7 Reasons the 21st Century is Making You Miserable: Everyone should read this article by David Wong. I rarely forward anything, but this went to most people I know.7 Reasons the 21st Century is Making You Miserable

Monica Hesse: Argh, this got lost in the slog, which is a disappointment because Cracked.com is quickly becoming my favorite site for vaguely juvenile social commentary that makes you laugh, sigh, and nod knowingly all at once.

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Surprising Poll: Have you checked the number on your poll question lately? Amazingly it is 53% Yes and 47% No right now (231 votes). I expected the cool kids (FB kids with mad skillz) to be a much higher percentage given the topic of this chat. Are you surprised that it is even close?

Monica Hesse: I'm surprised that I'm winning. Expected to be totally creamed. I wrote a five paragraph argument, but there are issues here that are much more nuanced and book-worthy, as we're seeing from discussion today.

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How to control my email inbox: I have about 2,000 emails in my inbox, most of which I probably don't need. Has anyone come up with a way to control this? At this point, I'm afraid it will take weeks of concentrated effort to delete most of them. Help...

Monica Hesse: Here's my Heloise-like tip:1) Rearrange your inbox so it's grouped by sender, rather than date.2) You'll notice that you have huge blocks of emails from some senders you don't even have to open. For me, it's a jam company that I once ordered from that now sends an email every day. Delete those immediately.3) You'll have other emails from people you care about and want to save, but don't need to read again. Like "Mom." Select all, and move those into folders.4) For everything that remains, start at the top of the alphabet and go through one letter every day. Today, just work on sorting through the A's.5) Repeat every month.

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Next week: I have some thoughts on determining what should be considered a news site, etc. Can we pick this up again next week?

Monica Hesse: We can!And alas, we are way over time. There are scores of posts I didn't get to, or didn't even see -- Paul got called away long ago for other duties. My apologies, and hopefully next week my computer will be better behaved.Until then, thanks for stopping by, and GSTQ.


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