Wednesday, January 15, 2014
The Un-Social Network
On any night, there could be as many as twenty of us scattered across the various stoops and car hoods along the block. We each had a favorite guitar player. For many of us it was Jimmy Page. For some, it was Tony Iommi. A few even chose Alex Lifeson of Rush. Some of the older guys had Eric Clapton and one prayed at the altar of Ritchie Blackmore.
On any night, there would be shouting matches filled with profanity-laced insults where everyone's mother was fair game simply because you liked Jimmy Page more than Tony Iommi. It would get ugly as the angry voices of naive teenagers would echo for blocks.
At the close of every business day though, we all went home and then the next morning these same screaming idiots could be seen choosing up sides for a game of touch football or street hockey. We were friends and even if we weren't aware of it, we respected each other. We knew each other's enemies and looked out for one another. There were no "like" buttons. Or, "blocking." The news feed was the corner. There were no moles...
...like on Facebook.
I've tried to embrace Facebook from various points of view since I first signed up and it just won't take.
I was thinking about Burning Wood and how faceless names like Dogbreath and A Walk In The Woods and Peabody Nobis and Iggy have treated me and the words I write, as well as the other people of this online community with love and respect. This is a real social network. Conversely, people I know, people I have touched and slapped and kissed and danced with, are incredibly careless with their words on Facebook. Is it really a social network? It feels more like millions of individuals fighting for airtime and God help you if you get in the way.
I posted something last night, a picture of a local bar, a legendary NYC establishment of my old neighborhood called Miladys, that unexpectedly shut its doors on Sunday night after 70 years. There have been many posts about it, but the reason I decided to post something was because of what my friend Ivan said.
"Miladys lost its lease. Another one gone. Two hipsters walked by and asked me what happened. I said, You."
This broke me up. I laughed out loud, loving the line so much, I was saying it out loud. I quoted Ivan in the post and it took all but 90 seconds for the "likes" and comments. Then, moments later, I hated Facebook all over again. Here's one comment, "Miladys scummy landlord is a hipster? Weird." This was posted by an ex-employee of mine, a glib and entitled guy who is still bitter from being fired. All of his comments, though few and far between, are usually of this nature, leaving me to wonder why he requested my friendship in the first place.
Another comment was, "Hate the game, not the player." Yet another started, "Be nice, Sal.." Suddenly, my little moment of joy, the space I used to mourn the loss of another piece of my past, became a wall for hipster-sympathizers? Did they not get the point of the post? Did they not see the quotes or Ivan's name below the quote?
Of course this might seem like an overreaction on my part, but it becomes more clear everyday. At the greatest moment of my life, I never had 348 "friends." Facebook is quantity over quality. There was more respect from a group of sexless, lanky teenagers with acne on a street corner. There is more respect from the countless comments left on these pages by strangers who feel more like friends, even though we've never met.
Funny, one of the other two comments I just posted was from a real friend. Someone I love and respect and yet, he seems to get great joy at pushing my buttons. I didn't care for that when I was 16. I'm thrilled even less by it now.
Are the examples I just gave reasonable examples to lose my cool, or completely shun an entire network or all of the 348 "friends?" Probably not. But there's always a last straw. And those who are my friends know it. I know it.
I think about Burning Wood and the many disagreements over what is good or bad musically, and with the exception of the occasional troll, it has been a blast, a learning experience, something fun that I keep returning to. As do all of you. Even when you find the time to insult Todd Rundgren or me for liking Todd Rundgren, it never feels like you don't want me here, or more importantly, it feels like you're paying attention.
In a twist on Groucho's quote, "I wouldn't want to belong to a club that would have me as a member," why be part of a club like Facebook where most don't give a shit if you're a member or not?