Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Greetings!

It goes without saying that GayProf will be spending the next few days gorging himself on tamales. I suppose that will be punctuated with quality time with family, but, whatever...

Meanwhile, on Paradise Island, this is that special moment of the year when all the Amazons reaffirm their devotion to the Goddess Diana during their annual Festival of the Return of the Sun. Yes, they will be dressing like deer, having massive tickle fights, and baking each other into pies. Just good, traditional, Amazon fun. Have I ever mentioned that I suspect William Moulton Marston took a lot of drugs in the 1940s?

Kiddies, I finally gave up on sending out actual holiday cards sometime ago. So let me use this moment to wish you all a happy non-sectarian, non-denominational winter holiday! And to all my loyal Wookie readers, let me extend you a special greeting for your celebration of Life Day.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Facing Facebook

Maybe it is because I have had a lower on-line presence than in the past, but I must confess that I don’t understand the Facebook phenomena. News outlets have suggested that Facebook and other "social networking" sites are now more popular than internet porn. To me, that's just another piece of evidence of how screwed up our priorities have become in Bush-era America.

Don't get me wrong. I wouldn’t say that I am a Luddite, but I do approach technology with a sense of gravitas and skepticism. Market researchers who try to figure out ways to convince us to buy technology (that we don’t need) label me a “late adopter.” Not since I owned a Commodore 64 have I been on the cutting- edge of any technological innovation. Once again, I find that I am behind the times.

Blogging, the major “democratic” innovation of five or six years ago, has clearly become pass√©. “What? You still Blog?” one can hear others saying, “Ack – Do you do it while listening to your Victrola and in between viewing stereographs? Is your computer powered by a cathode ray tube, Grandpa?”

I am no expert, but I would guess that blogging lost its avant-garde status around the time that “Mommy blog” became an identifiable genre. Or maybe it was at the time that "academic blog" became part of the sphere. Whatever the case, Facebook now reigns supreme.

I still remember the first time that I heard of “Facebook.” It was long ago, way, way back. Like, three years ago -- a lifetime in internet years. I still resided in Texas and had just become the faculty advisor to a campus Latino/a group. During a training session for all new faculty advisors, representatives from student-services warned us that some undergraduates had placed themselves into some pretty bad situations through new-fads like Facebook and Twitter. Giving “status updates,” it turns out, offers a real time-saver for criminal stalkers.

Facebook therefore didn’t appear to be my scene. Much of your interest fades when you learn about it in the context of a conversation about restraining orders (Of course, little did I know about the number of nutty-nuts that I would encounter on this here blog).

Time passed and eventually “friend” became a verb (e. g., Those who know my Diana-Prince alter ego should feel free to friend me on Facebook). It seemed inevitable that I had to open a Facebook page. Many of my "RL" friends and colleagues raved about the hours they spent (apparently in near rapture) on Facebook. So, I finally opened a page about a year ago. In that time, I usually checked in on my homepage every couple of days.

Let me tell you: I.Just.Don’t.Get.It.

Part of the “not getting it” might be my own lack of technology savvy (I would be aware if I were “super poking” people, right?). Part of it might also be that I am a total passive-bottom in the Facebook world. I almost never send “friend requests” (Who needs the rejection?). Instead, I only engage when somebody else happens upon me.

I don’t own a digital camera beyond the one embedded in my cell phone. Therefore, the option of having an on-line photo gallery is fairly slim.

I also never use Facebook’s key feature: status update. There is the lingering association with the aforementioned stalking, but it also seems like a dubious proposition that people care to know the most mundane aspects of my life. Do people really login to find out if I am grocery shopping? Are people actually wanting to know that I just shoveled out the ashes in my wood-burning stove? FYI: I did shortly before I posted this entry, in case I am mistaken about the level of interest.

Faculty who have Facebook relationships with their students also baffle me. Do I want to open up my internet browser to learn that my student is seriously hungover five minutes before classes start? Do they want to know that I am equally hungover before classes start? I kid – I am never hungover before class. One has to be “over” to be hungover.

Most importantly, Facebook hinges on a type of communication that just isn’t my speed. The best “Facebookers” have a quick wit that plays out through short, declarative sentences. They can spin out well-crafted epigrams that involve more than just letting people know what they are cooking for dinner. They communicate something about the human condition, sometimes via virtual-graffiti on a Facebook wall.

I simply can’t be sly in less than fifty words. My sense of humor takes pages and pages of exposition, often for much less payoff. Blogging was so much more suited to my talents. And, let’s be honest, CoG was one the best blogs ever produced.

Now that blogging is declining faster than GM stock, I feel that I should give the Facebook more of an effort. The other night, out of the blue, somebody with whom I went to highschool “friended” me. Given that I hadn’t thought of hir in years, it seemed like an ideal time to test out my interest in Facebook.

So, following hir link, I began to explore other people who had graduated from our highschool. Keep in mind that I didn’t have the worst time in highschool. By the end, I found a niche in nerdsville geekopolis Student Government. Nonetheless, my travel down internet-memory lane convinced me that I have zero interest in knowing 96 percent of the people with whom I graduated highschool.

Scrolling through the Facebook listings reminded me that a lot of people were really, really, really nasty to me in highschool. Sure, I had some satisfaction in seeing how dreadful their lives had become today: fat, saddled with too many children, boring jobs, and trapped in dead-end hetero marriages (Maybe Facebook’s real success is predicated upon schadenfreude). All of that also made it clear that these weren’t the people I want hanging around my internet world. Most of the people that I did care about in highschool were the type of folk who wouldn’t bother with Facebook.

Determined to make a better go of it, I decided to expand my search to include my alma matter. The problem there was that I graduate from a massive state university. Moreover, that university caterered to “non-traditional” students (The average age of undergraduates was 28). This means, of course, that most people did not graduate on a four-year plan. To make matters even more complicated, I often worked full-time as an undergraduate student. Most of my friends in college, therefore, came from the places where I toiled as a secretary. After all, I spent much more time in offices than I did on campus.

So, searching through my particular graduation year yielded almost nobody that I knew personally. It did, however, reveal people that I wished that I had known in college. ¡Ojal√°! Then I thought to myself, why am I wasting time on Facebook when I could be on Manhunt?