Thursday, October 28, 2010

Status Symbol

Last night something big happened.

Something significant.

And, as so many of us now do, I changed my Facebook status.

Now, as I am doing here I will say that I did not share the big story on my Facebook page. I didn't even share it when I was almost instantaneously contacted by a family member to tell her everything I knew.

"Don't worry," she wrote. "I won't tell anyone."

Less than a minute had passed before the next e-mail arrived. "Okay. I will."

Less than a minute after that another e-mail arrived, the story was already making the rounds. It was a bit fractured, but largely laid out as it was in the real world.

Minutes ago I got even more details to the story. Through Facebook.

It's funny really. In the last several weeks I've spent more time on Facebook than I normally do. I've been running back and forth from jobs and printers and assignments, riding on buses and trains at all times of the day and night. Invariably, instead of opening a book, I've been flipping through Facebook pages.

People mourn. They announce births and deaths. They rail about politics, the economy, civil rights and what costume they will wear for Halloween.

And it's all done with the same tone. The same volume. There's no choice really, because that's one of the things about social networking. We all get to be different in the very same way. We decorate pages with funny images and post videos and music that we like. We add clever phrases and post status changes from our desks and mobile phones and from the seats of buses and theaters and restaurants.

When this all started, when Facebook and MySpace and all the rest came into being, it was played out like a new common square where we could all hang out. A place where great ideas would be shared and we could all be "friends".

But right now, as I think more and more about the social networks, things are feeling far less social.