Keeping on task with homework, college apps, crafting fine pottery, brewing meth or whatever kids do these days is difficult, due to the fact that the procrastination machines we call computers and smart phones are so integral to our everyday lives. But today I am not here to discuss how technology is slowly leading to the dehumanization of the human race, or how video games corrupt the malleable minds of children, but rather how one social networking website, Facebook, has turned me into somewhat of a cyber-stalker.
Facebook has always been the main villain in the imaginary war against procrastination. There’s something strangely addictive about posting an utterly trivial message on someone’s wall and waiting to see his or her response. But there are certain components of this website that have made it easy for me and other Facebook users to take a peek into the lives of people we have no connection to whatsoever. It used to be the case where you would actually have to visit someone’s profile in order to check up on new photo albums or wall posts but now with the less than a year-old addition of the “News Feed,” a feature that lets a user see live updates of their friends’ statuses and wall posts, it has become considerably easier to be a total creeper.
For instance, I will take a peek at the News Feed to see what’s going on around the town, and something odd will catch my eye, whether it be a picture or a wall post between two people, quite often one person will be someone I don’t know, and my curiosity will often get the best of me. An hour and a half later, I will find myself traveling so deep into the rabbit hole, clicking on names I don’t recognize, and eventually when I stop myself, I realize that I have ended up at pictures of a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend’s 1997 trip to the Amazon with Ice Cube and how it went horribly wrong when they came across an Anaconda the size of a bus.
News feed has not only wasted countless minutes of my life, but has made me, and I’m sure many others, into almost a peeping tom of the internet. Facebook has created a virtual world where, if a user is lenient with his or her privacy settings, no conversation or photo is personal. News Feed has only made it worse. Even though it is possible to change the settings and not share your wall posts on News Feed, very few seem to care enough to do so which makes it easy for curious users like me to eventually stumble into the darkest nether realms of Chiller McBrosky’s kegger-fueled adventure with the guys last year in Malibu.
Facebook would be better off without News Feed, but it does have its uses like letting me know what’s happening over the weekend or notifying me of a friend’s birthday. It can be useful in a sense that it creates sort of a virtual grapevine, where rumors and information can be shared instantaneously. Although the majority of the time it just lets me know how wasted someone currently is when you see a post like “HHaah Whyy iis what helloo?” For the most part, it’s pretty useless and ends up providing me with a seemingly infinite supply of information and details about people that I would prefer to not be aware of. Anyway, if you would excuse me, I’m going to wrap up this article now and go count how many fair weather Giants fans have posted game-related status updates in the last hour.
Written by Hank Brown. This article originally appeared in the December 2010 issue.