Facebook as hot last free show in town

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Not that you asked, but I’m here to tell you that once upon a time, in cyberspace, an acquaintance discovered that his relationship with his girlfriend ended.

They were together for almost three years—until two weeks ago, when the girl decided to change her Relationship Status on Facebook from “In A Relationship with x” to “Single,” in full view of about 1000 of their combined friends, and hundreds of other friends of friends.

This she did without telling her boyfriend beforehand, in real life.

My acquaintance found out he was duped after his university professor, who happened to be connected on Facebook, talked to him after class, asking if he was okay, you know, after the breakup. My acquaintance remained calm, took out his mobile phone, and set out to find out what was happening.

“Did you break up with me?” he asked his girlfriend via text, after she refused to answer his calls.

“Yes,” she replied back.

All my acquaintance could do was utter three words created to express incredulity, astonishment and wrath, all at the same time: What the hell.

The funny thing was, before a social networking site sealed the fate of their relationship, my acquaintance didn’t see any sign that things were going bad for the two of them.

Until a few days ago, when I set out to research for this article my editors assigned to me, I have never spoken more than 1,000 words to that guy, just as I have never met everyone on my friends list.

Portal to the soul

But on some level I know these people intimately. They place their profile, personal info, relationship status, life updates online and open them up for the world to see. And a status—160 characters, max —with its limited makeup, its potential to boost and slur, its tumble of particulars, is nothing if not a portal to the soul.

Here’s another: One fateful afternoon, a co-worker’s close friend and his fiancée called their engagement off, but decided not to tell anyone about it first. That same night, the guy couldn’t help but naively delete his “Engaged to x” Relationship Status on Facebook.

I say naively, because he had no idea that editing his status would be akin to sending a mass telegram to the universe announcing that HEY I’M NOT GETTING MARRIED ANYTIME SOON.

His phone, and his ex-fiancée’s, wouldn’t stop ringing for the next few days—their close friends, colleagues, parents, all asking what the hell happened.

I don’t know much about these people, but through Facebook, I feel as if I’ve entered their houses, touched their countertops and peeked inside their linen closets. I don’t know why I continue to surf and read, only that I can’t remember a time when these personal details of strangers didn’t fascinate me.

Facebook’s news feed application, which allows you to read through your friends’ updates, is a form of entertainment, a movie we can virtually enter. But it’s more than that. It’s also a slightly snoopy habit we have no interest in breaking.

With each new day come new statuses that we read in our minds as if they were recitations. The text may be dryer than dry, but we still lap it up: Relationship Status: Single. Interested in: Women. Looking for: Networking. Political Views: Democrat. Religious Views: Protestant.

Awesome. Two thumbs up. Now this is entertainment.

Second life

I’ve met more people who spend more time on Facebook than they do outside their houses, people who know more online strangers than real-life friends. When a social networking site stops being about networking and becomes a form of life on its own, the soul’s very own couture succumbs to reading about other people’s prosperities and, well, trash.

No matter what, in Facebook, we all just have to look. Even after a hundred times, you still haven’t gotten enough. It’s the last free show in town.

A social networking site has turned into our second lives. When before, it was merely an edited reflection of our real lives, today it encroaches on the most private bits of our private lives. A virtual space where the most personal thoughts are carelessly declared to the world. Where a relationship is validated, or otherwise, by simply changing a status.

“When you get past the voyeurism and the envy,” a friend told me while I was in the middle of writing this piece, “when the dimensions of Facebook’s browser become less important than the dimensions of your imagination, that’s when all of it ceases to fascinate.”

Or at least we can tell ourselves that. Two days ago, while walking on a palm tree-lined street on the way to work, I bumped into a girl whom I went with to college. She told me that one of our friends, who was unfairly judged as the one who’d be single forever care of the pigeon-holing game called Human Bingo that we once played in class, just changed her Relationship Status from “Single” to “Married.”

My friend looked down at the street and let out a sigh that swirled around the empty lots like a ghost.

“It gives you something to live for,” she said. “It tells you that anything is possible.”

I smiled and nodded, and we stood together under a shaft of light and talked about the beauty of the trees, the peacefulness of the street, and the crisp sunniness of the day.

source: showbizandstyle.inquirer.net

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