Don’t drink and network

Published 2:44 pm Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Here I was minding my own business, communicating with old friends via the great computerized standard of e-mail when along came an invitation to something called Facebook.

With moving way, far off from friends and family, I had already attempted the social network site, MySpace and except for my friend Tom, it was a lonely page that just sat out in cyber darkness with no one to connect with. I began feeling sorry for myself every time I logged in to find no one had bothered to make me their friend. Pathetic, yes. It was.

Now, suddenly here was an invitation to another social network. Did I dare chance more rejection and self pity?

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

So, I clicked accept. This meant I would have to sign up to participate. As you become a member, you register by answering the blank spaces beneath the questions of religion, age, and hobbies. You try to find a flattering photo to upload for your profile and then you wait for your social life to come a calling. It reminded me of those teenage years sitting around the house on a Saturday night with nothing to do and no one to do anything with. So, you wait for someone to call. Again, pathetic.

Let me point out, Facebook is not a “find a date” online network and my intentions are to reconnect with friends and not run off with a hairy hippie from Connecticut.

One by one, a friend invitation arrived at the door of my e-mail, filling me with both delight and social satisfaction. I became proactive and began inviting my previous e-mail buddies to join with me in Facebook communion.

Instead of once in awhile taking a peek at my profile, I now was going daily, even more than once a day, eager to discover what my Facebook friends were up to. Who had written on my wall? Who commented on my status? What radical group did so-and-so join today?

After a few months of networking, I have dozens and dozens of friends and everyday I know what their status is or their mood or even what they are thinking. I am familiar with their causes, their favorite movies and music. I see their posted photos of places they have been or their family gatherings.

The best part of their photo albums is that I can take a peek if I want to, or ignore them completely. No more home movies of boring strangers visiting Rock City or three hundred photos of the same new grand kid in different poses. Now, Its fun to take a look at someone’s photos because I have the power to not look.

I find I know more about some of these acquaintances than I had ever known. Some things, I wished I hadn’t.

I am not so lonely anymore. I have my friends on Facebook. I can snoop on my kin and my kids. I can get poked, receive a virtual gift and post my favorite music video. I can send a glass of ice tea to my buddy in Seattle and throw a snowball at my friend in Florida. I am not sure why I enjoy such internet play, but I do and I get more involved with every day that passes.

You never know who will pop up wanting to be your friend. I ignore strangers but old school mates and even old boyfriends are welcomed. Although, there are a few people I really did not want to accept but I did anyway.

Some of these friends I do not remember and some I could not recognize. There are some things and some people I wished I had left in high school so the horror of some of those faces popping up with friendly invitations does worry me. But so far, none have shown their ugly head. I am praying old photos stay in people’s attics as well.

I not only have friends but causes as well. I am for things and against things.

I joined the fans of the New Orleans Saints because being a fan requires a support group and on Facebook you find your gang.

However, I only have a handful of friends on Myspace. I seldom go there, choosing to go to where all my friends are instead. What is the difference between the two? Not too much, the Myspace site allows you to decorate or customize your profile while Facebook’s popularity is overtaking the lead in new members, such as 132.1 million visitors in June this year — that is a lot of networking.

How popular is Facebook? In a recent study, college students placed it second on their most popular thing list tied with beer. The Ipod came in first.

The popularity of these sites makes keeping in touch with your friends so much easier. But, with all the good, of course there is some bad stuff. It is a transparent society. Privacy is out the window. Don’t put anything online that you would not want the world to see. Because what happens on Facebook doesn’t stay on Facebook!

Just ask Jon Favreau, incoming Obama’s director of speechwriting who posed with a cutout of Hilary Clinton. In the photo he was groping her and sticking a bottle of beer up to her lips. His behavior has been captured in time and was published in the Washington Post. Now that’s embarrassing.

Would we like some of our tacky and stupid moments placed online for all the world to see? Be nice to those who may have those embarrassing photos of you, because a few clicks and they can be out on their profile. I threaten my sons with good behavior or I am breaking out the scanner!

Employers not only interview candidates for jobs now, they Google and Facebook them because it reveals much about a person. For instance, on my profile you will find my family, my music likes, my political affiliations, and more about my sense of humor than a boss should know.

If you have nothing to hide, there probably isn’t anything to worry about. But just as you may be attending your office Christmas party, what you do there may affect your job, so does what you do on your social network.

My word of advice, don’t drink and Facebook.

Tracy Williams is a guest columnist and can be reached at