Doggone that Mark Zuckerberg. He just can't stop himself from tinkering with the design of Facebook and now he's started an ugly backlash among users of the social network. They rail on the site about altering "interfaces" and "status reports," wholly resistant to the changes Zuckerberg hath wrought. I, however, am the only one who has suffered financially. Inspired by Facebook's suggestion, I began designing T-shirts to sell in my Facebook "store." Now that Zuckerberg has unilaterally decided to remove the baffling "poke" feature, I have had to eliminate one of my top-selling shirts, which read, "I poked your Mom on Facebook." With 800 million users and growing, this guy is costing me money by declaring "no pokes." What's next to go, all the "click 'like' if you love Jesus" posts? Don't force me to ditch another T-shirt.
Now, a chain/spam letter is making the rounds warning users that Facebook is about to charge for usage, and if you copy the message to your wall, your profile picture will turn blue and protect you from the coming pogrom. If not, you must pay or have your account deleted. Of course, it's nonsense, but doesn't it seem to plagiarize the old Passover story when lambs' blood smeared over the doorway saved the Jews in ancient Egypt from the angel of death?
There are more fake messages posted by what the Huffington Post referred to as "clickjackers." Messages such as "click here to see who's looking at your profile" and seemingly harmless patriotic or spiritual posts that ask you to copy and paste to your wall if you agree, open your account information to clickjackers. Once infected with their code, the hackers are able to spam all your friends, which must be the reason I see so many posts with glittering photos of high-heeled shoes from my male friends and track shoes from the women.
The fastest-growing demographic among Facebook users is among the 60-90 age group, so scams even less sophisticated than these can nearly be predicted. Phishing attempts, phony sites designed to look like Facebook that ask for your password, and the infamous pleas for money transfers from frantic friends stuck in a terrible situation who need your immediate help. For the elderly or less experienced in navigating a computer, sites like Facebook can be a minefield of hucksterism. But for those merely approaching elderly or upper-middle-aged like me, Facebook can be very gratifying, from connecting with old friends to observing an old high school crush age poorly. I located my 5th-grade girlfriend and she turned out to be a lovely person. I had always believed that she had moved far away and never heard from her again, but to my surprise, her family had only moved as far as Whitehaven. She claimed, "Facebook is a very pleasant way to waste time." It's for certain that hours can go by before you know it. That's Zuckerberg's master plan. Soon, everything you do on the internet will be offered within the confines of Facebook.
I was a reluctant participant for a while, mainly because I'm not much of a joiner, and as a blogger, I figured I was receiving enough hate mail, so why open myself up to further abuse? But I've very much enjoyed my Facebook experience once I learned how to use the "mute" function, or what is now referred to as "Unsubscribe from [so-and-so's] comments." Because of my musical past, I began receiving "friend requests" from many people I do not know, but I decided that if someone wanted to be my friend, it's okay with me as long as they don't become annoying. As a result, I only personally know about a quarter of my "friends," but I've gotten to know some strangers through conversations about music and politics whose posts I look forward to, while simultaneously "muting" a series of annoying posters without having to offend them with the ultimate penalty of "unfriending." And then there's always the "delete" button.
Currently, I have several types of offenders on "mute." I post perhaps twice a day, usually an obscure song from YouTube or an article that I find interesting, but I had to put all the serial posters in Facebook limbo. These are the people who post song after wretched song ad infinitum and their evil twins: posters who constantly "share" other people's posts. This is the same guy who wanted to copy your test answers in high school.
Then there are the self-promoters, which, I suppose, is the purpose of being on there in the first place. But there are shameless individuals, bloated with self-importance, wanting you to be aware of their every movement. This excuses musicians who use Facebook to plug their gigs, because musicians do noble work and can do no wrong. It's no coincidence that half my "friends" are holding guitars in their profile pictures. A resurgence of "older" musicians working again has transpired because of Facebook. I've also noticed a surplus of people offering dogs for adoption, sloganeers, angry political advocates, and prayer requests. But I believe I've found the way to make it pay. I joined a group of people with whom I used to attend junior high, and I have saved all those goofy school photos we used to exchange. I'm going to post one or two of the most awkward, then ask for "contributions" under the threat of publishing them all. Oh yeah, Zuckerberg made the photos much larger in the news feed.
Randy Haspel writes the blog "Born-Again Hippies," where a version of this column first appeared.