. . . but I'm a tad uneasy about it. And the story by David Carr in the Sunday New York Times Arts & Leisure section about the new movie, "The Social Network," didn't do anything to diminish my uneasiness about plugging in to this giant online virtual-socializing and snooping enterprise.
The movie is based on the story of the creation of Facebook by Mark Zuckerberg, a socially clumsy young man at Harvard who, in a sense, executed the uber-geek's ultimate ironic twist. He channeled his frustrations, social ineptitude and exceptional intelligence into creating what the Times calls "the largest engine of social interaction in the history of mankind."
And he made a gigantic amount of money in the process.
Here's how the Times described both the movie and the phenomenon of Facebook: "Social media -- with the technology that allows people instantly to inform dozens or hundreds of thousands of people about where they've been and what they've done, in pictures and in words -- become a kind of self-replicating organism in the film, feeding and consuming all who mouse over it."
So Facebook ranks up there with the invention of the printing press and the telephone in terms of ideas that have altered our world. Many innovations have claimed to make the world smaller, but Facebook has used the Internet and the proliferation of personal computers to reduce the world to the size of a telephone booth, if anybody still remembers how small a telephone booth is.
And, like a cranky hermit living in a cave high in the mountains, I've deliberately avoided Facebook until it seems like I'm the last person in the civilized world to join the fun. Even people whom I thought had jumped off the grid long ago have Facebook pages. The New York Times says there are 500 million people with Facebook accounts. So, clearly, the rest of the world doesn't have the reservations about Facebook that I have.
Why have I avoided it? Partly just simple orneriness. The older I get, the less comfortable I am with cutting-edge technology. And there's also the fact that I'm lazy, and maintaining a Facebook page is a form of work.
But mostly, I've avoided Facebook because I'm afraid of it. I read George Orwell's novel, 1984, a long time ago, and it affected me. 1984 describes a world in which an oppressive, authoritarian government knows everything about you and can observe your every move.
Facebook is a massive central data base into which one deposits detailed acounts of one's likes and dislikes, comings and goings, political and religious beliefs, sexual preferences, favorite colors and football teams, and recent purchases. That's an awful lot of info for someone somewhere -- or anyone, anywhere -- to have access to at the click of a mouse button. It's like Big Brother with a smile, to borrow a phrase I picked up somewhere, probably while browsing the Web. And I worry about what some people might do with that info.
Still, it's fascinating and absorbing to be able to tell the world about your favorite movies, your favorite books and quotes, and post favorite pictures of your cats or your friends in unguarded moments. And I'm enjoying it.
And if you're wondering why I finally decided to jump into Facebook, you'll have to go to my page to find the answer. I'm going there now to add 1984 to my list of favorite books and add a personal news update that I've posted a new entry on "Drye Goods."