in the Sub-City
High School is Back! The Rising Popularity
a new website sweeping the nation, and if you haven't heard
about you are fucking lame. At least, that seems to be the
premise it's built on. Hot or Not is over; Mulletsgalore
is passé; Fuckedcompany is so five-minutes-ago.com.
I'm talking of course about Friendster,
which is just like Napster, only instead of sharing music
files you're sharing - you guessed it - friends. While I
have mixed feelings about it, and think it's nothing more
than an amusing time-waster, I'm on there nearly every day.
And isn't that what the Internet is all about anyway, wasting
time? I mean, aside from e-mail and porn, what else is there?
Not much, so wasting time it is. And the best part about
Friendster is that you don't have to do it alone.
The one exceptional feature the site has is how you get
to see all the links in your chains of relations. For example,
an acquaintance of mine, X, recently told me he had joined,
so I typed his name into the database. I saw that I was
connected to X by one of my friends, Y, and then by one
of Y's friends, Z, who was friends with X. It's total Six
Degrees of Separation, and seeing firsthand exactly how
small the world is is interesting to say the least. One
can type in names of exes, old co-workers, even childhood
pals and discover that even though you haven't spoken in
years, and have no idea of this person's whereabouts, they
are still a part of your social network, however marginally.
Another cool thing about Friendster is how you can only
interact with people within your network, which is determined
by your friends, and your friends' friends. This means that
even the people in it you don't know are connected to you
somehow, making them less strangers than people you just
haven't met yet. And developing a large network does not
always mean having a buttload of friends. In fact, one only
needs to know a few high-profile people to have access to
a wide range of folks. For example, although I only have
seventeen friends on the site, through them I am connected
to almost 200,000 people. Most of my friends don't know
each other, so few of their friends overlap, providing me
with a large database of possible buddies. I imagine there
are people with way more friends than me, and yet because
they all are a part of the same scene, their available people
pool is far less.
What I don't like about the site is how a person's network
is displayed. Everyone makes up a fairly generic profile
(occupation, hobbies, favorite movies, etc.), which includes
pictures and a list of who their friends are. Therefore,
anyone who looks at another's profile knows exactly how
many friends they have. If you have a shitload of them,
it's great, but if you don't (or, in my case, have friends
who have no interest in joining an online community, no
matter how much I beg), you look like a loser. So if you
don't have a bunch of friends who are computer geeks, or
at least enjoy spending hours online, it's probably best
to stay away.
However, if you still want to participate, and worry about
looking like a friendless dork, have no fear. Many of these
"Friendsters" are not even real people, and almost
everyone fattens their friend list with a few "characters."
On a recent search I discovered Bill Clinton, Martha Stewart,
Uday Hussein, Screech from Saved By the Bell, the Yeah Yeah
Yeahs and Jesus himself. Some are even more abstract, including
Sex, Lust, Monkey Pox and Death. There's even a Williamsburg.
And hardly anyone is immune. I myself am friends with Monica
Another feature I have mixed feelings about are the "Testimonials,"
which further reinforce the high school nature of the site.
Here you can write something about one of your friends,
and whatever you write (if they approve it) will appear
in their profile. It's almost like signing someone's yearbook,
only your words are displayed for all to see. Some typical
"This girl is the hottest thang in nyc. and knows
her shiznat. she's got it dooooowwwn."
"Gorgeous, intelligent, friendly, compassionate, caring,
funny and very classy--Couldn't ask for a better package
deal than that folks!!!"
"This girl is one bad beeatch...double D's like the
23's...dang when she comes down the street girls move out
the way!!! She a true dragon killa!!! beware of this hottieeee!!!"
Most Friendsters have a few of these (I have four, and
one of them is from Monica), but others have tons. Some
people have so many that to read them all would take an
afternoon. Maybe it's just me, but when I come across people
like this, instead of thinking this person is super cool
and super connected, it makes me feel sorry for them.
It's as if their self-esteem is based entirely on encouraging
words from their friends. And without such, without the
actual proof right there on the page, they would cease to
feel good about themselves, and immediately rush out and
take their own lives.
Popularity is a strange thing, fleeting, subjective and
ultimately ridiculous, and Friendster goes a long way in
keeping its allure alive. However, even though most of my
true friends are too smart to participate in such a thing
(despite my pleading), and so I come across as less a quarterback
or prom king than an outcast or a chain-smoking punk (which
is closer to the truth anyway), I find myself on the thing
everyday. This could be because, as mentioned, I enjoy seeing
the connections between people, or because you do actually
get to meet some interesting folks (so far I've met a fetish
model, an opera singer, a sex therapist and an assortment
of writers and musicians), or because it's fun.
Another reason though, which I think applies less to me
and more to others, is because even outsiders enjoy seeing
what the insiders are up to. How else does one explain E!,
or Entertainment Tonight, or People? These are not geared
towards its subjects, but to those who want to be them.
Famous people, rich people, and yes, popular people are
always in demand, and will always have a captive audience
comprised of their less-than-fortunate peers.
However, the bottom line is this: if you are truly cool,
or have a busy, productive life, then you don't have time
for Friendster. Which means that those people who spend
every waking hour on the site, creating vast networks of
friends, their profiles dripping with praise, are really
the true losers out there. With this in mind, I don't feel
bad about my seventeen friends. Fine, sixteen.
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