Meredith Broussard is the only member of her family who has not yet joined Facebook.
At every holiday gathering this year, our traditional family conversations ("How was the traffic? Which way did you go? 95? Did you get slowed down in the construction?") were replaced by a new interaction that went like this:
Relative: [shyly] Are you on Facebook? I joined a little while ago, and... gosh, it's addictive. I'm getting in touch with all of these people I went to high school with, and...
Relative: [turning evangelical] You'd really like it. You should join. I'd be your friend. I'll send you an invitation RIGHT NOW. [Turns in the direction of my younger brother, the one with the surgically implanted laptop, who is busily chatting online with his girlfriend while simultaneously playing Wii Tennis and trying to convince a younger relative to go fetch him another plate of teriyaki chicken wings.]
Me: No, thanks.
Brother: You can use my iPhone. Here. [pulls out iPhone]
Me: My husband is on Facebook. Why don't you be his friend?
Relative: Okay! [turns to husband] I didn't know you were on Facebook! How many friends do you have? [other relatives overhear conversation, join in. Comparison of friends and status updates and confessions of looking up former lovers/classmates/loathsome co-workers occupy the conversational hours before the host relative calls everyone to dinner.]
Me: [stands ignored in corner]
By the evening of December 26th, all of my extended family's Christmas celebrations had been recorded on Facebook. My husband was tagged in dozens of pictures. I was not. I wondered if I should feel left out.
Meredith Broussard considered joining Facebook until she realized her brother-in-law was quite likely to tag her in the photo he took of her with her brothers and a large turkey made entirely of fruit.
Every time I think about joining Facebook, I find myself unwilling to give up the small bit of anonymity I have left. My college students would find me on Facebook in about five seconds flat. Can I really get up in front of a classroom and command authority if my students know I helped make a fruit turkey? Or if one of the moms from playgroup posts photos of me belting out "I've Been Working On The Railroad" during our homemade-playdough and holiday-cookie-baking extravaganza?
Scratch that. What I'm really worried about is getting busted for ducking out of social obligations.
I was alerted to this potential problem on New Year's Eve at a dinner party hosted by my friends Scott and Ashley. Their friends Scott and Catherine were supposed to come too, bringing a beet salad, matzoh balls with dipping sauce, wine paired to the beet salad, and a four-month-old baby.
We showed up late. We blamed our two-year-old, Scott, as usual. Was it really his fault? He was playing at daycare; I was the one who didn't start putting on makeup until five minutes before we were due at the party. But I digress.
Scott and Ashley's son is slightly older than my Scott, and the two boys were playing trains in the basement when the phone rang. Scott answered. Ashley and I listened as Scott expressed sympathies over something. "It might be Scott and Catherine sicking out of dinner," Ashley said. "I got the impression earlier that she was sitting in her pajamas at 3 in the afternoon, feeling miserable."
"That's too bad," I said, thinking: Rats -- now I won't get to hold their baby. I love holding babies.
Scott got off the phone and reported that Scott and Catherine wouldn't be coming. "I totally don't believe she's sick," he fumed. "I think it's cold, and dark, and they just don't feel like leaving the house with the baby. They were supposed to bring the beet salad! We are never inviting them over again."
The problem, Scott said, was Facebook. Catherine had updated her Facebook status with a list of chores she was looking forward to finishing that day.
"Maybe it's a leftover status update from earlier?" I suggested. "From before she got sick?"
"No way," said Scott. "She changed it this afternoon. She was totally on Facebook with me today. See?" He whipped out his iPhone and tried to show me.
"I don't need to see it; I believe you," I said. Thinking: matzoh balls with dipping sauce sounded a little weird, anyway. But the real problem, I realized, was that I sympathized with Catherine. Cooking, then taking an infant and a husband to a party across town? If I managed to shower once a week when my kid was little, I called myself a success.
For me, Facebook wouldn't just be a time suck--it would leave me exposed as a social fraud. If I updated my status as obsessively as I probably would (Meredith Broussard resents that the garbage men never put the lids back on the trash cans. Meredith Broussard got a new pair of striped socks. Meredith Broussard wonders if Michelle Obama is going to choose an African-American designer for her inaugural ball gown.), it would seriously interfere with the quality time I like to spend with my couch. If all of my friends could tell that I'm around, and that I have time to Facebook, they'd want to talk. And hang out. And do things that involve leaving my house. Meredith Broussard would no longer have her "busy social life" or her "rigorous work schedule" or the even more vague "deadlines" to excuse her from social obligations. Meredith Broussard might have to stop watching TV and get up off her duff. Who needs that?
Meredith Broussard has put off joining Facebook. Indefinitely.
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