I can count on one hand my friends who aren't on Facebook. They're very easy to remember because they're the people I've communicated with least over the last year. While I know, in great detail, the length of time a distant high school friend has waited for her new refrigerator to be delivered, the doings of these non-Facebook people, these holdouts, over the past few months remain a complete mystery to me.
When I see them, or receive the odd email (email!) message from them, and I revive my campaign to get them to join, I feel like a pusher. Come on, we're all doing it! But really, they're getting kind of annoying. On Facebook, I can communicate with everyone else in my life -- for better or worse -- so quickly. If I have a big announcement: Job! or New house! or Song lyrics I can't get out of my head! I can, just once, at the same moment, tell everyone about it...but them. Isn't it a type of rebellion, or just kind of quirky at this point, to not be on a social network? Like not having a phone or an electric can opener? Or refusing to install a toilet because you've got a perfectly good outhouse, and why risk having plumbing indoors?
Okay, that's a rather large exaggeration. I know there are good reasons to stay away. There are possible privacy risks (though no one is forcing you to post the photo of yourself doing that). There's the "I'm too old for this crap" excuse, but I dare you to tell that to my mother and mother-in-law who might right now be discussing my son's new love of dogs on their Walls. Then we have the quite legitimate It's a Giant Time-Suck reasoning. Like that old quip about working too hard, no one on his deathbed is going to say, "I really wish I spent more time taking quizzes about '80s sitcoms on Facebook." And there are the sudden withdrawal symptoms one must suffer when the site gets attacked and flips out, as it did today.
Of course the biggest reason is the security risks -- worms, viruses, or sheer stupidity, like releasing personal details about your husband, the new super-secret head of Britain's MI6. And this is a bigger problem for larger, more sensitive networks. The Marine Corps acknowledged this much with the announcement this week that it would ban the use of its network for accessing sites like MySpace, Twitter and Facebook, though Marines can apply for waivers and still use the sites on personal computers. And the Pentagon is reviewing the good and the bad about social networking in order to issue a policy by the end of next month.
But that's the thing, my holdout friends, they're reviewing it. Even the military is weighing the security risks with the benefits of taking part in these major forms of communication. And plenty of top officials have already joined in. Maybe it's time to rethink your policy too? I miss you.
And it's not like I'm asking you to join Twitter.
Follow Sarah Schmelling on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sschmelling