Editor's Note: The following column was originally published in 2009.
Thanks to Facebook, I now have 202 friends, many of whom I've never met. I can keep track of their movements throughout the day, providing support and counsel when needed.
I'm scratching my leg, John writes at 9:49.
Good job, John, I encourage back, but don't use an electric sander!
I have never met John, but he wanted to be my friend, and who can't use more friends? So I agreed to "friend" him, though I stopped short of befriending him. He's very considerate, always inviting me to his house to attend presentations on how to become financially independent through pyramid marketing. He obsessively changes his "profile" picture, though in all the times he's done so, he's never once posted a picture of his profile.
Don't worry if none of this makes sense to you — it isn't supposed to. This is the world of digital social networking, where every twitch and twitter of people you barely know is communicated to you with the same immediacy as a civil-defense warning. In fact, there's even a service called Twitter that allows you to breathlessly update thousands or even millions of people as to what is going on with you by typing it into your cell phone.
"I'm updating my status on Twitter!" you tell everyone.
"I'm reading your update!" a thousand people respond.
"My leg still itches!" John Twitters.
Due to digital social networking, millions of Americans are unemployed and don't even know it. They're working harder than ever before, staying up late into the night so they can keep tabs on the current opinions as to what is wrong with John's leg.
"Perhaps I need to rub a soothing hand cream into the afflicted area," John speculates. "Good thing I have a garage full of the stuff — and you could, too, if you joined the countless former doctors, lawyers and nuclear engineers who now work full-time selling these amazing multi-level marketing products!"
"Who would buy hand cream from a nuclear engineer?" a woman named Traci — wait, I mean a digital friend of mine named Traci — asks John.
"Why, anyone with an itchy leg!" John enthuses. "Also friends, prisoners and perfect strangers. That's the beauty of this program — everyone is grateful when you tell them about these products!"
I've read the responses to John's persistent marketing. "Grateful" doesn't seem like an apt description.
There's a lot I don't understand about Facebook. What does it mean when people "poke" me? I'm invited to poke back — isn't that how fistfights get started? I'm also invited to digitally hug them, spank them and scratch their legs. People want to know whether I'll agree to stop testing animals (something I wasn't aware I'd even started) and whether I'll sign a petition calling for an End to All Things Bad. They want me to join a group called Justice for Tony Danza. I've been sent gifts: digital trees, digital donuts, digital ducks.
If I accept the ducks, I have to agree not to test them.
If you're an unemployed nuclear engineer and selling hand cream doesn't sound like something you'd like to do, there's a professional networking service called LinkedIn, where people can go and ask other people to friend them on Facebook. The idea behind LinkedIn, as far as I can tell, is that it is a place where unemployed people can go to ask other unemployed people for jobs. It's like people without a life raft all linking arms together instead of swimming.
There's also MySpace, which is just like Facebook as far as I can tell. I don't go to MySpace very often, but when I do, there's always an urgent request from John, he of the dermatologically challenged leg, to visit his Facebook page for exciting career opportunities.
I'm tempted to group my MySpace friends and my Facebook friends together and call myself very popular, but there's a lot of overlap. Plus, I don't know whether allowing myself to be poked by a bunch of strangers is the type of "popularity" I was seeking.
But I can't wait to hear about the recent developments with John's leg.
I guess you could say I'm all atwitter.
To write Bruce Cameron, visit his Website at www.wbrucecameron.com. To find out more about Bruce Cameron and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.