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Again With the Facebook

Truth to tell, I'm not much of a ranter. At least in public. I'm old-fashioned --- I prefer to do some of that thing we call "reporting" before I start with the blah-blah-blah blog-blog-blog. And my life? You care about my life? For instance: I have just been interrupted by the 14-year-old demanding my guidance on how he can wash his sleeping bag, which he insists is "filthy." Filthy? Honey, talk to our boys camping out in Tikrit. He wonders: What does it mean -- re-treat for water repellency periodically? Apparently, this is what they have to do to Tony Williams before his annual stunt of summer, but I have no idea how to do it to a sleeping bag. (And, I am not a DC voter, but I do think Linda Cropp should not try to shove this important responsibility onto her son, should she become mayor.) Anyway, even I hardly care about the sleeping bag, so why should you?

I am reaching out for help though, having heard that this much-vaunted social network, this perpetually buzzing, stimulated cyber-community, may provide answers/opinions/flames on pressing questions. Here's mine -- why do hundreds of millions of people want to post their particulars on Facebook and Friendster and mySpace --- their favorite Japanese anime characters, their bong shots, their insipid song lyrics, their "deep" favorite quotes, their fleshiness? My Style section colleague Paul Farhi reports today on one of the most viral rages: Everybody is kung-vid fighting.

On such sites as or Google Video, you'll increasingly find a treasure-trove -- or a cesspool -- of people beating on other people, caught on tape by passersby, friends and other photographers. Some of the violence is consensual. Most of it isn't.

Taken together, the fights might be America's unfunniest home videos, an archive of human aggression or a catalogue of stupidity and senselessness. They're also documents of dangerous and illegal behavior, since fighting in public is typically a felony. Although the combatants in fight clips are rarely identified, let alone arrested or punished, fight videos occasionally pop up on the police blotter.

The cautions against this pasttime get solemnly issued every day. Today, in the New York Times, it's camp directors detailing how they fired counselors for posting graphic photos detailing hazy, lazy, sleazy days of summer.

At Camp Runoia, Pam Cobb, the director, said she looked up new counselors on MySpace and Facebook and found "people who we had hired who had things on their Web site that were inappropriate."
She told counselors "they need to clean up their sites or make them private, or they can choose not to work with us."
One counselor, she said, chose the last option, apparently reluctant to remove a "beer-drinking party scene."

Earlier this week, a 14-year-old girl sued MySpace.Com for $30 million, claiming she was sexually assaulted by another site user and alleging the site fails to protect its underage users.

In a statement, MySpace said it is committed to the safety of its members.
"We take aggressive measures to protect our members," said Hemanshu Nigam, chief security officer. "Ultimately, Internet safety is a shared responsibility. We encourage everyone on the Internet to engage in smart Web practices and have open family dialogue about how to apply offline lessons in the online world."

Yes, yes and yes. Kids, try two weeks at Camp Entitlement with no device but a flashlight. Job seekers and college applicants, go ahead and reveal your total lack of maturity online. Winnows down the field. I'm not tsk-tsking about this constant personal updating of one's collections of photos, videos, shout-outs, et al, and the addiction to checking one's ranking (how many friends? how many views? Look At Me! Look At Me! More More More!).

I just don't understand it as a hobby. Please discuss.

By  |  June 22, 2006; 9:07 AM ET
Previous: Two Facebooks | Next: Duncan's Depressed and Getting Out


Please email us to report offensive comments.

Yawn. I hope Fisher will be back on Monday.

Posted by: WB | June 22, 2006 10:53 AM

Hasn't this already not worked? How many times does it have to not work before you declare it a failure? If you're in a hole, stop digging.

Posted by: KK | June 22, 2006 12:11 PM

zzzzzzzzzzzz, snort, zzzzzzzzzzzz

Posted by: Anonymous | June 22, 2006 12:28 PM

There used to be an expression that you don't put your s*** out on the street, meaning if you're up to something a bit unsavory, fine, but keep it to yourself. Myspace and is cousins are, for better and worse, and I'd say worse, the polar opposite of that. What's the attraction? Hard to say. I'd probably know better if I was 15 years old. Same as watching people at restaurant tables pass around cellphone pix they just took of each other. To me, it's geeky, but they seem to enjoy it.

Also, confidential to KK: what's with the hostility and rudeness? Ms. Gerhart is obviously a fine writer and thinker. Not to your taste? Fine. But if it's ruining your day that you don't like what she writes, or you are just sore that Fisher is on vacation, just suffer in silence, dude.

Posted by: fritz | June 22, 2006 12:30 PM

fritz, I don't see how KK's words is "hositle" and "rude". What she/he states is just the facts. The topic was not popular the first time, so don't try to write about it the second time. I don't think that anyone is sore that Fisher is on vacation. John Kelly hosted Fisher's chat for a week and we enjoyed John's posts. He, like Fisher, offered a variety of topics delivered in an entertaining and provocative style.

Posted by: WB | June 22, 2006 12:47 PM

"What's the attraction? Hard to say."

No kidding. I used to do the equivalent on LiveJournal, and I *still* don't know why I did. Temporary insanity?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 22, 2006 12:50 PM

Hey fritz, at least KK didn't use profanity in his post (and he made a good point). Hopefully your entry will be removed by the WP shortly.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 22, 2006 12:57 PM

Ann Gerhart, please walk over to John Kelly's desk and ask him to do the blog tomorrow. Or Weingerten. We'll even settle for J. Freedom!

Posted by: PLEEZE!! | June 22, 2006 1:29 PM

My teenager is obsessed with it too, but I keep an eye on her site's content and make her remove things that her mother and I do not approve of. It's a system that works for our house.

Posted by: TC | June 22, 2006 1:36 PM

Whatever happened to personal responsibility? It amazes me that a 14 year old is suing a website because SHE decided to meet someone who posted there. I am not saying that she deserves to be raped/assaulted - we all know that she doesn't but what was she thinking and where were her parent?

Posted by: Silver Spring | June 22, 2006 1:42 PM

the "grown-ups" are overthinking this.

for most people its just something to do and keep in touch with your friends. it can be somewhat addictive to begin with, but after a while, its just another website i check out every now and then. it lets me stay in touch with friends from college.

think of it as an interactive yearbook.

its a distraction while chained to the desk at a boring job. it doesn't stop me (or most people )from living a "real" life. and those that do, if not for myspace, would probably be glued to some other website. kids with internet habits isn't exactly a new concept.

remember when the bad guys used chat rooms to lure teens away from home? same thing, slightly different medium.

Posted by: 25 and on the 'space | June 22, 2006 1:56 PM

As a member of the facebook, I find these comments delightfully ironic. You cannot FATHOM why people would want to join one of these community based sites, search through other people's interests, interact, and share ideas yet you can't go a week without knowing what Marc Fisher is thinking about today?

Everyone is an exhibitionist. Even now, you are posting (though anonymously) on a board for one of the biggest newspapers in the country and you love it.

And to the person who thought it was "temporary insanity" to have a that not a blog? the very thing you are reading right now?

Posted by: college student | June 22, 2006 2:01 PM

college student, the difference is that this is a grown-up blog. We're not posting things that can come back to bite us when we're applying for jobs.

Posted by: slm | June 22, 2006 2:25 PM

they can't come back to bite you because it's anonymous.

didn't fisher write about that guy that lost his job with the commonwealth for blogging on the job? or at least was threatened with punishment of some sort?

didn't fisher write about some woman who was banned from the theater for blogging about a play? sure, she got it back, but let's not pretend that because we are big and adult that we are involved in anything different.

there is no difference between "kos" and the 16-yr old down the street on myspace.

Posted by: OD | June 22, 2006 2:53 PM

It was temporary insanity to post my entire life on a public livejournal, using my full name.

Answering specific non-personal questions anonymously on a WashPost blog isn't even close.

Posted by: AG | June 22, 2006 2:58 PM

You *can* be a member of facebook or myspace and not put your whole life out onto the interweb.

Posted by: User Name | June 22, 2006 4:23 PM

Whew, Oscar Wilde's got nothing on you people.
The point is that these things are narcissistic and shallow, as well as exhibitionist. You've got the ability to broadcast to the entire world, and you use it to discuss your favorite Britney lyrics. Where are the short stories? The artistic photographs? The Johnson-quality diary entries?

Posted by: John | June 22, 2006 4:25 PM

As the saying goes, don't say anything (online) you wouldn't want printed on the cover of tomorrow's NY Times, er, Washington Post in this case. Hey I am all for meeting new people with similar interests in a variety of forums. But you gotta remember there are lots of strange folks out there, some wanting to do harm to others. That fact hasn't changed, but the technology used has.

So be smart, be informed and be careful-anywhere and everywhere. You and you alone are responsible for your actions, whether age 14 or 40.

Posted by: Chris | June 22, 2006 5:15 PM

Soooo... there are options. Friendster allows you to stay connected and viewable only to people of your choosing... and that's great. I agree with John-- where are the really SMART essays, photos, etc.? Is our whole country just frittering away their time or is something going on in our heads that actually matters...

I try to make my online material count-- maybe sometimes I miss the mark, but I make sure my brain is "on" when I make my entries... Sometimes I rethink things when I realize I'm about to hit that "publish" button... it is a great exercise.... and it is not my only outlet. Personal journals, pen and paper, the good 'ole fashioned telephone, etc... all are viable.

Posted by: mkb | June 22, 2006 7:40 PM

you all are missing the point ...

there are something like 75 million profiles on myspace, right? that large of a sample means that it's going to be a rather accurate reflection of our country -- stupid, ignorant, shallow, and struggling mightily with self-esteem issues

you can find "intelligent" people on sites like myspace, but they're just about as sparse online as they are in the real world ... few and far between all the pages of "fast and the furious" acolytes

and slm, get off your high horse.

Posted by: HoyaParanoia | June 26, 2006 11:45 AM


"Whatever happened to personal responsibility?"

She's 14. She's only responsible for what she does if she commits a felony and can't transfer blame for it onto her parents or her priest.

"It amazes me that a 14 year old is suing a website because SHE decided to meet someone who posted there."

Her mother is suing the site because her daughter was tempted to meet a "sexual predator" (as opposed to just some horny teenager) offline, and, according to her mother, Myspace facilitated it.

In fact one wonders if it was rape of the involuntary kind or just the statutory kind.

"and slm, get off your high horse."

why, really?
What, your horse is better to ride because it is not so high?

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, right? Even if it is stupid, yes?

Even if in voicing it, they are the proverbial pot, calling the kettle black?

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