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Mass confusion is all the new rage

Over last summer, a lot of things changed in my life: I moved to South Carolina, I started a new job, I switched to a Mac (at work) and I became a vegan. (Okay, kidding about that last one.) In addition to those large changes, there were a number of small changes, two of which included my aunt and my dad signing up for the social networking giant, Facebook.

A little background here. I’ve been a member of Facebook since June of 2005, a couple days after I graduated high school. I think our class was the first real “wow, we’re going to college, let’s all sign up for Facebook and friend each other because I’m sure we’ll keep in touch” class, and initially, that’s all the site was: a place to find phone numbers, send short messages, and do some serious poking. (Great feature, right? Because who doesn’t love getting poked in real life? Now we can experience that same, annoying, painful sensation thousands of miles apart!)

A couple years passed, and the site rapidly grew and evolved. Thanks to innovations like the News Feed, Facebook became a place to find out what your friends were doing by the minute, and by 2007 Facebook was open to everyone. By the time my sister joined Facebook in summer of 2007, people were taking notice of the site’s powerful and potentially dangerous features, and my mom signed up for Facebook following the advice of a parent session at my sister’s orientation.

So I was on Facebook, my sister was on Facebook, and my mom was on Facebook, but she was only there to stalk mine and my sister’s friends in the name of safety. Reasonable, right? Everything seemed normal. But then, in 2007, the Facebook platform debuted and took off.

A couple more years passed. Facebook grew from about 50 million users to over 200 million. And in June 2009 and July 2009, after hearing about the many other family members who could view family pictures, share stories and stay in touch, my aunt and dad joined.

I’m pretty careful about what I post on Facebook anyway, so having my entire family on hasn’t changed my Facebook habits (and the completist in me likes having everyone there). However, having my entire family on the site to me signifies that Facebook is as mainstream as the PC that’s viewing it. It’s not only a global social network; it’s become a household word.

Whenever anything goes from a niche to the mainstream, a full cross-section of the population comes with it. That means you get the quiet and the outspoken, the friendly and the hostile, the newbies and the pros. But really, you can reduce it to two groups: the tools (read: douchebags) and everyone else. Here’s a helpful list that should help you not be a tool.

Guidelines for harmonious social networking

(Or, how to not be a social networking tool. Title is a shout-out to How I Met Your Mother.)

  • This isn’t MySpace: use your real name. Using your first and middle name as your full name may be okay in high school, when you’re trying to be a rebel, but once you get past age 18, it’s time for your real name. Use the name that potential employers would search for. “But wait,” you say, “I don’t want the Man to see my Facebook. Maybe if I don’t use my real name, he won’t find me!” Let’s be realistic: most employers these days have the expectation that you have a Facebook account; if they can’t find you and it’s obvious you’re not there under your name, they’re likely to assume you’re hiding something.
    • Corollary: I know what you’re thinking: “Ooo, I know! I’ll create two Facebook accounts, one for my friends and one for my employers!” Not only does this violate the Facebook terms of service, but it makes you a serious tool because you’ll have to send friend requests to pretty much all of your friends twice to make it look semi-realistic and useful. Don’t do it. Just keep your Facebook clean.
  • Use the 50 mile rule. Except in very rare cases (like Christmas parties when you know people will be home), most of your friends won’t be able to make your next party. Don’t send them an event invitation when they live more than 50 miles away. I know it’s really easy to select your entire friends list and send out invites, but don’t do it. Wouldn’t you be kinda’ mad if all 500 of your friends showed up at your apartment next Friday night? (Reminds me of that Seinfeld bit about answering machines: “You were hoping to get the machine! The person picks up and you’re like, ‘…oh. Didn’t expect you to be there. I was just going to leave a message saying sorry I missed you.'”)
  • We get it, your farm is pretty awesome. We don’t need real-time updates. One of the major factors driving Facebook’s latest spike in growth is so-called “social gaming”. You know, where you sit on Facebook at home and play a single player game on the web. FarmVille is the most popular of these games, and one of the reasons it’s popular is that it encourages users to share how much fun they’re having about 10 times a minute. I know it’s hard, but RESIST THE URGE TO SHARE. It’s Facebook policy that FarmVille can’t punish you for not sharing (although they’re certainly allowed to make you feel really bad: “YOU JERK, YOU KILLED THE COW BECAUSE OF YOUR NEGLECT”). So don’t share every time. Let’s set a soft limit of 1 FarmVille (actually, 1 “social game”) post per day.
    • Corollary: I know the way you win in those games is by working with your friends and asking and giving help, but creating accounts and naming them after your kids or dog or is cheating. (And yes, the cows will die because of you. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but SOMEday.) As an example, let’s say Wal-mart said that I am now only allowed to buy four Cadbury Creme Eggs per week. Wouldn’t you say there was something wrong with me if I stood outside the store bribing people to buy me some Cadbury Creme Eggs? “Come on, DADDY NEEDS HIS FIX.”
  • Just because there’s a button doesn’t mean you have to click it. (begin shameless plug) While you’re welcomed (and encouraged) to become a Fan of (and tell your friends about) Cleveland, Curveballs and Common Sense and any Fan pages that my company administers (end shameless plug), fan pages like these aren’t really how you’re supposed to use them:

    Let's be honest, no one ever texts back instantly. That page should be banned.

    Let's be honest, no one ever texts back instantly. That page should be banned.

    A couple of randomly funny Fan pages are acceptable, but for the most part Fan pages are meant so that companies can share exclusive deals and offers with you. What company is behind you hate me? oh that’s weird, because I DON’T EVEN KNOW YOU? (And that’s not even a very good example; Bobby and I have laughed at a ton of pages that just scream “I’m a teenager, I don’t know who I am, but at least know how to click a button.”)

  • Don’t be like Joe Biden: keep your language clean. (Oh, snap! Where else do you get these hot-off-the-press topical references like that? That was from like, yesterday.) If your *$%@ing %^#$ #@$%# needs to be @#$%$#$, tell Twitter (it’s a jungle on Twitter) or call one of those 1-900 sex lines where language like that would be appropriate. Pretend your mom’s reading, and if you still feel like dropping bombs, pretend Santa’s reading. If you swear at Santa, you get COAL.
  • Don’t create a Fan page for yourself. I mean, really? Who does that crap? (Wait, wait, I can explain! Don’t call me a hypocrite or hate me yet: I use that page for testing purposes. So if you’re using it for development, go for it.)
  • Hard limit of 10 posts per day, for any reason. Otherwise people start to think “listen…you and I are great…but we see a lot of each other. A LOT. Soo…yeah, maybe it’s time we took a break? I dunno’.”
  • Oh, and I almost forgot: If you’re a boss, and you’re friends with your employees on Facebook, limit the length of your comments to three paragraphs or less. (Four if it’s about baseball.) This is just better for everyone. If you make longer comments than that, other employees may take notice and get jealous. They may not even bother to tell you they’re jealous and may just write “holy crap.” (Just kidding, everyone involved!).

All that said, if you’re a Facebook user and you do these things, I may complain to myself for a bit then realize I’m being overly neurotic. Everyone uses social networks differently, and if you feel the need to do all of these, I won’t unfriend (2009 word of the year!) you. (I may hide you from my Feed, though. It’s not you, it’s me.) Ultimately I hope this list was entertaining more than anything else, and like pretty much everything I write, you probably shouldn’t pay attention to any of it.

Anyone got any others? I’ll try and add to the list if I hear some good ones (or think of some new ones). Happy Facebooking!

To Mom, Dad, Ciocia and all others in my family: all sarcasm and “back in my day, all the kids used floppy disks” nostalgia aside, I do enjoy having you all on Facebook. My amazement that everyone has an account now was only meant to reflect how fast and how broadly Facebook has grown, and I’m happy about it.

The sky isn’t falling… don’t worry, I checked.

President Obama reacts to the passage of the health care bill in the House.

President Obama reacts to the passage of the health care bill in the House.

On July 4, 1776, 56 British rebels signed the most important document in American history: the Declaration of Independence. As we all know, the Founding Fathers documented many of the injustices that the tyrant King George III had imposed on the American colonies, and concluded that (National Treasure reference coming up here) not only was it their right to seek out a new government, it was their duty. And before we all look back on this moment through rose-colored glasses, let’s not forget that at the time, rebelling against the British was not only unpopular amongst the colonists, it was an act of treason against the British crown.

The newly formed United States won the Revolutionary War, and signed the Treaty of Paris on November 25, 1783. At the time, the United States was governed by the Articles of Confederation, a highly decentralized and federated government system created by new Americans who were understandably weary of a strong federal government.

But in the early years of the Confederacy, problems arose. The lack of a federal currency led to an economic depression, and events like Shays’ Rebellion and the increasing fear of a British counterattack made it clear that the American government was too weak to survive.

So in 1787, the Second Continental Congress met to recreate a government that wasn’t even 10 years old. Economist and federalist Alexander Hamilton led the charge for a stronger federal government while Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and George Washington contributed to the Constitution, the backbone of our government that has only been amended 27 times in over 200 years.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last couple days, you’ve heard the news that the House of Representatives passed the health care bill originally drafted by the Senate, making it all but inevitable that Barack Obama’s sweeping healthcare reform will become law. My feelings on the bill itself were documented last summer, before Scott Brown was elected and changed the entire nature of the debate, and before the bill was modified and culled to the point where it’d be passed.

Maybe, given that, you were expecting this post to be something more along these lines:

(I’d include a selection of Facebook and Twitter postings to further illustrate this point, but I’ll trust you too have a multitude of friends with similar feelings, so you know what those look like.)

Ultimately, I’m still not a huge fan of this health care bill. I’m not a huge fan of the way it was passed. But I think everyone, no matter your party, position or stature, agrees that this bill isn’t perfect. I think everyone, no matter your party, position or stature, agrees that the health care industry ranges from “fatally flawed” to “could use some improvement”.

That being said, did you wake up today and do anything different? Did you not wake up, shower, drive to work, work, eat some lunch, work some more, and come home? Was today radically different than last Friday? I know this legislation will eventually make some pretty dramatic changes, but for the most part (in general), your day-to-day life won’t change.

Here’s the thing: if cancer is cured in the next couple of years, or if diabetes is cured, or something changes in the healthcare environment, the laws will change. If it’s found that people still can’t pay for healthcare, or that parents still aren’t able to take care of their sick kids, the laws will change. It’s unfortunate that sometimes there’s no better way to institute change than trying something and seeing how it works, but that’s how it is, and it’s the beauty of democracy that it’s easy to change.

So what’s my point? If you’re conservative, maybe you didn’t get everything you wanted in this healthcare bill. But instead of planning your exodus, remember that you live in the greatest country in the world where the will of the people is always the rule of the day. This country isn’t dying; far from it, and the fact that one of our biggest national problems is how to deal modern nationwide healthcare coverage, while other countries are decimated by diseases that are a century obsolete here, is a sobering reminder that things could be far worse.

This post occurs in real time

The cast of 24, Season 5

The cast of 24, Season 5

The cast of 24, Season 5

The cast of 24, Season 5

Apart from a certain other comedy “about nothing”, 24 has been my favorite show since it came on the air. You could say I grew up with it, sort of, as 24 began its run in 2001 when I was a freshman in high school. For a while, the show served as my career inspiration, and while I no longer stick to watching it live, I don’t fall behind by more than a couple days unless absolutely necessary.

That said, you may think I’d be wrought with grief after reading that 24, after 8 seasons, will end its run. I’m not.

That’s not to say I won’t miss it. But here’s some good reasons for 24 ending.

  • All good stories have to come to an end. Ever wonder why the news gets worse ratings than scheduled TV? Ever wonder why Olympic hockey does so much better than NHL hockey? Because they end. People like having a feeling of closure, they like being satisfied, and they like feeling like progress is being made. If the story never ends, none of those three criteria are ever met.
  • The writers are out of ideas. Really, who can blame them? So far in eight seasons, Jack has faced the detonation of a 747, an assassination attempt, another assassination attempt, the death of his wife, jumping out of a plane minutes before it detonated a nuclear bomb in the desert, being tortured by some guys who want something no bigger than an SD card, finding out that two incompetent morons (a theme in CTU) lost said device, a heart attack in the middle of a shootout, a drug addiction, his partner dating his daughter, a biological attack on a hotel, a train explosion, his girlfriend and boss being kidnapped, a nuclear meltdown, another 747 being blown out of the sky by a US plane, the threat of nuclear missiles hitting Los Angeles, the death of David Palmer and Michelle Dessler within minutes of each other, a chemical attack on a mall, a chemical attack on a hospital, a chemical attack on CTU, the “death” of Tony via Christopher Henderson (that turncoat), the President of the United States being in on the terrorist conspiracy, being shipped to China for a while, coming back to a nuclear bomb blowing up Los Angeles, then going to Africa only to be attacked there, returning to a trial in the United States, being betrayed by Tony (who was really alive *wink*), inhaling a toxic bio-hazard only to survive via a dangerous surgery to his daughter. Now Jack’s a grandparent. Seriously. At some point he either has to die of a bullet wound or exhaustion. (Did I forget anything in that list?)
  • The subplots are simple and predictable. Dana’s story, this season, has been laughable. Even the worst subplot in existence (Kim v. Cougar) was better than this one. In fact, ever since Nina’s death, I would bet the 24 writers were looking for ways to bring her back; since she died, the show lost much of its unpredictability. Much of this, I believe, is the writers trying to write for a more mainstream audience who can’t process more complex characters or plots, something that happens when TV shows become popular. But when parts of the story become uninteresting, it’s only a matter of time until everything else becomes uninteresting.
  • Old shows never die, they just fade into syndication and Blu-ray releases. 24 is meant to be watched marathon-style, maybe more so than any other show in existence. Once-a-week drama is fun, but the best way to enjoy 24 is all at once. Cable rerun marathons and the upcoming Blu-ray box set will be a great way to do that.
  • George Mason did it best: blaze of glory, baby. Ending on a note of uncertainty is much less preferable to going out with a bang.

All that said, I’m thoroughly enjoying this season and I’ll miss it when it’s over. But for me, like high school, and college, change is inevitable, and all good things must come to an end. For me, I’ll be happy (and hopeful, for now) that the show went out on a high note instead of fading away.

P.S. For what it’s worth, my favorite season was season 3 for the computer attack, Nina’s death and Stephen Saunders. What was yours? Say so in the comments or somewhere where I post this.