We went and saw The Social Network on Saturday night. It’s a pretty good flick. It begins and ends with stats. The opening line is Mark Zuckerberg telling his girlfriend that there are more geniuses in China than there are people in America. Now that is just a solid Chinese statistic (and we’re big fans of those around here). Here’s the stat at the end: Facebook is currently valued at around 25 billion dollars. 25 billion dollars. Spoiler alert: Facebook is valued at 25 billion dollars. (For those that haven’t seen it, I haven’t ruined the ending. You still don’t know how many of those billions of dollars remain in billionaire Mark Zuckerberg’s name, or whether Facebook gets really popular). Another stat: Oprah was saying the other day (Spoiler Alert!) that it is estimated that about one in every fourteen people on the planet has a Facebook account. I’m not joking. You know those tribes in the interior of Indonesia who are thought to have never met up with the rest of society, and still remain in their true primitive state? We know this about them because their relationship status says “Isolated.”
“You never responded to my poke, Ryan. What is going on with you lately?”
I’m just trying to wrap my head around all this. The movie spends most of its time going back and forth between different parties who claim that Facebook was their idea, and they should get the money and the credit for it. Of course there were those in the movie that heard about the idea at its inception and weren’t that blown away by it. After we left the movie, I still wasn’t that blown away by it. In fact, even though I have a Facebook account, have seen the idea in action, and know that the idea is worth at least 25 billion dollars, and have sat through a feature-length film on the subject, I still don’t think I’m that impressed. A great idea is something like a water gun that attaches to a hose-end filling station. Or a high-frequency whistle whose audio frequency kills bees on the fly. But a boring white website that lets you collect lists of friends and then forget about them? Not that great an idea. Yes, I realize that some might point out that the 25 billion dollar number is evidence that this is at least sort of a good idea. But I think it’s more likely that that whole 25 billion dollar number came about because around one in fourteen people on the planet are a little bit stupid.
Interestingly, we happened to see the movie with the one friend of mine who has always been a pretty big Facebook booster. A few years ago, long before I ever had an account, he kept bringing up some old high school name and saying, “yeah, he’s my Facebook friend now.” It was kind of funny to hear about these people from the past, and even more funny to think that my buddy was now friends with them, after not really being friends with them in high school. Having heard so much about Facebook from the cool people around me, I kept asking him to describe the experience of Facebook– what’s going to happen between the two of you now that you’re friends? Are you going to get together for lunch? Now that you have hundreds of Facebook friends, are you still going to have time for me? Especially given that you and I are NOT Facebook friends? It was all a little mysterious.
I’d like to introduce you to some of my closest friends
But one thing I’ve learned is that when some great new innovation comes along that sweeps everyone up, that doesn’t make sense to me until I join, I just need to join and then I’ll see the magic. DVR’s were like that. Twitter was like that. The Kindle was definitely like that. So I set aside my doubts and jumped into the Facebook world. Went out and got me some friends, put together a little profile . . . then I ran out of what I was supposed to do. Every few weeks I got a new friend request. I would hit “accept” on those. That was kind of fun. I get an email every month that tells me how many of my friends have a birthday that month. That can be pretty interesting to see that some of your friends share the same birthday month. And . . . I’m out of things to do on Facebook.
So I went back to collecting friends. But after a few months, I stopped trying to find friends, and stopped accepting many friend invites, because I had reached a number of friends that I figured was the maximum sustainable amount. It occurred to me that no real person on Facebook would ever try to get many more friends than this, because at that point you’d be admitting that your friends weren’t friends at all, but just numbers in a big collection. Surely, I thought, there’s a maximum psychological threshold of how many friends one wants to have here, and I have reached it. I assumed everyone would have reached this same conclusion. At that point I had around 160. Almost too many, right? I mentioned to Davis that I was pretty much maxed out. He laughed and laughed. Turns out Davis has 534 friends. Oh. Kook has 431. Former DDDT guest contributor Ronald has 1121 friends. Some of them are Indonesian tribesmen.
Hmm . . . ‘Ted wants to be friends.’ Looks nice. *Accept*
So yeah, I guess the joke’s on me. Just because I can’t figure out what my current 237 (that’s right, that’s one in every 28,258,455 people on the planet) friends are for doesn’t mean you can’t figure out what your six hundred friends are for. I am sure you are busy having tea parties and scrapbooking nights and roller blading outings with them all the time. My Facebook friends don’t do super well at staying in touch with me like that, but I know that most good friends are a lot better at that than mine are. I do love seeing how they’re all doing whenever I check in on my Facebook account. There is a girl that I served my mission with (I think that’s how I know her– I don’t know for sure) that is having some struggles getting her three year old to go to bed! And an old friend of mine (that is, he might be an old friend of mine– I’m assuming here) just went on a really great cruise somewhere. This is the kind of information that we have friends for in the first place, isn’t it? And to play farm or mobster games with them too, and sometimes debate with them about Obama. That’s worth a few billion dollars right there. Mark Zuckerberg must have been some kind of genius, huh? I bet he’s part Chinese.