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Trained to be like the Internet

January 26, 2012
By Andy Heller , Daily Press

FLINT - I love the Internet. It's one of those things that you wonder how you got along without. But it has speeded up life somehow. How exactly, I'm not sure. But it has.

For instance, I used to sit and read newspapers cover to cover in one sitting. I still do on occasion, but more and more I'm reading online. The difference is that when I read online, I tend to snack. I read one story, usually, but no more.

The more I snack, the less patience I seem to have for more in-depth reading. The Internet, in short, has trained me to be impatient - to jump in, jump out, move on.

In other words, it has trained me to be like it.

Maybe it shouldn't surprise me, then, that Facebook - my favorite online locale - is the apple to the Internet's tree. Like the Internet,

Facebook also never settles the heck down. It's like a shark that can't stop moving for fear of drowning. And so it never does. It tinkers endlessly with layouts, functions and options instead of being content to just be what it was - a pretty cool and simple way to consume small slices of friends' lives.

"Timeline" and "subscribers" are the latest tweaks added by Facebook. I hate them both for the simple reason that Facebook took an easy thing that worked just fine and made it complex. There's no greater sin in my book.

I won't even attempt to describe what the subscriber function is supposed to do because I don't know and I don't care. All I know is I now have all these categories and subcategories of friends, close friends and family members and God knows what else (one-time friends who I now consider kinda creepy, perhaps?), and I'm supposed to wrestle it all into shape in order to, as a Facebook drone described it, "choose exactly what you see in your News Feed."

But I don't wanna choose. Choosing and categorizing, is, frankly, a lot of work, and I am a lazy, lazy man who comes to Facebook to escape work. I don't want the hassle or guilt implicit in choosing whose slices of life I want to see and who should qualify as a close friend and so on.

Timeline is an entirely different but depressingly similar story. Not everyone has adopted it yet, although my understanding is they'll soon have to. (You've been warned.) Facebook - as Facebook is prone to do - hath proclaimed it.

Its purpose for being is, again, unclear to me. But in a moment of proactive weakness, I clicked on a Facebook entreaty to "try it." And now, as far as I know, I can't go back, not because Timeline is so wonderful that I can't live without it but because Facebook isn't giving me that option.

The big advantage of Timeline, near as I can tell, is the ability to throw a gigantic photo across the top of your home page. And it also allows you to go back in time and see posts about different periods of your life from birth to present.

But I don't want to do that. I never did. I also don't want my location at various dates and times noted by me and others (apparently whether I want them to or not) on Timeline's invasive "map" page function, which, again, in true Facebook fashion, you can't turn off. (You can almost hear guys saying, "Honey, I swear I was never really at that strip club. My friends were joking!")

I also didn't want my home page turned into a jumbled mess. But that's what Timeline has done to it. Gone is the simple column of my incredibly witty posts with a few sidebar options and functions.

In its place is an overly-busy and chaotic layout that looks like it was designed by a first-year graphic design student. And not a good one, either.

I miss my old Facebook. I'd like it back. But I realize that's not going to happen. On the Internet, to stay the same is to regress somehow. Like my remote control, it now has too many options. It's trying to be too much to too many people. And it's failing, in my book.

'Tis the nature of the beast, I'm afraid.

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EDITOR'S NOTE - Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist for The Flint Journal, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. For more of his work, visit his blog at blog.mlive.com/flintjournal/aheller. You can e-mail him at aheller@flintjournal.com.

 
 

 

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