I’ll admit it. I like Facebook. There are probably more productive ways of spending my evenings than browsing around one of the world’s largest Internet networking sites.
I can still remember when I was the only person I knew who had a Facebook. I’d heard of it while on a trip two years ago on the East Coast, where most people had one already. A year later, almost every one of my high school friends had abandoned MySpace for Facebook. The conversion continued, and now having a MySpace account seems like a guilty pleasure that comes second to having a Facebook.
Such a conversion may be only a microcosm of the larger picture: Human relations have become increasingly minimal as our social connections have become increasingly complex. This isn’t news to anybody — but perhaps one should pause for evaluation.
If you have a Facebook, then you’re aware that you have the opportunity to join a “fan page.” You also know that you get news feeds on your friends each time you log in. In the past month, I’ve seen many of my friends join groups that seem ridiculous. One example is the category of groups that serve as membership petitions — for instance, “If one hundred people join this group, Sally will get a Facebook.” I’ve also seen such groups advertising for LDS church baptisms.
Similar groups seem equally insipid to me. Panda Express has a page with over 6,000 fans. YouTube has 110,000. Australia and Italy have their own fan pages. Catholic saints such as Gregory the Great have hundreds of fans. Post-It Notes have a couple of groups. Pizza has a fan page. Oreos have a fan page. And these last two have fans numbering in the hundreds of thousands, but both would have to combine to compete with the Victoria’s Secret fandom, which boasts almost 440,000.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m just as guilty for joining fan pages. I’m listed as a member of Boy Meets World, “I’d rather use a typewriter than Windows,” and “You’re killing me, Smalls!” Movies, sports teams, bands — all of these I can understand. But when I see a news feed declare that three of my friends just joined the fan page for “Joseph Smith — the prophet” (pushing 10,000 fans already), then I have to wonder what the definition of a fan is. It’s like hearing your favorite song overplayed on the radio and then slowly coming to hate it.
Fan clubs like the one for Joseph Smith (as well as the groups for baptisms) have me particularly unnerved. What I picture is someone in front of a computer eager to join an LDS church fan page while saying, “Oh, dear me, yes. Yes, I must join. I am a true Mormon, and I have to show support for my religion. After all, who’s on the Lord’s side, who?” Then he or she proceeds to join the Book of Mormon fan page. (Of course, let’s not single out Mormons; the Quran has about 300 fans.)
Some of these groups might only be about what’s currently “trendy.” There is a group of 13,000 fans called “Edward Cullen owns my soul,” and the title should make the nature of that group obvious. In the week that The Dark Knight came out, several of my friends joined groups for the film, as well as groups for Batman comics, Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, and other related pages. There are also groups propounding the Joker and Two-Face as modern philosophers, as if nihilism and existentialism are fresh, new concepts.
The Heath Ledger fan page annoys me the most because almost all my friends who have joined it claim with pride, “Heath Ledger is the greatest actor ever.” I’ve known each of these friends long enough that I know to look for signs of the apocalypse the moment they consider touching the late actor’s tour de force Brokeback Mountain with a ten-foot pole.
I have to wonder what it means to be a fan of something when there are fan clubs for countries and phones. I have to wonder if being a fan merely means liking what’s trendy since there are fan clubs under seven different names for the same books and movies.
I still love Facebook, and I continue to have fun with its bookshelf, Flair, and quiz applications. But these things are simple pleasures. Perhaps before joining a fan club of any sort, one should consider if one is joining a group to prove one’s fandom — or if being a fan is something that needs to be proved at all.