Mark, we gotta talk.
(No, not you, Wahlberg. I told you we’d FaceTime later. GEEZ, a little space. C’mon.)
Zuckerberg. Yes, you. Put down the… no… Fine, update your status. I’ll wait. Ready?
OK. I heard you’re brainstorming ways to get kids younger than 13 onto Facebook. WTF, man?
You don’t have kids, but you were one pretty recently, so let’s play a game: Imagine you’re 10 years old.
Let’s say you’re a kid who doesn’t make friends so easily — maybe you’re a little nerdy. (I know, HUGE stretch. Just go with it.) You manage to accumulate 14 “friends” on Facebook. Yay, you! You have friends! Then you see that Mikey, the douchey kid who’s always yanking your backpack when you’re walking up the stairs at school, has 75 “friends”? What goes through your mind? What about when you start posting little quips and updates and maybe a drawing of a dragon wearing rain boots, and your posts get zero “likes”?
Zuckie, my friend, when you’re little, you’re still learning what friendship is. And life, at that age, is all about counting. Whoever gets the most marshmallows in his s’more is the king of the cookout, you know? You can’t tell me kids wouldn’t draw the conclusion that more “likes” equals more like, and more “friends” means more friends, and that friendship is… quantifiable.
Hell, adults are old enough to know better, and look how much we crave likes. You know what I’m talking about, Z. You’ve seen it.
Who hasn’t had that feeling – when you wake up and see that whatever you posted the night before has 100 likes, and before your feet even hit the floor, you’re designing your new business cards: Pithy Internet Genius. Yes!
You skip off down the street to start your day, and you stop five times to chat with neighbors, because surely everyone wants to tell you how brilliant and hilarious you are. You’re hugging and high-fiving left and right. You’re Drew Barrymore on ecstasy – but smarter. You bust out a tango with some random guy at the bus stop and then promise him you’ll knit him a hat for his new baby. You laugh uproariously at your boss’s chauvinist jokes, because hey, everybody deserves a chance. You end your day with a cold, crisp glass of rosé on the front porch as you gaze into the sunset, where the clouds spell out, “HEY, SPARKY, YOU’RE MAGICAL!” in pink fire. The universe loves you.
And everyone knows the opposite feeling, too – when you wake up and see that whatever you posted the night before has zero likes, and you sit there wondering how long the internet has been broken and why all your friends have been offline for 12 hours.
Then you see that your friends haven’t been offline. They all turned their digital thumbs up to the video of the squirrel wearing a beret on a merry-go-round – but not to your post. Was it bad? It was the thing you said about cats being Nazis, wasn’t it? Everyone thinks you’re stupid. Or anti-Semitic. Or anti-cats. Or ugly. Are you ugly? Probably. This is everyone’s way of telling you.
And just like that, there goes your day. You’re hungry, but breakfast is for people who are liked, so you just shuffle into the bathroom, slump down on the floor, and suck Crest Extra-Whitening directly from the tube until you create a suction seal and realize you can’t pull it off your tongue no matter how hard you try, which just FIGURES. And then a little ant goes crawling up the side of the bathtub, and you mash him with your bare thumb, because it’s better he knows now that THERE’S NO POINT. And then you cry because dammit, that’s not like you, squashing little ants like that.
Eight hours later, that’s where the gutter cleaners will find you when they lean their ladder up against your window: On the bathroom floor, with a tube of toothpaste hanging from your swollen tongue, making a teeny-weeny shroud out of toilet paper and whispering, “I’m sorry,” to an ant corpse.
And those are grownup like-addicts we’re talking about. Oh, not you, of course. Or me. Obviously. But… people.
So. You know what I’m talking about, Z-berg.
Kids deserve to learn what “like” means in the real world first. That it’s not something you count. That it’s not something that comes and goes based on who clicked what, and that it comes from being a good friend. A friend, not a “friend.” That’s all I’m saying.
(W-berg, stop ringing my phone, man. I’ll call you later.)