OFF THE GRID

Facebook: Do We Like What We See in the Mirror?

Jul 23, 10 | 7:58 AM   byMichael Wolff
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Who isn’t on Facebook?

The 500 million-worldwide-users milestone, reached the other day, means you are a much more curious and notable person for not using the service. Seventy percent of Facebook’s users, according to the company, are outside the US, so that’s 150 million here, almost exactly half the country.

With people over 65 making up 12% of the nation and people under the age of 13 almost as many, and if you subtract people without computers or high-speed internet access, people with IQs under 90, and those in prison, there are probably 15 million to 30 million increasingly peculiar individuals in America in the prime-years mainstream who aren’t on Facebook.

What are they thinking?

I can’t find more than 25% of my '70s high school class on Facebook, and, it seems, not more than that of my college class. This is partly demographic: a population of mid-fifties people who are admirably or determinedly content, strivers no more. Sticks-in-the-mud. They don’t need a social network; they have country clubs. (Although Sarah Palin has probably moved a portion of these people to Facebook.) Then there are those people over a certain age who are embarrassed to be adapters, even late ones. Technology, to them, is like fashion. It’s showing off. Not of our class. I’ll bet there are more men than women who stoically resist (I went to a boy’s school). Social media is treacly and trivial to a certain sort of man. Middle-aged partners at prestigious law firms, for instance, don’t seem to be on Facebook.

Then there are the people who see it, rightly, as too hoi polloi. After all, anybody can be on Facebook. Indeed, it’s curious that this fact alone, the everyman factor, hasn’t sunk the damn thing by now. But somehow Facebook has used this leveled experience to foster a certain sort of perverse interest in, precisely, all the leveled and uncool people in our lives—this is our access to them (and, of course, theirs to us).

These holdouts, these tenacious snobs, have no alternative but, at this late date, to keep holding out. If you have any airs, it is a humbling experience joining Facebook and not having any friends. Of having to solicit for them (I get a constant stream of suck-up messages, and I’ll accept anyone). It’s very complicated for those who are both acutely insecure and acutely status-conscious (Facebook is good for both types, but can become more fraught when you put these attributes together).

There are hardcore technology people not on Facebook. The true IT class, in my experience, eschews it. The guy who introduced me to the Internet in 1991—a systems engineer of great foresight and brilliance—is not on Facebook.

The righteous or overwrought privacy people, earnest or paranoid, are not on Facebook—academic, political, left-wing and right-wing types.

Many artists and bohemians, those proud Luddites, resist.

The quietly self-satisfied may not be on it—after all, why would they need a social network?

And the struggling poor are under represented.

Otherwise, clearly, the great, anodyne mean has converged.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.
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