The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 32.0°F | A Few Clouds

Positive Sinking

Gotta Catch ‘em All

By Akshay Patil

Features Columnist

Dear Positive Sinking,

What is your position on Friendster? Have you tried it, do you find it silly, is it just Hot or Not with cliques, etc.?

--Booty

Oh, wow, I didn’t know my name was “Positive Sinking” now... that was supposed to be the name of the column. My name’s Akshay -- it should say that right there in the upper left hand corner.

Anyways, I guess you can call me whatever the hell you want, because really, what am I going to do about it anyways? The sinking@mit.edu e-mail address is just so that I can do nice filtering things to your e-mail messages and so that if someone (heaven forbid) should want to resume this column when my time is up, the transition would be relatively painless.

I indeed have “tried” Friendster, but I have to say that I’m definitely not sold on the thing. You hit the nail on the proverbial head (by the way, do inanimate objects named after body parts weird you out? I definitely get creeped. I mean, seriously, what’s up with your shoe’s tongue licking you all the time?) with your hot-or-not-with-cliques comparison. Damn. I wish I’d thought of that one....

You bastard.

I forget when I started hearing about Friendster, but when I did, it was in such glowing terms you’d think the service was the greatest thing since sliced AIM.

People were clamoring about all the hours they had spent on Friendster, how Friendster helped them beat cancer, how Friendster was exactly what California needed in a governor, etc.

When I told them I wasn’t on Friendster (in the same exact voice I use to tell people I’m not on cocaine), their faces would contort into strange shapes and they would gush about how I had to sign-up... my very survival in the heady social community that is Internet depended on it.

Worst of all, they would confide in me, Friendster was going to start charging a registration fee soon, so I’d better hurry up and get on the proverbial boat before it proverbially set sail without little ol’ proverbial me.

So, what can I say, I registered. I explored, felt around, browsed, checked it out, took a tour, and just plain nosed about. I almost didn’t make it that far because the stupid registration form wanted all sorts of personal information that I usually figure random Internet entities have no business knowing.

Luckily for me (and you!), it’s a beta with bugs so I got around the hootenanny and was Friendstering in style without the body cavity search. I had a couple outstanding (think library overdue fees) invitations so I accepted those and went about discovering all the wonderful people I was now “connected” with.

One quickly discovers that Friendster embodies the qualities one (and by “one” I mean “I”) tended to hate about high school; shallow with an emphasis on quantity. Good god. It’s like Pokemon with people. Gotta catch them all.

The more “friends” you have, the better person you are (naturally) with extra weight given to “testimonials” people write about you. That’s how you discover that EVERY SINGLE PERSON in the world is cool, fun to date, awesome in general, a great friend, a total catch for anyone interested. Maybe you gain slightly individualized information like, “He’ll drink you under the table,” or “She’s a party animal,” but other than that, you might as well just spin the wheel of compliments and randomly slap a few on (“He likes cheese!” “She smells nice!” “Disease free since 1993!”).

And where does the hot-or-not come into all of this? Well, what kind of online community would it be if it didn’t have photos of everyone? So now you can sit at your computer and ogle at all the hot friends your friend’s friend has.

Sweet. You still don’t know who they are, but maybe now you know their name and that you are indeed four degrees from Kevin Bacon (all 30 of them).

Maybe I’m too harsh. I have to say that when I first heard of the idea, I thought it might actually work -- like chat rooms with the guarantee that whoever wandered into the conversation wasn’t that far from you in the general social web we weave. But that’s not what I’ve seen so far (not that I’ve really been looking -- I think I log in about once a week to make sure I’m not being rude to anyone who might actually be a friend, but that’s about it).

So if your friends aren’t cute enough, feel free to log in and explore the heady world of vicarious friendship. If you like collecting things, maybe you can accrue a collection of people that marvels your Yu-Gi-Oh deck, your pog stack, or whatever it is you kids do these days.

Heaven knows I already spend enough time staring at my computer monitor, so for now I’ll just have to keep things real, yo.

Got a topic, idea, question, mental fart, or inanimate object you’d like to see in Positive Sinking next week? Send an e-mail to sinking@mit.edu and we promise to maybe read it.