IN THEIR RECENT INTRODUCTION OF VIDEO CHAT, Facebook developers are barking up the wrong technology. They seem to be operating on the assumption that I want to chat with people. What they don’t realize is that Facebook, contrary to its name, is actually about avoiding people.
The whole point of Facebook is that we don’t have to talk to anyone. An awkward guy and his awkward friend created this interface so they could stare at people without having to speak to them. Of my 592 Facebook friends, only three have my phone number. I don’t know what I’d say if that girl from high school whose last name I don’t remember wanted to video chat. We used to have a lot of fun drawing cartoons in Miss Leister’s class, and we shared a mutual distaste for high school chemistry, but I doubt we have anything in common now. Using brief status updates and the ‘like’ button, I can collect and share basic facts with hazy apparitions from my past while avoiding time-consuming formalities such as, “How are you?” and “How many kids have you popped out?” and “Is your brother still robbing mini-marts?”
And what about those people whose status updates I’ve hidden because they drive me crazy? I’m guessing their chats would consist entirely of sharing news links, discussing Farmville, and reciting cut-out lines like, “If you appreciate your husband, copy and paste this as your status.” I imagine these people are as one-dimensional as their one-liners: “I have so much mucous in my nose today,” or, “I totally hate traffic jams!” A video chat with one of them might be short, but it will definitely be awkward.
Chatting on command is annoying enough. But video chatting? Hang on, I have to put on a bra so I don’t get in trouble for indecent Facebook content, change my stained shirt, brush my hair, and dab some cover-up on those dark circles under my eyes. Geez. I might as well leave the house if I have to do the full grooming it requires for people to see me.
The developers brag that while you video chat, you can multi-task and use other Facebook features simultaneously. Personally, I don’t want people to know what else I’m doing while I peruse Facebook. I eat potato chips, get out of my seat every thirty seconds, yell at the cat, and roll my eyes at things I’m reading. I also slouch, a habit I’ve worked hard at keeping out of the public eye. Even more unattractive is the sumo ponytail I pull on to the top of my head when I’m at my desk.
I suppose Facebook video chat is geared toward a younger generation, those whose eyes aren’t puffy in the morning and who like to call their best friends to discuss what outfit to wear to the mall. If Facebook really wanted to be useful to my generation, video chat would have an integrated auto-makeover so the image projected to friends smoothed wrinkles and shed pounds.
Or better yet, instead of video chat, Facebook could develop a multi-tasking feature that cleans my house, mows the lawn, and picks up the dog poop. That would buy me more time to sit on my butt in front of the computer, eating junk food and stealthily reading the banal status updates of the awkward people I haven’t seen in twenty years.