Sunday, December 10, 2006

Confessions of a Facebook Addict

It used to be that, to me, Facebook was just an abstract social phenomenon. Like leg-warmers. Somethding you read about in Sunday Styles(the bling-bling section of the New York Times) but would never do yourself. That changed about two weeks ago, and my life changed with it. If not my life, then my productivity level.

Facebook snuck up on me. I made a profile so I could check out some other people's and then I forgot about it. A couple days later I found a "friend request" in my inbox, and it all went downhill from there. I figured this was an up or down proposition: if I was going to have any "friends," I may as well have a bunch. Over the next couple days, I had "friended" at least fifty of my closest friends. Facebook was starting to take over my life. If I was online for any reason, I had to check my profile at least every five minutes. Sometimes I would just sit there, staring at it, and reloading the page to see if I had any new friends or "wall posts," the Facebook equivalent of comments.

Another thing that struck me about Facebook was the level of narcissisim. Because I didn't have a picture of myself on my computer, I used a Gap icon(you know, tall white letters on a dark blue background) as my profile picture. One of my friends asked me about it, and I jokingly told her that I wasn't self-important enough to plaster pictures of myself all over my Facebook. But I found some truth in that. Facebook is the ideal place for--what's the word for a person who wants other people to look at them? Oh yeah, I forgot, Paris Hilton. With Facebook, people can broadcast pictures of themselves, their political views, and favorite books, movies, and music, to the world. In other words, it would be an ideal way of keeping in touch with your grandmother. Except I don't think your Facebook friends, unlike your grandmother, want to see pictures of you on the toliet.

Another way Facebook users can brodcast themselves to the world is their "status." The "status" line starts out "[Your name here] is" and can then be filled in with trite phrases provided by Facebook("working," "in class," "sleeping," et cetera), or something of your own design. Right now, mine says "Amy is letting the good times roll." Thinking of what to put in your status is another way that Facebook eats up time that could be spent on more productive things. Like talking to people in real life.

Facebook is indeed part of a larger social phenomenon. Like YouTube, Facebook is a way that people can share their lives with the world. Except in Facebook's case, it's inane trivia instead of high-quality, educational videos of cats getting baths. Like MySpace and Friendster, Facebook is a social networking site. A social scientist would probably say that sites like these are symptoms of people's need to feel validated and important. But I'm not telling you how many times I checked my Facebook while writing this.


Blogger Cal Skinner said...

So, how does one find your site?

12:35 PM  
Anonymous Aakash said...

Amy, I was just thinking, a few hours earlier, about how Facebook has changed things so much, for those of involved in politics, and in college activities. It is such a useful networking, recruitment, and communication tool.

Do you want to send Mr. Skinner a Facebook joining invite, or should I?

2:13 AM  
Blogger Amy Allen said...

I agree. It is a good way to waste time, too. ; )
Good idea, but there might be an age limit on Facebook. Just kidding, Mr. Skinner. ; )

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps AARP could start a Facebook portal for those of us who are "eligible" for that organization, to put it politely. Think of the possibilities! Status: "[Your name] is taking a nap," or "thinking about buying a new Buick." Persons could post old photos of themselves alongside more recent shots. Health tips could be exchanged!

11:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Then there are some of us paranoid types who only got on one sociel networking site and have since begun to consider it a mistake. Places like myspace are viewable to anyone, I have spent hours reading the myspace pages of girls from my old school and am suprised at what I found. For instance, if I found one of my semiformer friends I could find maybe five more simply bu reading her friends list and people that had posted to her page (this is all without a myspace account). I was also suprised to discover some of them talked about getting drunk, and drugs on their profiles despite the fact that they were under 18. I also do not like the vast amount of information you can find out about people simply by looking on the internet, for a suprise try googleing yourself, it is amazing what you can find and how much people can find on you. In a semirelated train of though their is an interesting article, Murder  on  MySpace []. Also, I believe facebook is open to everyone not just .edus now, []. Well, that was probably long enough but I will start a rant again if I see a post that I have an opinion on (and I have the time). Semper ubi sub ubi.

3:18 PM  
Blogger Levois said...

LOL!!! Yeah Facebook is a very pesky little site. For some it could almost replace real life.

4:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ha i found this blog by typing "obiter dictum" in google. Nice.

On a more 'on-topic' note, i've yet to join the 'craze' of myspace and facebook. Specific reasons excluded, it feels like that scene from apocalypto where they're blindly rushing to the volcano, you know how one dude looks at the other and goes "ha this is fun... where are we going?" only to realize it's not so fun at all..
Ha well ok, extreme analogy; but given i'm not a tree-hugger, its like the statement "verily if you follow the Majority of Mankind, you will be misguided."... hmmm food for thought...

and it's only 7:48 AM central time. I need to do my foreign language lab.

Nice blog though -).

Oh and if you want to check it out, cool info: http://www.albumoftheday/facebook

7:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i personally loove facebook! sometimes it sucks that everyone pretty much finds out everything about you through there...i go to school and people are saying "did you know that this happened" and i ask how they know and the answer is pretty much always "facebook"

1:45 PM  
Blogger Henny Penny said...

I just set up a facebook profile yesterday and wasn't sure quite what to do with it. But I quickly found college and law school buddies on there and well, figured it out quick.

7:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Their work is noninvasive—for the apes, that is . . . "Have I been pissed on? Yes," says anthropologist Cheryl Knott of Harvard University. Knott is a pioneer of "noninvasive monitoring of steroids through urine sampling." Translation: Look out below! For the past 11 years, Knott and her colleagues have trekked into Gunung Palung National Park in Borneo, Indonesia, in search of the endangered primates. Once a subject is spotted, they deploy plastic sheets like a firemen's rescue trampoline and wait for the tree-swinging apes to go see a man about a mule. For more pee-catching precision, they attach bags to poles and follow beneath the animals. "It's kind of gross when you get hit, but this is the best way to figure out what's going on in their bodies," Knott says.
It's a job that separates the boys from the men, OK, OK, their real job title is usually something like "cryobiologist" or "laboratory technician," but at sperm banks around the country, they are known as semen washers. "Every time I interview someone I make sure I ask them, 'Do you know you'll be working with semen?' " says Diana Schillinger, the Los Angeles lab manager at the country's largest sperm bank, California Cryobank. Let's start at the beginning. Laboriously prescreened "donors" emerge from a so-called collection room that is stocked with girlie mags and triple-X DVDs. They hand over their deposit, get their $75, and leave. The semen washers take the seminal goo and place a sample under the microscope for a sperm count. Next comes the washing. The techs spin the sample in a centrifuge to separate the "plasma" from the motile cells. Then they add a preservative, and it's off to the freezer, where it can stay for 20 years. Or not. Thanks to semen washers (and in vitro fertilization), more than 250,000 babies have been delivered in the U.S. since 1995.
"The hardest part is explaining it to friends," Schillinger says. "But we do have stories." Like what? "Like the donor who was in the room for the longest time. We had a big discussion about who was going to check on him. Turns out he thought he had to fill up the entire specimen cup."
The smell is just the start of the nastiness. Almost 1.5 billion tons of manure are produced annually by animals in this country—90 percent of it from cattle. That's the same weight as 14,432 Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. You get the point: It's a load of crap. And it's loaded with nasty contaminants like campylobacter (the number-one cause of acute gastroenteritis in the U.S.), salmonella (the number-two cause) and E.coli 0157:H7, which can cause kidney failure in children and painful, bloody diarrhea in everybody else.
Farmers fertilize their fields with manure, but if the excrement is rife with E.coli, then so will be the vegetables. Luckily for us, researchers at the University of Georgia's Center for Food Safety are knee-deep in figuring out how to eliminate these bacteria from our animals, their poop and our food. But to develop techniques to neutralize the nasty critters, they must go to the source.
"We have to wade through a lot of poop," concedes Michael Doyle, the center's director. "If you want to get the manure, you've got to grab it. Even when you wear gloves, the fecal smell tends to get embedded in your skin." Hog poop smells the worst, Doyle says, but it's chicken poop's chokingly high ammonia content that brings tears to researchers' eyes.
Odor judges are common in the research labs of mouthwash companies, where the halitosis-inflicted blow great gusts of breath in their faces to test product efficacy. But Minneapolis gastroenterologist Michael Levitt recently took the job to another level—or, rather, to the other end. Levitt paid two brave souls to indulge repeatedly in the odors of other people's farts. (Levitt refuses to divulge the remuneration, but it would seem safe to characterize it thusly: Not enough.) Sixteen healthy subjects volunteered to eat pinto beans and insert small plastic collection tubes into their anuses (worst-job runners-up, to be sure). After each "episode of flatulence," Levitt syringed the gas into a discrete container, rigorously maintaining fart integrity. The odor judges then sat down with at least 100 samples, opened the caps one at a time, and inhaled robustly. As their faces writhed in agony, they rated just how noxious the smell was. The samples were also chemically analyzed, and—eureka!—Levitt determined definitively the most malodorous component of the human flatus: hydrogen sulfide.
In the early '80s, Virginia Tech profs Tracy Wilkins and David Lyerly studied the diarrhea-causing microbe Clostridium difficile in sample after sample after sample of loose stool from the disease's victims. They became such crack dysentery docs that they launched a company, Techlab, dedicated to making stool-analysis kits. Today, Techlab employs 40 people, 19 of whom spend their working hours opening sloppy stool canisters and analyzing their contents in order to test the effectiveness of the company's kits. You'd have to have a pretty good sense of humor, right? Well, fortunately, they do. The Techlab Web site sells T-shirts with cartoons on the front (two flies hover over two blobs of dung; one says to the other, "Pardon me, is this stool taken?") and the company motto on the back: "Techlab: #1 in the #2 Business!"
Researchers who want animal sperm —to study fertility or for artificial insemination—have a suite of attractive options: They can ram an electric probe up an animal's rectum, shove an artificial vagina onto the animal's penis, or simply do it the old-fashioned way—manual stimulation. The first option, electroejaculation, uses a priapic rectal probe to send electricity pulsing through the animal's nether regions. "All the normal excitatory signals that stimulate ejaculation, like touch, sight, sound and smell, can be replaced with the current from the probe," says Trish Berger, professor of animal science at the University of California, Davis. "It's fascinating. Of course, this is a woman talking." Electroejaculation generally requires anesthetizing the animal and is typically used on zoo dwellers. The other two methods—the artificial vagina, or AV, and the good old hand—require that animals be trained to the procedure. The AV—a large latex tube coated with warm lubricant —is used primarily to get sperm from dairy bulls (considered the most ornery and dangerous of bovines). The bull gets randy with a steer; when he mounts the steer with his forelegs, a brave technician, AV in hand, insinuates himself between the two aroused beasts and deftly redirects the bull penis into the mock genitalia, which he must then hold tight while the bull orgasms. (Talk about bull riding!) Three additional technicians attempt to ensure this (fool)hardy soul's safety by anchoring themselves to restraining ropes attached to a ring in the bull's nose. Alas, this isn't always absolutely effective: Everyone who's wielded an AV has had at least one close call, and more than a few have been sent to the hospital. The much safer "digital pressure" is used mostly with pigs, who are trained from an early age to mount a small bench while the researcher reaches around with a gloved hand and provides appropriate pleasure—er, pressure.
Natural history museums display clean white skeletons or neatly stuffed animals, but what their field biologists drag in are carcasses flush with rotting flesh. Each museum's taxidermist has his own favorite technique for tidying things up. University of California, Berkeley, zoologist Robert Jones swears by his strain of flesh-eating buffalo-hide beetles and has no problem reaching his bare hand into a drawer to pull out a rancid shrew skeleton swarming with thousands of these quarter-inch bugs. Jeppe Møhl at the University of Copenhagen Zoological Museum deposits sperm whales and dolphins into vast empty tanks and lets nature take its course. And then there's the boiling method, useful for chemically preserved samples that bugs won't touch—an approach favored by archaeologist Sandra Olsen, who has done her own skeleton work. She recalls a particularly vivid experience boiling down hyena paws: "It felt like inhaling the gases would literally kill us." Nah. It merely gave her a lung infection.

12:14 AM  
Blogger Antares said...

I was distracted from leaving a comment here by the last entry before mine posted by Anonymous (who needs no introduction). Indeed, it was such a fascinating read I'm sorely tempted to turn it into a Magick River blogpost (but who should I credit?).

What I was going to say, Amy, before that unforeseen orangutan pee digression, is that I chanced upon your blog when Googling "Obiter Dictum" (which happens to be the User ID of a friend who also has a Blogger blog). After reading your Facebook post I had an immediate compulsion to add Amy Allen as a Facebook friend (I'm rather charmed by your writing style!).... Er... may I? ;-)

8:54 AM  
Blogger Cal Skinner said...

Time for you to return and comment on Palin.

2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved your post. I could relate with it. Keep blogging!!

This is Joshua from Israeli Uncensored News

2:11 AM  

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