About two weeks ago, the Northwestern Facebook network was blessed with Facebook Chat by the Patron Saint of Procrastination, Mark Zuckerberg. More than enough time has passed to hand down judgment on the feature, and figure out how radically it has changed lives and brought about a mass kumbya session between North and South campuses.
Oh wait, I’ve never used it. Once. And I don’t think other people are exactly flocking to it either.
It’s not that I’ve been ignoring the tool. Every time I log in, my eyes scan the page and eventually notice the strange grey boxes hanging out near the bottom right-hand corner of my screen. I note the red dot, signifying “offline,” my chat setting since it first appeared that fateful day. Then I go on with my life, ignoring chat like it just asked me if I have a minute for the environment.
Why don’t I (and, I’m willing to wager, many people) not take advantage of Facebook’s latest advancement? Simple, it isn’t Gmail or, more specifically, Gchat. Unless you are an unevolved heathen who still uses such abominations like Webmail, Yahoo! or (gasp!) Hotmail, I’m sure you’ve found the radiant beauty that is Google’s chat system. It appears everytime you open your Gmail, and allows you to talk to other believers who have seen the light.
Facebook chat doesn’t let me choose who I can talk to. All friends are fair game, from the girl down the hall to the jerk I punched in kindergarten. The reasoning here is that you’re only going to friend people you know — your friends — so you won’t have to worry about interacting with any creeps. But that’s not what Facebook is about! A high number of friends trumps all since the end game of Facebook is to be an attention whore, leading to mass amounts of friend requests sent to second-grade classmates and people you met for thirty seconds on a film shoot. When they simply appear as a notch in your friend box, they mean nothing. But now they can talk to me if they so choose? Egads.
People want control. Facebook chat forces every friend you have to appear on the list, making an awkward conversation with a high school friend you haven’t talked to in four years a distinct possibility. One friend of mine used Facebook chat once, and that was because someone he hadn’t talked with in two years sent him a message over the newly born technology. People want to talk to people they know, not new people. New people won’t get our “inside jokes” or our “hot gossip.” Gchat lets you select who appears on your list, limiting awkwardness greatly.
The other major reason Facebook chat hasn’t changed the world is because I don’t need Facebook. Gchat appears when you check your e-mail, a very common occurrence, so leaving Gmail open makes sense. This is especially true at Northwestern, where busy students need to stay connected at all times for fear of missing some important message bound for their inbox. Though, they apparently have enough time to sit around and chat with Gmail open for hours at a time instead of, say, going outside.
But who the hell leaves Facebook open? Unless a lecture becomes especially boring (and even then, Gmail comes with the built-in excuse that you were just checking your e-mail), no rational human being needs to be on Facebook for more then 10 minutes. You go on, you see who changed their profile pic and you add a new bumper sticker. Window minimized. But Facebook chat expects you to leave the site open while you talk, for no reason. An e-mail’s exciting. Seeing that my pal added a quote from the cashier at Cafe Ambrosia because it’s mysterious isn’t. Nobody, minus some drooling amoebas, needs Facebook open at all hours of the day.
Seriously, people, wasn’t AIM good enough? Bonus video of Google acting like total assholes and thinking they are funny.