Facebook had it right in the beginning

Facebook scolded me several years ago.

I can’t recall the exact wording but it was something like, “We’ve noticed you have several friend requests that have gone unanswered or been ignored…please only send requests to people you know personally.”

Followed by an insulting command…you had no other choice…to hit a button that said, “I Understand.”

Facebook was not MySpace. Connecting with random people was discouraged and Zuckerberg and his army of tech watchdogs were watching us. Not to the degree they’ve been tracking us of late but still disturbing. “You bought a Stephen King book on Amazon, here’s an ad for Amazon or something to keep you clicking, sharing, purchasing, posting, clicking again, sharing again.”

The warnings ceased and I was able to connect with people in the radio and music business, and folks I just plain liked.

For example, comedian David Brenner.

I sent David a friend request in 2005 or so. Denied. Brenner had 5,000 friends already. Followed up with a personal message explaining that I’d tried to friend him and while I UNDERSTOOD Facebook’s policy of contacting real life friends or acquaintances, I just wanted to reach out as a fan.

To my great delight, Brenner replied. He joked that contrary to Zuck’s guidelines, he preferred to connect with those he hadn’t met. I saw David in concert at the O’Keefe Centre in Toronto in the late ’70s, when Brenner was a regular guest on the Mike Douglas show and a frequent fill-in for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show.

He remembered the O’Keefe. It’s probably a supermarket today, he said. I reassured David that the venue was still a popular theatre. Can’t recall if it was the Sony Centre or The Hummingbird Centre at the time but it had not become a flea market or a parking lot.

JOHNNY’S GUEST HOST TONIGHT IS…

Brenner died in 2014 at the age of 78 so he was in his early 70s when we connected. In our online chats, I got the feeling David felt forgotten by the modern comedy establishment. Why wasn’t he a panelist on Real Time with Bill Maher? After all, it was David’s “Did you ever notice…” that gave birth to Jerry Seinfeld’s “What’s the deal with…”

But….

David Brenner was the exception to Facebook’s real friend only or person you’ve at least said hello to in person policy. I was friends for a short while with Amy Poehler, maybe it was the Canadian connection because of her marriage to Toronto-born Will Arnett. I may have been friends with another Toronto native, Samantha Bee (her aunt Jan lives in Wasaga and is in my volleyball group) until Sam changed her page from a personal one to a fan site.

I am still Facebook friends wth actress Kim Dickens. She was a standout in the HBO’s “Deadwood” and “Treme.” I loved Treme. If you haven’t seen it, the series dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the New Orleans district of the same name. Treme featured many musicial icons from that city, including Fats Domino.

The recent Facebook privacy scandal resulted in me facing the choice of deleting my account or scaling things back.

I chose the latter.

I cut my friend list in half. Down from 600 plus to whatever it is now and really, do I want to view baby or cat photos from someone I haven’t seen in years? My radio show was cancelled in January (still have an iTunes podcast, check the link on the right side of this site) so having a ton of sort-of friends isn’t much of a benefit now.

It’s not about numbers. It’s about genuine connections. You comment on my posts, and I “react” to yours. Love that Facebook term. Reacted? Did they LOL, shake their fist or faint? Tell me, Zuck, I want to know the details.

REACTING TO YOUR POST, LOL

Then again, “reacted” beats Twitter or Instagram. I challenge any celebrity to reply to a fan on one of those sites. Jennifer Lawrence, Selena Gomez, Fergie, Channing Tatum (my Mom is 91 but she knows who he is!) when a fan replies to your Instagram post with words like beautiful, stunning or love you, you should blow their minds by saying, “Hey, thanks! We should hang out some time.”

Facebook is no different than those sites, in terms of promotion. Be my friend so I can get more customers. Really, why would I befriend or “like” a store I don’t shop at? I will choose, thank you very much. You want a real connection and unless I have bought your products or eaten your food, I’m not much good to you.

And if you post all damn day, I will unfollow.

So yes, Facebook had it right from day one. At best, it’s a way of staying in touch with distant relatives, high school and college friends and former or current co-workers you actually like. Or like-minded folks you’ve never met. Or those in your field of work that inspire and hey, LinkedIn is just fucking boring.

After more than a decade on Facebook I’ve ended up with the list I want. If you found this through Zuck’s data-mining enterprise, cheers. You made Johnny’s cut list.

But…if for some reason you want to cut me, I won’t be offended. It’s only Facebook. Not something we’ve paid for (at least with Amazon I get free 2-day shipping, Mozart in the Jungle and The Looming Tower).

And thanks in this lifetime and the next to David Brenner. I’ll recap one of his best bits. He’s riding the subway in his hometown of Philadelphia (go Flyers!) and sitting on a newspaper. The guy next to him asks David if he’s reading that newspaper. Brenner doesn’t know what to say. The next time it happens, David stands up, turns the page, sits down on the newspaper and says….

“Yes.”

About johnnymaraca

host of Johnny Maraca's Rock & Roll Riot, the rockingest show on the radio. 60 years of rockin' rhythm and blues, from the late '40s pioneers like Louis Jordan to Elvis, Chuck Berry, CCR, Stray Cats, Ramones and tons more. Friday and Saturday nights at 7 on 97.7 the Beach, listen live at http://977thebeach.ca, and WRSG in Middlebourne, West Virginia, Tuesdays 6-8 pm.
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