Social media, sports and politics

The Democrats took for granted two aspects of American life in 2010 for granted this week — sports and social media.

As I wrote 11 months ago, beyond President Obama, the Democrats have a short bench — no up-and-comers that can excite The Base and also offer anything appealing to Independents, no Rock Stars.

But, as the results of last week’s Senate election in Massachusetts showed us, most of them are also living in an old world of campaigning. Meanwhile, conservative Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers alike used Social Media to their full advantage in resoundingly beating the Democratic candidate in perhaps the most Democratic state in the union.

True, there’s only so much you can do against the forces of the more-Patriotic-than-thou bullies that have shouted their way to the top of the news hour since the day after President Obama took office a year ago.

But we’ve also seen centrist voters coming to their side since the summer. And actually, they’ve been slowly losing this battle since Nixon’s Silent Majority and Lee Atwater’s gutter-bottom tactics in 1988. While President Clinton brought in the blue-collar voters in 1992 and 1996, it’s been hard to bring these voters back since. As Jon Stewart noted, it sure didn’t happen this week, especially if you didn’t know what team Curt Schilling played for in your home state.

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What am I missing?

Is it me, or, unless you’re networking for professional reasons or you really want to get in touch with that chick that blew you off in high school (to remind her that you’re still a dork, apparently) does anyone else find Facebook a supreme waste of time?

Maybe its my insular tendencies and the (to paraphrase from a buddy) clannish ways of my friends. It just seems so easy to start using, and then maddening to use after that (blogging on WordPress or Blogger, by comparison,  is entirely intuitive). Or maybe what I’m saying is, compared to publishing you’re own little-read (read: not read) blog, it seems like you have virtually no control over the presentation. I’m not talking about control over who sees your profile and stuff (yeah, yeah, there’s various privacy settings and whatnot). And no, I’m not talking about whatever 18 pieces of flair you want to add.

No, I mean there is precious few ways to customize your “home page,” such as it is on Facebook. I had more control over (and more ways to customize) Geocities and 20m sites from the late Nineties. I’m not talking anything fancy, either. For God’s sake, I just spent 20 minutes trying to embed a link within the text of a comment (like this) to no avail. The comments wouldn’t read “a href” codes (it would create a hyperlink if you pasted in a Web address, like this:, but not if you wanted to embed that into a word or phrase, as in the above example). Which makes me think, Facebook merely wants to drive you to more Facebook content, it seems.

Am I missing something rather obvious? (That wouldn’t be the first time.) Or am I just too aged and crotchety for my own good?

Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I probably am out of step with my fellow Gen X’ers, who have also flocked to Facebook and related sites as much as any other American from 6 to 66.

I’m not a fan of Readers, RSS feeds, or other applications that “push” content to me. I’d rather go seek it. I sincerely enjoy surfing — knowledge by walking around, to cop (and update) a phrase from, I believe, Jimmy Breslin (who most certainly was not referring to the Internet).

Look, I like being able to easily share photo albums with friends and family, to show off pictures of The Baby (though the image uploading system is clunky and slow, at least for me). But beyond posting links to stories I like on my “wall” — sort of like a way to microblog, without bothering to build a semi-intelligent post around said links —what’s the point? (beyond the aforementioned professional networking opportunities and chance to “catch up” with people you never had an intention of catching up with before. And Christ, don’t get me started on Twitter.)

Of course, it took me two days to try to figure out how your name and photo appears in a person’s friends list — I couldn’t understand that all that appears, apparently, is your photo, name and “networks,”  rather than your hometown (which seemed to be the obvious thing to display to this luddite).

So either I’m slow, or Facebook is just a way to cede some control of your life’s information in order to Socially Network. Is that sort of like Benjamin Franklin’s quote of giving up essential liberty for temporary safety?

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