Philadelphia Metropolis


Living on Farcebook

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My new neighbor threatened to kill his girlfriend.

At least, this is what the buzz was around my cul de sac a few weeks ago. My tenured neighbors gossiped about this particular guy who had lived on the block for less than a year and had endured a rocky relationship with his live-in love. One night, my sister, friend (and former neighbor), and I went on Facebook to see what everyone was talking about. Yep, that's right: Facebook.

The alleged "threats" played out on the popular social networking site. We found said neighbor's account through Facebook's search engine. His status read along the lines of "True love is when you don't give in to the temptation of killing your significant other...I have yet to find true love." Turns out, this highly employed 30-something-year-old had no regard for posting all kinds of explicit material, the exact things my college professors used to warn wouldn't get me a job. But this example of too-much-information was just the latest situation involving the web site and my Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood.

Facebook.jpgEver since the college students-only ban was lifted a couple of years ago, more tales of online transgressions seeped into the usual chatter that found its way among my neighbors. It began with one home owner who posted inappropriate personal views in her member bio that could have easily compromised her or her husband's jobs. From there, all you had to do was navigate the displayed friends box to find my other neighbors, most of them in their early 30's, who had recently made a page.

One neighbor didn't have her married name listed and another didn't list that he was married at all. A couple of years ago, a story surfaced of one spoken-for resident who was supposedly dating a coworker, which was fueled by Facebook wall conversations and displayed photos taken in a nearby town. Other neighbors posted very private pictures, videos of their children in the bathtub, and entire home addresses and phone numbers.

I realize many young adults have posted numerous incriminating information about themselves on Facebook, but the college circumstances make it less deplorable. Or, at least it seems that way. In the film The Social Network, Mark Zuckerberg and Co. were seen designing Facebook as a means to help Ivy Leaguers meet and hook up. It seems less harmless for a 21-year-old to mess around on the site when kids, a mortgage, and a career aren't involved.

A part of me also misses the mystique; the kinds of revelations that used to come from years of suspicion are now prominently displayed for the whole neighborhood to see. Another part of me wishes the original co-ed-only membership stood. In college, my then-boyfriend and I changed our relationship status to "engaged" after an inside joke one weekend. Weeks later, one of my neighbors stopped my mom at a local store to break the news to her about my "engagement." I only wish this person had told my mother about my 17-year-old sister's "marriage" to her friend Amy, too. Ever since, Facebook has taken neighborhood gossip to a new and more irritating level. That's why most of my information is now blocked. Recently, I've noticed an upswing in neighborhood discretion on the web, as well.

While friendly offline, I'm not Facebook friends with any of my older neighbors and it's going to stay that way. In the poem Mending Wall by Robert Frost, he writes about two men who rebuild a stone wall every year. The one man questions it, while the other simply replies, "Good fences make good neighbors." In addition to the chain-linked barriers that separate our properties in the Northeast, I've also recognized a need for some privacy online, even just to continue naively looking at my neighbors in the same untarnished light.

Now my quasi tech-aware mom has jumped on the Facebook bandwagon. My sister has taken the liberty of updating my relatively reserved, Catholic mother's page with photos of my dad captioned "my lover" and the like. My father, who can't even turn on a computer, jokingly refers to it as her "Farcebook," which is so perfectly apt. Like my new neighbor who mused over "true love," faking relationships, and advertised himself as a "good rebound" on his page, it adds to the online sideshow that is my neighborhood on Facebook.


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