SpaceBook is my pet name for the collective breed of social networking sites. Sort of a MySpace marries Facebook and it’s all the same thing, different color. As a genre, SpaceBook is taking a deep stab at the integrity of our human social interactions, redefining the way we communicate and consequentially forcing us to create and abide by new standards in social etiquette.

We interact on SpaceBook much like truck drivers on CB radios – Breaker, Breaker 1-9-ing it for anyone who will Roger that. As a society increasingly dependent on digital communication, we have become habitually conditioned to seek social engagement (and attention) from the very source that’s sucking so much of our lives – our computers. The irony is so blatant – we have surrounded ourselves with technology instead of humanity and then wonder why we’re so desperate for human interaction?

Never before has a society been so into probing into everyone’s lives and personal business. A society saturated with reality-based entertainment, we have become immune to any of life’s mystery and demand immediate gratification in every element of our lives. Information you once reserved for the privileged few is now dispersed through bits and bytes into the world.

The SpaceBook Universe is like a virtual high school reunion whenever you want it, no extreme diet or hot date required. From our desktops we click our way into the hip crowd. We see the cool girls who got fat and the fat girls who got cool. But alas we can never truly shed the high school drama. Decades into the future, we still post pictures yesteryear and reminisce about the days where we passed notes rather than posts on SpaceBook bulletin boards. But kudos for us adults – we have successfully made the progression from fake in person to fake online.

We update our “status” on a regular basis. We affirm our love, support our politicians, and send cryptic messages into the Universe. We toss out the line and wait for the bite. We function as self-driven advertising machines, crafting clever “sticky” status lines that will tempt the masses. Entice them to reply … and possibly engage a real person in a virtual conversation.

SpaceBook provides empowerment for those adults who don’t feel comfortable approaching someone in person and asking them to be their “friend.” In the SpaceBook Universe, it takes very little risk to click a button requesting a friend. We can ask it of anyone – and bestow it to anyone.

For those of us with passive aggressive tendencies, SpaceBook offers up ample opportunity. Take the friend request – the fundamental building block of any well-rounded SpaceBook account. As an amateur, I clumsily thought the standard protocol was to approve all friends, reserving denials only for dire circumstances (i.e., ex-boyfriend) or to make a point (READ: SpaceBook power trip). I was proven wrong.

There are die-hards amongst the SpaceBook populace and they maintain steadfast rules for navigating their Universe with almighty SpaceBook Righteousness. Said rules may include strict quantifiable friend approval criteria (i.e., “I’ve spoken to them in the last year”) or self-imposed limitations on participation in the Universe (i.e., “I only approve friends, I don’t poke or send virtual presents”). Every addict creates rules to keep their addiction at bay.

“Friend,” as a title, has never been so overused and under-meant. The label used to infer integrity; it held a high rank in life’s social order of values. Now the omnipresent designation needs clarification. Is she a real friend or friend on SpaceBook?

SpaceBook also functions as a stage from which we broadcast our blossoming (or wilting) relationships. An interactive forum exists for your friends to observe and comment on your romantic interludes. They witness as you publicly exchange flirtatious comments and subsequently over-run your online photo albums showcasing the new couple on Halloween, on New Year’s Eve, vacationing on the beach. You publicize each time your relationship transitions; progressively clicking your way from “single” to “in a relationship” to “engaged” to “married.” SpaceBook gives you the wedding slideshow as it unfolds in real time. We’ve become a culture constantly categorizing and consistently broadcasting.

A friend of mine, newly married, was angry when her husband reminded her that he wouldn’t be home for dinner; he was attending a work event. She knew of no such event, she proclaimed. He countered with “Didn’t you see it on my FaceBook?” Really? A wife has to hear about a husband’s plans at the same time as his high school girlfriend? Virtual romance + virtual communication can sometimes create a complicated formula.

Even the youngest among us are gaining a mastery of online social networking long before they ever learn how to feel comfortable networking with human beings in a room. They chat with “buddies” on sites like Club Penguin and gain a false sense of social sophistication. Just because you can approach another online penguin with a slapstick joke doesn’t mean it’s OK to do with a teacher. Boundaries are blurred by the computer veil. But the reality is that social networking rules do not equal real life socializing rules.

But as with all human vices, SpaceBook does succeed in bringing you small doses of life’s candy. Like seeing that the captain of the football team become a regular guy and seeing the popular girls become regular mommies. Like posting photos of yourself 35 pounds lighter and much happier. Like waking up to see your boyfriend change his status to “in love” for his whole Universe to see.

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