I think pretty much everyone who reads this is on Friendster, so I'll skip the background info. What I want to talk about now is the usefulness of the system, how people subvert it, and how we become their hapless victims.

First of all, there are the fake people. God, Jesus, Lesbian, Yale University, Technics, etc. These people are pissing in our well. Not that it will matter once Friendster starts either charging for their services or delivering all our interests, connections, e-mail addresses, and IP addresses directly to the Total Information Awareness program, but right now it does.

Why do we Friendster? It gives us inhibited geeks a brief glimpse at what extroversion might be like. But more importantly, it provides us with thousands and thousands of people like ourselves with whom we supposedly have common ground. Except that that really cute girl who describes herself as shy and geeky and likes cartoons and Labyrinth is only connected to you through Atari and Ben Seaver from Growing Pains.

Enough bitching about the fake people. Friendster IS cracking down on them, although their tactics leave something to be desired. What really bugs me are the weak links.

The whole thing is based on the concept of the "friend of a friend." In the real world, if I am connected to someone, and they are connected to someone else, that third person is someone that I very well might meet sometime, or that I may have met already. That person and I DO have something in common - our mutual friend - and we CAN use that as a starting point for building our relationship, whether business, personal, artistic, or whatever.

But so many of our friends on Friendster are not like that. So many of us have friendsters with whom we've never even really had a conversation - coworkers, people from school, people we want to get to know better and think that just by having that link, something will miraculously happen between us. It's just plain silly. Friendster is a big enough waste of time as it is ; it becomes far more so when the one useful thing it's good for - bringing people who are somewhat connected a few steps closer - doesn't even work.

Right now, I have three Friendster requests from people I barely even know. They're all people I like, but I've only hung out with them in groups and very few times at that (only once for two of them). Within the context of Friendster, it just doesn't make sense to add them as my friends. So until I've spent any more time with them, I've left them, as my friend Lin says, to "die on the vine." A good expression, but it makes one wish that after a while, the friend request would disappear to assuage one's unfounded guilt.

And if Colecovision, Blue Suede Shoes, or even Friendster itself try to be my friend, they're getting flat-out rejected.