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Letters to the Editor 

Week of August 27, 2003

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The Unbearable Unfriendliness of Friendster

Between the sheets: Yes, many of the fake profiles on Friendster.com are more interesting than most of the "real" profiles ["Attack of the Smartasses," by Lessley Anderson, Aug. 13]. Yes, the fake profiles often do represent a legitimate social hub. Yes, Friendster.com's creator, Jonathan Abrams, does appear to be an arrogant pill. But the "fakesters" behind these fake accounts really need to turn off the computer, go into the room with the big blue ceiling, and really, really, really get laid.

Eric Johnson
South of Market

Improper application: I've used Preparation H to reduce the puffiness under my eyes. The last thing I need at that desperate moment is the manufacturer coming into my home and snatching the product from my medicine cabinet because its intended use is for my anus.

What's worse is that Jonathan Abrams' team is so overzealous in their site-sanitizing that they make errors, aka commit censorship. For example, Friendster removed renowned San Francisco artist Jim Winters' self-portrait from his profile -- certainly more people can identify Winters' artwork than a picture of his face. Friendster's deletion of this image and countless other hilariously entertaining "fakester" profiles illustrates the site's failure to understand how savvy intellectuals and creative types connect in this medium.

I predict a failure for both the company and for Abrams' love life.

Clifford Roxburgh
New York, N.Y.

Smart folks need a better site: I loved Lessley Anderson's super-cool Friendster article. Thank you for it.

The heavy-handed Friendster management is doing us all a favor by highlighting the need for parallel systems for other purposes. I'd love to join a Friendster-like site that encourages creative users to explore new ways of finding common ground and common projects. (See www.tribe.net for a group that's already doing this, and becoming a gathering place for ex-Friendsters.) Friendster gave us a proof of principle, but one big network for all the users is not going to work.

Recently I proposed social-network software to help in fund-raising for fighting AIDS in Africa and elsewhere (www.communicationpractices.org/aidsnetwork). People anywhere could start with the experts, organizations, or celebrities they trust, see whom those people recommend in the field, explore these trust networks at their leisure, then click to donate money where it can do the most good -- in some of the best health projects even in remote villages unconnected to slick, high-overhead Western organizations.

Such a system wouldn't be Friendster even if the software were the same, because the users will have come together around a different purpose.

John S. James
Philadelphia, Penn.

Love me, I'm phony: The fakesters raise very interesting commentaries on how vapid and superficial online dating services can be. Here's a fakester I created, which I plan to post on online dating services like Matchmaker.com, etc., just to see what kind of response I'll get. It will be interesting to see if I'll get any dates out of it.

FAKESTER

Hi! I'm a stereotypically desperate single woman. I joined this site because a) I'll do just about anything to get a man, and b) my parents and friends put me up to it. They've been making trite demands on me to find a husband.

After you've reached that "certain age," you realize that everybody else's opinion of you is always more important than your own. I used to be more independent, but I've now seen the error of my ways; especially as it becomes harder to meet that special someone as you get older.

What am I like? I will try to make myself sound as generic as possible so that you'll feel comfortable. I know that too much creativity and individualism can turn off lots of people in the singles scene, especially shallow, self-absorbed "players" that only want to sleep with you and leave. I enjoy walking on the beach and can go from a pair of sweats to an evening dress. Isn't that amazing (even though changing clothes is something anyone can do)?

What type of guy am I looking for? Someone my mommy and daddy would love: good-looking, clean-cut, often wears suits, makes lots of money each year. Doesn't matter if he's not a nice person. As long as I can please my parents, friends, and society by having an "eligible" man, that's all that counts.

What can I offer you in return? Since you would probably hate me if you knew the "real" me, I will hide all traces of my true self and be the bimbo you've always dreamed of. I will tease my hair and get implants. I will play hard to get to keep you "interested." I will whine if you don't call me. I will be so stereotypically female you will feel at ease with me and know what to expect. I will do everything I can to massage your ego and not to be a real human being so you won't have to treat me like one.

Interested? Call me. I'm dying to hear from someone who wants to play games as much as I do.

Rosalind Lord
Inner Sunset

Bone up, Jon!: I think it's too bad that the makers of Friendster.com have such a single-minded idea of how the tool should be used. It seems like they're willing to censor a wide variety of really interesting free expression that would otherwise make Friendster a better place.

For example, I have wonderful old friends on Friendster whose profiles use photos of their pets, online gaming avatars, or artful bits of original self-portraiture, and Friendster has already begun pulling down these photos, allegedly to err on the safe side of copyright. And yet, it is terribly naive of Friendster to assume that the photo-realistic depictions of the rest of us represent any kind of reality, or adhere strictly to copyright.

It's great that Jonathan Abrams created this cool piece of software, but if he wants the thing to be more than a fad, or a precursor to something better, he's going to have to bone up on the history and reality of online community and communications.

Bob Conrad
Chicago, Ill.

Wake up, Jon!: I have been a frequenter of the site for a several months now. I find it alarming that the executives of the site are so concerned about fake Friendsters, yet they do nothing in response to flagged, blatantly offensive individuals like neo-Nazis.

I have flagged a number of neo-Nazis and written e-mails to Friendster notifying them. A brief search using any number of keywords, i.e., hatecore, 88er (Heil Hitler), 1488, Aryan, etc., will reveal a large presence on the site. They are obviously using the site to organize and meet other bigoted individuals.

These are not just people that are proud of being white. They are people that espouse and proselytize a "race"-based belief system focused on hate of other "races." I am not offended by fake Jesuses or Deaths or even 30-year-old men posing as teenage girls. I am deeply offended by Friendster's inaction regarding neo-Nazis.

Name withheld by request
Oakland

Grease up, Jon!: All you ladies out there, I need your help! We gotta find this Jon Abrams fellow a lady friend and fast.

Guys, please stay out of this one; it will take a female mind to figure out what kind of woman would date this guy. I know I'm a smartass and like to be "funny," but I think if we do this for real, it could be just the olive branch that we have been looking for. We can prove that you can get what you want from Friendster even if it's in a completely different way than you imagined! Are you listening, Jon? That's how life works!

Do you know what you look like, Jon? You look like the doctor who created a complex, intelligent being in your lab and then told it that it was created to scrub floors.

The ladies don't like this. At this point you are the eunuch at the orgy, a phrase one of my old professors used to apply to film critics. C'mon, man, get them slacks off, grease up, and enjoy the fun!

Pure Evil
(aka Arthur Ratnik)
Via the Internet

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