I first learned of theface-book.com this summer from my sister. Having just spent the past nine months in Africa, I had been oblivious to this

latest craze. "Are you on thefacebook?" she asked me, soon after

my return. I was perplexed.

For me, a "facebook" had always been the slim volume from my prep-school that was used primarily for looking up telephone

numbers and settling arguments about the hotness of various girls.

The truth of the matter is that I have never, now or at any time, been a member of theface-book.com, nor do I plan to join in it the immediate future.

AOL Instant Messenger was my first foray into an on-

line community. At first it was great. I had engrossing multi-hour

conversations where a question about a homework assignment

suddenly evolves into an intense, cathartic, soul-purging session.

After classes, my first instinct was always to peruse away messages, looking for a little turn of phrase, or a goofy non-sequitur that, not unlike sniffing glue (from what I understand), would lift my spirits for about five seconds before things crashed back to normal.

But I prowled on, hungry for my next fix of text, be it in message, away-message, or profile form. And then this year, I quit AIM, deciding that I could live a full life without it. Simple as that.

But the rest of the world charges heedlessly ahead. For those sated

with AIM, but hungry for more inoffensive and easily digestible

textual and visual stimulation, they now have the ubiquitous

online facebook.

Here is my ill-informed and in-depth explication of the

phenomenon: it allows you to a) document the fact that you have friends, b) stare at pictures of other people, and c) enjoy the visceral thrill of knowing that others are secretly staring at you. In other words, it allows people to shamelessly acknowledge that they are a) insecure b), voyeuristic, and c) vain.

But it is mostly, of course, the latest and greatest thing in

procrastination since Sports Center. Like AIM, TV, magazines,

phone-calls, email, biting your nails, staring out the window, and

walking from place to place, fooling around with thefacebook.com is just a little mortar to cement the five bricks of college life

(class, homework, meaningful human interaction, food, and sleep). Something's gotta do it, so why not thefacebook.com?

Unfortunately, however, I haven't been completely candid with you. Estranged from this online community, I can't help but feel a little alone, an outcast among people I used to know so well.

But I soldier on, content with my few remaining real world

companions who, even without referencing a website, can still

remember what I look like and where I live.

But like I said, it is a sad and lonely life. I may have 58 buddies

but, alas, I have no friends.