Ask Matt Labash: Facebook stalking, Zen and the art of gasoline huffing, and a reader bares her ugly insides

Matt Labash | Columnist

Editor’s Note: Have a question for Matt Labash? Submit it here

Dear Matt: Every time I meet a hot new girl (or guy), I’ll go home afterwards and check them out on Facebook, even if I don’t “friend” them. Is that what they call “Facebook stalking”? And if everybody does it, is it really “stalking”? Maybe I just dislike the phrase. I know my mustache does.  –  Arty Goldbergstein 

First off, thanks for writing. I’ve been at this a while now, and have had precious few bisexual mustache questions.

In early 2009, I wrote what some consider the angriest anti-Facebook piece to date, subtly titled, “Down with Facebook.” It was a clarion call, a dog whistle sounded to other Luddites, non-joiners and general resisters which declared, as Michael Jackson sang before me, “You are not alone.” With the Internet then in its infancy, MJ couldn’t have even known there would be such a thing as Facebook when he released the 1995 platinum-selling single off his HIStory album. There’s not a lot of time for anticipating the future when you’re so engrossed in the present — having pillow fights with 11-year-old boys and playing with your monkey.

I only bring MJ up to humbly note that I’m like a philosophical Emmanuel Lewis, sitting on the shoulders of giants. But while some people like to read history (kidding — nobody reads anymore), I prefer to make it. Which is how one little piece in the Weekly Standard stopped Facebook dead in its tracks.

Need proof? Recently, Insidefacebook.com reported that the rate of Facebook growth in the U.S. and Canada has slowed to a trickle. While it had been growing by 20 million new users per month over the past year, the rate of growth has fallen to 11.8 million new users in May. A mere 687 million people now use it worldwide. Do the math, Facebook — it’s over. Don’t be surprised if a year from now, nobody even remembers Facebook, opting instead for the next-big-thing social networking site — Epernicus, for research scientists. There, you can meet hotties like Shirley Wu who is not only easy on the eyes, but who knows a little something about protein function prediction and annotation using machine learning and text-mining methods.

That said, in the short time Facebook has left before extinction, don’t beat yourself up for Facebook stalking. Oftentimes, the very word “stalker” carries negative connotations. But what, really, is stalking, other than affection that is fully convinced of itself in the face of indifference? That’s why I try to go gentle on my own stalkers, such as the young lady who kept sending self-addressed stamped envelopes while requesting a used pair of boxer/briefs.  Used by whom, she didn’t say. So I sent her a pair of Jim Treacher’s. (She was grateful, reporting that they smelled like water-blossom ivy, lemongrass sage, and Indianapolis.)

But why do people go on Facebook, if not to see and be seen? Much the way I like to tell nervous nellies in my airport security line that if they don’t like getting groped by sweaty-palmed TSA agents, then they ought to take the train, I’d similarly caution Facebook stalking “victims” that if you don’t like perverts using your photos to butter their own corn, as we agrarian types say, then don’t post them online.  

But of course, that is a risk most are willing to take. In fact, don’t discount the notion that people who pretend otherwise secretly like getting stalked on Facebook, going so far as to enjoy you and your mustache’s sense of smarmy shame. As the late aphorist Mason Cooley said, “If modesty disappeared, so would exhibitionism.”

Matt, Life just seems to fly by faster and faster these days with our busy lifestyles. What advice do you have for slowing things down? – Joshua K.

Bodies at rest tend to stay at rest. So avoid speeding life up in the first place.

Take the time to find simple pleasures, and to drag them out as long as possible. Stop thinking about what other people have, and why you need it. Envy is the engine of discontent, causing us to crave and scheme and flit nervously from one pursuit to the next, without appreciating the life we are wishing away. Zen philosophers speak of the Four Noble Truths:

1. Suffering does exist.
2. Suffering arises from attachment to desires.
3. Suffering ceases when attachment to desire ceases.
4. Freedom from suffering is possible by practicing the Eightfold Path.

I’m not a Buddhist, and the Eightfold Path is kind of involved. You can investigate that on your own time.  Or if doing so exacerbates the anxiousness you already have over your busy lifestyle, I suggest huffing gasoline or looking at photos of Kirstie Alley at the beach. That’ll kill desire too.

My question: are you 11? You don’t look 11 to me. I hope you find it in your heart to forgive me for asking how long it takes you too {sic} write one of your long, incoherent thicket {sic} of words? My guess is it doesn’t require much thought or time or maturity. Boys will be boys no matter their age. – Agnes Frazer

Good guess, Agnes. But  I’m actually 10, and suffer from a rare genetic disorder that causes me to look like a middle-aged writer. I might be the ugliest 10-year-old you’ve ever seen on the outside, but you’re ugly on the inside, Agnes. I won’t keep you — iCarly is calling. And you probably have things to do, too — like riding your broomstick down to the hospital to make fun of leukemia patients.

Matt Labash is a senior writer with the Weekly Standard magazine. His book, “Fly Fishing With Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys,” is now available in paperback from Simon and Schuster. Have a question for Matt Labash? Submit it here.

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