Ask Matt Labash
Paula Broadwell on "The Daily Show." Paula Broadwell on "The Daily Show."  

Ask Matt Labash: Why Facebook still sucks, spying hard, and selling buggy whips to blacksmiths

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Matt Labash
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      Matt Labash

      Hi, welcome to “Ask Matt Labash.” I’ll be your host, Matt Labash. The idea for this column – if idea isn’t too strong a word – is that it is not a column at all. Rather, it’s a conversation. One in which I do ninety-five percent of the talking. If you did most of the talking, you’d have to watch my eyes go dead and my attention wander until it was my turn to talk again. So trust me, it’s better this way.

      For those unfamiliar with me from my day job at The Weekly Standard, I’ll give you a capsule bio by way of introduction: I have the gift of wisdom. Does that sound arrogant? I’m sorry, that wasn’t my intention. I didn’t choose wisdom. It chose me. If I had my druthers, I’d have chosen another gift, perhaps the untold riches of Lil’ Wayne, whose teeth are made of actual diamonds, or to be the sexiest man alive, like Rachel Maddow. But wisdom is what they gave me, so wisdom is all I have to give back to you.

      This is not, you should know, a mere advice column. If you need advice, I’ll give it. But the only rule here is that there are no rules. You can ask me a question about anything that’s on your mind: current events, pop culture, media, theology, string theory, fishing tips, wicker repair. The only limits we have are those of your imagination. And those of my knowledge base. Which is considerably limited, truth be told. So try not to ask me anything that requires research. Though they tell me I have access to Google on this computer if we need it.

      If all goes according to plan, ours will not be a traditional writer/reader relationship. It’s more complex than that. I might empathize or cajole. I might educate, instruct, or inspire. I might pretend to answer your question while actually reporting you to Social Services, since you’re a dangerous person who should not have contact with children. I might tell you to climb up on my shoulders, that you’re not heavy, you’re my brother. Or I might tell you that you are heavy, and that you should hop down until you lose a few pounds. I might just sidle up behind you, put my big strong man hands on the small of your back, and whisper in your ear the words of the poet, Kenny Rogers: “We’ve got tonight, who needs tomorrow?”

      To which you’ll say something like, “I can’t, I’ve got to go home and wash my hair.”
      To which I’ll say something like, “Shhh. We’ve got tonight babe, why don’t you stay?”
      Wherever this takes us, our journey begins now:

      <i>Matt Labash is a senior writer with The Weekly Standard. His first book, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Fly-Fishing-Darth-Vader-Evangelical/dp/1439159971">Fly Fishing with Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys</a> will be published next month by Simon & Schuster.</i>

EDITOR’S NOTE: Have a burning sensation? Consult your doctor. Have a burning question for Matt Labash? Submit it here.

Matt — For more than eight years I’ve successfully avoided the Facebook craze that has crept its way across the globe. While many friends, and my wife, look at me like I’m a cave-dwelling malcontent, I’m honored to have never posted, poked or otherwise bothered people whom I barely know and don’t consider real friends. It’s just a common courtesy, people. The problem is that my employer is encouraging me to join Facebook — under the pretense that “our customers are there.” Being a rational person, my employer is probably correct and it would seem to make good business sense to go wherever customers are. However, it’s Facebook and I don’t want to lose my soul. Any advice? — Mike

Yes, find a new employer. While I’ve addressed the employer-compelled social media scourge before, and have done my level best to beat the hell out of Facebook at each and every turn, I’ll do so again in abbreviated fashion, partly out of principle, partly out of boredom, partly because I didn’t get very good questions this week.

When I first took up this battle nearly four years ago, Facebook was still ascendant. Now, it has clearly jumped the shark even more than the phrase “jump the shark” has. (Which is why I’m using it, because both Facebook and “jump the shark” are for nostalgia-wallowing losers.) Now that teens are leaving it in droves for equally insidious outlets like Twitter (teens are stupid — that’s why we don’t let most of them drive or vote), there are only three compelling reasons to still be on Facebook:

1. To get away from aforementioned teens, who now realize how horrifying Facebook is, when their “cool” moms post pictures of themselves wearing way too little clothing  while pounding Coors Light at the Kenny Chesney concert.

2.  To join Spotify, the free-music capital of the world.

3.  To feel superior to your friends, half-to-three-quarters of whom are likely making asses of themselves on Facebook.

Other than that, it’s fairly useless. In Whit Stillman’s newest film, “Damsels in Distress,” one of his characters says of clichés, “I love clichés and hackneyed expressions of every kind because they’re largely true.” And one of the truest clichés of all: familiarity breeds contempt. I don’t even belong to Facebook, and yet, whenever I jump on a friend or relative’s account to see what’s what, I can end up completely sick of people before I’ve even met them. For it seems, in most cases, like Facebook exists to Kardashianize America. To turn everyone into preening, narcissistic, celebrified versions of themselves whose only mission in life is to convince you that they, and they’re overfed select-soccer-playing kids, and their overgrown-kids-for-friends, are having THE BEST TIME AT ANY GIVEN TIME THAT IS IMAGINABLE ON THIS PLANET! “Love my life!”  is an overused Facebook refrain.

To which I ask, “Do you really love your life?” If you do, maybe you could put down your tiresome Facebook-updating iPhone, quit documenting your life before it even happens, and try living it a little. I can’t even count how many times I’ve been out with a group of people, 50 percent of whom aren’t even experiencing the outing itself, as they’re way more concerned about how jealous they can make their Facebook friends when posting pictures of the outing that they’re not actually paying attention to . Everyone knocks Facebook for trying to turn virtual friends into real ones. But even worse is that Facebook — and Twitter to an even greater degree — often turn your real friends into virtual ones.

As for your boss, the only point of him wanting you to be on Facebook is to plug his business. But people don’t go on Facebook to see businesses plugged. They go on Facebook to plug themselves. We are all brands now, so they tell me. So good luck getting in any plugging edgewise.

Shouldn’t we be celebrating General Petraeus’s dalliances? Isn’t it time America had a rival to James Bond in the “suave spy who bangs sluts” category? – Double Oh Jealous

I think we had that guy. I called him “Leslie Nielsen.” (RIP, old  friend.) I don’t wish to minimize Petraeus’s transgressions. He obviously owes an apology to his poor wife. He has clearly disappointed a generation of youngsters who kept his poster on their walls and who wanted to grow up to prosecute their own unwinnable wars in the Middle East. And yet still, I have a hard time getting that exercised about it. After all, David Petraeus spent the better part of his life risking his tail for his country. Maybe it’s time his country gave a little tail back to him.

And please don’t speak ill of a lady by calling her a “slut” in this column. I prefer to think of Paula Broadwell as an energetic young woman with a healthy libido.

Hey Matt, Can you help make my small Michigan fly fishing magazine more successful? — Chuck Sams

Probably not. These are tough times for magazines. These are tough times for fly fishing. They happen to be two of my favorite things. But put those two increasingly obscure tastes together, and you’re facing the equivalent of selling buggy whips to blacksmiths. Which is precisely why I’m giving you a plug anyway. (That, and because  news of your tablet app mercifully never appeared in your request, which would’ve killed the whole deal.) We need more men who are not intimidated by long odds, who laugh in the face of prospective failure, and who seek out a more rewarding way to spend their adult lives than sniffing the gaseous contrails of the bleating herd.

So with Christmas nearly upon us, reader who already has everything, buy a subscription to The Cedar Sweeper (Michigan’s finest small fly fishing magazine) for the buggy-whipping blacksmith in your life. You can do so by clicking on the “subscribe to the magazine” button on this page, while also enjoying Chuck’s free blog stylings.

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.