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The Column

The Quest For 10,000 Friends
1/2/05

If you don't have a Facebook profile, you're missing out. If you don't know what Facebook is, you're missing out and you're over 25.

TheFacebook.com is a website, and from what I hear, the internet is becoming very popular. Ever since Al Gore invented it a few years ago, people have been purchasing home computing devices intended for use on said internet, where they are interacting with other owners of computing devices. Almost as popular as the internet is this new thing called "sarcasm."

The most common way for young people to express their love for the internet is by signing up for profiles on a billion different community websites. The sites are predicated on networking - Friendster was the big one, then Orkut hit, and now MySpace seems to be taking over. The sites are fun ways to track down old friends, find new ones, or post revealing pictures of yourself in hopes of making up for the attention your parents didn't give you as a child.

TheFacebook.com is like all these, but college-based. And it's more than a fad - the vast majority of students on my old campus have Facebook profiles. I have even been to bars where people exchanged Facebook information instead of phone numbers. I'm kidding - they exchanged Facebook information instead of screen names.

Even though I'm an old gross alumni ("Ew! He's, like, older than my TA!"), I have a Facebook profile. The site is great for me - I make most of my living performing at colleges, so I use it to keep in touch with bookers, fans, and people who I conned into letting me use their web connection to check my email and update my Facebook profile.

Last week, I was on Facebook when I got a message asking me when I was performing at a particular campus. I wrote back with the details, and it dawned on me - what a great way to let people know when I'm in town.

I started adding people I didn't even know as friends. At first I searched for fans of standup, then people on programming boards, then the newspaper, then the radio station, then anyone with a cool last name. It grew - I was adding hundreds of friends, and they were adding me back.

I decided to see if I could get 10,000 friends on the site. The number was fairly arbitrary - I picked it because it was attainable, but impressive. Kind of like my prom date. I then changed my profile to talk about my quest, and even put a caption on my picture to explain why I was adding random people. Then I sent a message to my entire list asking for help.

Word started spreading that there was a crazy comedian adding people on Facebook. And suddenly, I didn't have to ask anymore. I spent hours adding all the people who were asking ME to be THEIR friend. Here's where it stopped feeling like my prom. There must be something about a zany request combined with the boredom of winter break to mobilize the masses: in a week, I'm already over 5,000.

I've gotten several dozen encouraging messages - most a variation on "you're crazy, but I'll help." I've also gotten four pieces of hate mail. One was from someone who hates all comedians, and two more were from people who thought I was bastardizing the purity of Facebook - as if there's some inherent purity in adding the girl you've never spoken to in your Lit class because you want her to read your profile and fall in love with your boyish online charm. The fourth message came from someone named Kyle Hofstetter, who accused me of ruining the Hofstetter name. He's not related to me - but I Googled him and found a website that accuses him of twice sodomizing billy goats. Of course, that's my website. Thanks for writing, Kyle.

I also get several messages a day from people asking me who I am and why I added them. If you read my profile, you'll see why I find that funny - that's like asking someone wearing a restaurant nametag what he's doing disturbing you during dinner.

The funniest message I got was from a student asking me if I was going to make fun of her in my act or in my column. I told her that I am linked to 5,000 people on the site, and if I made fun of all of them individually, it'd be a very boring column. So, no, I will not make fun of her in my column. At all. Not even in this paragraph.

Overall, the quest has been fun - I've made a few new friends and a few new fans, and found something to do over the holidays while the rest of the world seems to be closed. I'm not sure where this will take me, but I'm enjoying myself. And when I hit 10,000, I will probably keep going. Maybe 25,000 is next. Maybe 50,000. Maybe even 100,000. The only one who can be truly sure about the limit of all this is Al Gore.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to take care of this Kyle Hofstetter fellow. Anyone know where I can get a feather pillow, some super glue, and a mousetrap at this hour?

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