Backstage in South Florida: Questionable Facebook Frenzy

Music vet and New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman shares observations, insights, and updates relating to South Florida's musical environs. This week: birthday greetings and online affirmation.

I had another birthday the other day, an occurrence that seems to take place with increasing frequency at this stage of my life. The thing that made it especially noteworthy -- as far as I'm concerned, anyway -- is the fact that for the past couple of years, I've gotten a huge number of birthday shoutouts on Facebook. 

This year, for example, I'd estimate that I received close to 300 or so. I'd like to think that was a result of my winning personality, my many accomplishments, or my obvious ability to inspire others, but I suspect it's none of those things. Apparently, people really do check out my profile, and apparently they possess some cyber alarm clock that tells them it's my birthday and it's time to send a greeting.

Those of you who are far more astute than me when it comes to acknowledging others may scoff at my apparent ignorance on the subject, and in fact, I don't blame you. I feel like an inconsiderate boob because I've never taken the time to research the birth dates of those people I've befriended on Facebook, much less checked out their profiles to see how their lives are progressing, to share in their good (or bad) fortunes, or take great delight in that muffin they've had for breakfast. Don't get me wrong: I'll respond if prodded, punched, or poked -- whatever that terminology is (it sounds very intrusive) -- but I really don't make a habit of following the daily doings of most of my so-called friends. It's selfish, I know, something I'm duly reminded every birthday, when so many others who are much more considerate than I am take the time to send their greetings.

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I am grateful for the affirmation. Although, here too there is a downside, because Facebook etiquette, or my perception of Facebook etiquette, seems to dictate that I reply to each and every person individually. Sure, I could have simply "liked" each one instead, but I figured since I was going that far, why not include a little message of appreciation. Which I did, by individualizing a reply to each and every person who sent me a greeting. I even thanked those people I didn't know, and there were, in fact, several of those folks as well. (How did I acquire them as friends anyway? I swear I can't recall some of these connections.) It probably took me nearly three hours to reply to everyone (Don't tell my boss! I did a lot of it at work!), but in the end, I felt satisfied that I made that effort and that I had at least done my Facebook share to comply.

Now you may be wondering why I'm sharing this rant, other than to express some obvious lack of compatibility with the digital age. Actually, there is a point to all this, one that relates to the musical focus of this column. You see, among those who honored me with their greetings were several musicians and any number of former music biz colleagues. One of those of special note was my old boss Steve, a former national promotion director for Capitol Records. He was the person who originally hired me for my label gig in 1977. So, rather than make my response a simple thank you, I reached out and suggested we catch up. (Yes, I realize that Facebook does serve its purpose as far as reconnection is concerned.)

Steve was the guy who hired me at that time, something for which I'll always be indebted to him. I ended up working with the label for seven years, and most Sunday nights I could expect to get a call from Steve to discuss airplay strategy for the week to come. I also remember that during one of our promotion confabs in Palm Springs, I had a passionate fling with his assistant, and during one of our meetings, she straddled my leg, much to Steve's dismay. Hey, after all, this was the music biz! However, in retrospect I realize it's probably not a good idea to allow your boss' secretary to hump your leg during a business meeting, at least one in which he's present.

I haven't seen Steve in 30 years but I've kept up with him through a mutual friend. He's in Las Vegas and doing promotion for a hotel out there, in addition to putting out a very good weekly music industry tip sheet called Disc and Dat. You can check it out here and I'd encourage you to ask for a subscription. It's a nice summation of the state of our current pop culture, and you don't have to be a former music industry executive to appreciate the insights and observations. Best of all, it's free.

Steve actually devoted a good portion of this week's edition to the current state of Facebook, beginning with its obviously over hyped stock offering. (Did you buy in on the first day of its offering? If so, you're probably finding it difficult to read this through your tears.) I found the following tirade about those online ads especially illuminating, particularly the way he coaches it in an overall comment about Facebook's merits.

"How many users actually click on those online ads?" He writes, "And how many people who do click on those ads, actually BUY something? It's one thing to have a billion people using your program to talk with friends, it's quite another to get them to take money out of their pockets and spend it while they are telling each other what they had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, where they are going to, what funny videos we should watch, what news stories we should read, what gossip we need to know, where we are shopping, where we are vacationing, and... Well, you get the picture. After sorting through all that, do you have any desire to click on a distracting online ad? Hell no, the posts from people are distracting on their own. And the truth about 99% of the posts? WE DON'T CARE ABOUT THEM. We just put our mouse into fourth gear and fly on down the page. Facebook is online diversion. It's fun at times, and at other times, a complete bore."

Sorry to be one of the disbelievers, but I couldn't have said it better myself.

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