“I can’t tell you how convenient it is to have Facebook on your phone without a way to close it,” says the woman in the video. “It’s like having a best friend … who never shuts up.”
The send-up by Seattle comedian Dartanion London is racking up views ahead of the April 12 launch of Facebook Home, an interface for the Android that aligns its functionality around Facebook features.
“Introducing the Facebook Phone,” London’s character says at the top of the video. “The Phone … book.”
When London sent me his video last week — before Facebook’s press event cleared up rumors of a true Facebook “phone” — I watched it, laughed and moved on. But something nagged at me. Facebook Home is clearly worth mocking, even though we use Facebook all the time.
Then I realized. Facebook Home is essentially a statement: Facebook is so front and center in our lives that it deserves to be front and center on the devices we personalize to run them — our phones.
That might be Facebook’s most audacious claim yet.
You’re a big deal, Facebook. But now you think you’re big enough to take over my phone?
Dammit. Maybe you are.
“It’s the same love-hate relationship we have with any powerful institution in our lives,” London told me via email. “You have to be on Facebook, because that’s where everybody is. But Facebook knows this, so uses it to make you do things you don’t want to do (look at ads, deny Farmville requests, see your ex’s engagement photos, etc.).”
“OK, that last one may not be forced,” London continued. “But the experience isn’t always good for you, despite the benefits you generally get from it.”
Audacity is ripe for satire. Why does Facebook’s claim seem so audacious? The answer, I suspect, has less to do with whether Facebook truly deserves to rule our mobile castle and more to do with an awkward dissonance between how uncomfortable we are with how Facebook makes us behave and how powerless we are to stop using it.
We encourage friends’ overshares, scan for insufficiencies in photos of our rivals, interrupt our work to check for new “likes” and spend long minutes cropping our profile pictures. All without having a good grasp of where all that data goes.
Is that absurd? Absolutely.
But so is Facebook’s stepped up effort to soothe our discomfort away.
Like any smart superpower would, Facebook is concealing its mobile coup as the next step in a natural evolution. It’s not Facebook you’re putting at the top of your phone with Facebook Home. It’s “people.”
Its video and website features all the sparkle and none of the ugly truth. Everything is outdoors and laughs and lovely. Staring at a screen while the world goes by? Not here! Photos of friends at a lake. Posts about qualifying for a marathon.
“Your friends are waiting inside your phone,” Facebook tweeted. “Set them free with Facebook Phone.”
I’m no Facebook hater. I love what it’s added to my life. But you know all those SUV commercials that show cars climbing boulders?
It’s beautiful, but it’s bullshit.
The parody is bullshit, too. But at least it’s not serious.
We’re laughing not just at Facebook. But ourselves.
“One of the great things about the Facebook website is how often it changes. And we’ll be doing that with our phone as well,” London’s character preaches in his video. “This month, the number pad looks like a regular phone. Next month, maybe we hide the numbers from you. Or just move them into crazy places. One thing’s for sure. You’ll never get bored with how your phone works.”
One of the most telling jokes in Dartanion’s video comes close to the beginning.
“The first feedback we got when we told people Facebook was developing a phone was ‘Stop. Don’t do that. Nobody wants it,'” the character says. “But guess what? What if they do?”
Yeah. What if we do?
Then I guess we keep laughing.
P.S. — London’s previous video, “How Guys Will Use Google Glass,” has 2 million views and counting.
P.P.S. — For more Facebook Home parody, here’s an illustration from The Joy of Tech: