What do you and I have in common? Well, we’ve memorized each others’ birthdays, political views and favorite television shows (I think we can thank Facebook for that). Perhaps we have some friends in common — we could mock common acquaintances while perusing the bruised fruit in Commons. But what will be our last resort for common ground, when we run out of conversation by the salad bar? There’s one thing I can pretty much count on, Class of 2010. I bet you that we’re both Facebook friends with Phillip Yang ’10: Facebook celebrity, and in his free time, a Yale student.
Phillip Yang is known on campus, especially to the freshman class, as an all-around good guy. Before he was a good guy made of flesh and bones and vintage t-shirts, sprawled on the benches of the Lanman Wright courtyard, he was the Facebook friend of all — a summertime anomaly who made himself thoroughly a part of so many freshman lives. Phillip Yang “friended”, well, a lot of people (almost everyone in the freshman class), and now it’s time to find out who Phillip Yang is, how many actual friends he has and how he became the legend that he is today.
When asked to explain the initial appeal of Facebook, Phillip Yang responded in utmost seriousness.
“I’m a huge pop-culture fan,” he declared.
There are fans, however, and then there are, as some see it, Facebook whores. When questioned as to his typology of whoredom — Madison Avenue or Flatbush Avenue hooker — Phillip Yang, however, said, “I am not a hooker.” He added that he might be more like the Facebook equivalent of the infamous erotic lady Bettie Page. The distinction, he said, was that he was not so much devoted to “bondage, but more like, bonding.”
Phillip, although by conventional terms a stranger before school began, already had fans: “Phillip Yang has always been a Facebook king,” William Alden ’10 said.
But Phillip Yang was also a magnanimous king.
“The difference with Phillip Yang [was that] he would actually talk to you and write on your wall. Other people would just friend you and that was it,” Molly Zielenbach ’10 said.
It can be difficult to maintain summer correspondence with total strangers. Phillip Yang, however, apparently doesn’t share that sentiment.
“I can honestly say that 80 percent of the people I met on Facebook over the summer I now know on a personal basis,” Yang said, “and I will defend that to my death.”
Those are fighting words if I ever heard them. Yet some students remain skeptical. One student, Chris Riederer ’10, who, although he is Phillip’s Facebook friend, was not so sure about the validity of their friendship in the real world.
“I hear he’s a Facebook fiend,” Chris said, “and that he’d know my hometown and my parents’ names if I ever spoke to him in real life.”
Should we really be threatened by Facebook friends who aren’t face-to-face friends? Should we hide from those people who know our favorite books, even thought they won’t engage in conversation? Phillip Yang eases our Big Brother fears.
“It’s not like I’m carrying online venereal diseases,” Yang said. “If I were, you’d all be in trouble.”
Phillip Yang didn’t manage to “friend” everyone, however. The man could only spread his cyber-self so thin. When Andrew Udelsman ’10 was asked if he felt that he’d missed out on the Phillip Yang experience, he said, “I wish I was his friend. It upsets me that I’m the only one who’s not.”
So does Phillip Yang use Facebook for good or evil?
“Facebook is a very dangerous tool,” Yang said, “but it can also be a weapon of choice.”
When asked to elaborate on the potential downfalls of a Web site that Phillip Yang also called “a social lubricant,” Phillip said, “everything online is ultimately lame.”
Phillip Yang, if that’s true, what does that make you? No, I’m just kidding, I swear. I mean look at all the interests we share. You like the Beatles? So do I! You like “The Godfather” I and II, but not III? What a coincidence! I feel like we’re friends already.