You Have Zero Friends (14.4) – So/So
Plot: Stan refuses to fall victim to the most recent trend, Facebook, but when his friends make him a profile, he must get involved to appease those around him. Soon, his profile veers out of control and becomes one of the most powerful on Facebook. Stan gets sucked into Facebook and must defeat his profile in a game of Yahtzee in order to regain his freedom. Meanwhile, Kyle befriends Kip Droardy on Facebook, a lonely third grader with no Facebook friends. While Kip (and his parents, unaware that this friendship is on facebook) celebrate his new-found friend, Kyle suffers as his friend count decreases. On his podcast Mad Friends, Cartman compares the “stocks” of various profiles, and explains that people now see Kyle’s friendship a liability, deleting
him off their friend list.
Analysis: I personally loved this episode, and would highly recommend it. It did a great job of exaggerating the absurdity that is online social networking, especially how ridiculously seriously everyone seems to take it. While the issues the characters are dealing with online are only small and superficial, they respond to everything in dramatic, passionate ways, interfering in their everyday lives. The omnipresence of Facebook makes it impossible for Stan to avoid the phenomenon, no matter how hard he tries. Even the game of Yahtzee Stan must play with his profile symbolizes how the issues these boys face online are not as serious as they make them out to be. If you’ve ever actually seen someone have Facebook Drama, I’m sure you’d agree with me that the whole facebook phenomenon can appear absolutely -ridiculous-.
I also loved the side-story of Kip Droardy, and I thought it had a great way of indicating the arbitrariness of popularity. He is stigmatized and sidelined, so that no one wants to be his friend, and everyone backs away from Kyle when he befriends Kip. Thus, social forces keep Kip lonely, creating a sad, pitiful character. but this popularity is also extremely arbitrary: when Stan sends his friends away at the end of the episode, they all go to Kip, presumably making him popular at last. There may be some rational for Kip being unpopular at first (eg his appearance), but, in the end, it’s all random. I also absolutely adored Kip’s parents, who reminded me a lot of parents I’ve known in my life: I went to senior prom with a close friend who asked me only because his mom insisted he should.
Despite how much I enjoyed the episode, it had very few actual social justice messages. It didn’t address any issues concerning the internet – such as how it’s a great social resource for neuroatypical individuals, like those on the autism spectrum or those with social and other anxiety, or how the social networking excludes individuals without reliable internet access or unable to use computers, which is extremely detrimental as the internet grows as an important tool in networking, employment, school work, and job performance. Nor does it look at issues that dictate popularity – such as how neuroatypical, queer, gender non-conforming, and other marginalized children are often made unpopular, and the amount of dangerous and scary bullying that these children often suffer with. Thus, I give this episode a so-so for its failure to address any social justice issues in its humorous parody.