Posted on March 23, 2011 at 7:20pm EDT. More.

Facebook is not a social network

At approximately 12:30 a.m. last night I locked myself out of my apartment.

I recently moved into a new building with a washer and dryer in the basement. At midnight, I loaded my clothes into the washer, then returned to my apartment to wait. (Why I am so ridiculous as to start doing my laundry at midnight is outside the scope of this discussion.) I was reading, it was hot and radiators are not adjustable, so I removed my hoodie. My iPhone timer went off, so I picked it up, walked downstairs, moved my clothes to the dryer, walked back upstairs, then realized my keys were in the pocket of the hoodie on the other side of the door.

I am by no means a carefree sort of person. I am constantly worried about something. If there is nothing to worry about I will find something. I almost never lose my keys or wallet because I (usually) check my pockets several times before leaving a place. This is the sort of situation that could easily make a person like me flip out.

But I did not flip out.

I did not flip out because, about four years ago, I took an improv class. If you’ve heard Stephen Colbert’s commencement address to Knox College, you may be expecting me to describe how I used the power of “yes-and” to get back into my apartment. But the specifics of improv didn’t really have anything to do with it.

I didn’t really matter that the class was an improv class. And it also didn’t matter that I had taken that class. What mattered is that I socialized with people in that class, and took the next class, and made friends, and took more classes with friends, and assembled performing groups with friends, and even though I don’t perform as much as I did a year ago, I have a significant number of real friends.

So at the moment I realized I had locked myself out of my apartment, I didn’t panic because I knew I wouldn’t have to sleep on the floor or be extorted by a locksmith. I used my phone to tweet my predicament and within minutes two friends had offered me space on their sofas for the night.

If nobody had replied, there were a dozen people I could call (although I’d feel pretty terrible about waking them up). If they didn’t pick up, I still could have walked to the theatre or designated watering hole (uncomfortably in my socks, but do-able) and probably found somebody to help me out.

Websites like Twitter and Facebook are called “social networks” but that’s not what they are. They are models of social networks or tools to communicate within social networks, but without an underlying social network they are frivolous.