I used an antiquated term the other day.
"Did you see our wall-to-wall?" I asked one of my friends.
"Whoa," she replied. "Look at you, with your retro Facebook references."
It’s not my fault. I’m super old. Not in human years. In Facebook years.
It’s amazing to me how much it’s changed in so short a time. Remember when you didn’t "friend" someone, you "added" them? Remember SuperPoke? Remember the "20 Things About Me" note trend? Remember notes, period? Remember when people used to get confused and write on their own walls? Remember when the mini-feed was new? Remember when your status always had an "is" in front of it?
More mind-blowing than anything: remember when you didn’t have Facebook?
I got a Facebook almost exactly six years ago, soon after they started allowing people to create accounts without a university email address (one of your brighter moves, Zuckerberg). Everyone warned me that it would become addictive and that I would spend hours on it every day. For a while that was true, because there was so much to discover. So many photo albums to lurk on. So many people’s profiles to see. Kids at school that I thought were really boring were suddenly fascinating on Facebook.
Now, of course, I don’t even spend a whole hour on Facebook a day - it’s just become one of those mundane, necessary things that I check, like my email. I can’t imagine being disconnected from it, not because I couldn’t go without the photo album stalking (which has lost its luster) but because it’s how I stay in touch with so many people. It’s an easy way for, say, my aunt and I to stay a part of each other’s daily lives. She has a muffin for breakfast, she posts a picture of it, I comment on it saying, "No way! I had a muffin for breakfast, too!" Boom. Family bond reinforced.
It’s almost hard to remember all the changes happening, because they seemed to happen slowly – just like my life. I’m not the person I was when I created that account, and the account is different, too. It’s fluid. It kind of has a life of its own.
I remember friending my husband on Facebook. I had secretly been conspiring to marry him ever since we met, but I didn’t know his last name, so Facebook was a convenient way to find that out. Facebook was also how he found out I was hanging out with this other guy, which made him fly into a jealous rage (or at least that’s how I imagine it in my head) and he finally got around to asking me out. Boom! Family created.
I remember the first time a Facebook friend died, and how macabre I thought it was, reading all the messages on her wall - messages to a dead girl, sentiments she would never read. I thought, "I’ll never do that. That’s so weird." Now, I’ve lost several more Facebook friends to accidents and diseases. The latest death in my Facebook family was a week and a half ago. I wrote a message on his wall one last time; it didn’t occur to me to even consider it ghoulish, not now. It just seemed natural.
Facebook has changed how we find people and also how we lose them. How many fights have you gotten into with someone over what kind of status they posted? (You know you have.) How many times has your opinion of them altered because of the parts of themselves they share on their profile, the parts you would never have seen 10 years ago?
Last week when Pope Francis was elected, I wasn’t close to a television so I couldn’t watch it, but my mini-feed gave me all the information I needed. My Facebook friends updated their statuses faster than CNN could update their website. And they added awesome color commentary that I could never get anywhere else.
In "The Social Network," Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake in a surprising performance - another of Facebook’s gifts to us) memorably says: "First we lived on farms, then we lived in cities. Now we live on the internet." And it’s true. This thing that I didn’t even know about seven, eight years ago - it’s where I live. It’s where you live.
If someone moves far away but keeps their Facebook account, it's almost as if nothing has changed. Conversely, if someone deletes their Facebook, I know that’s probably the end of our relationship. It’s not about choice - I just know it’s going to end up happening. Unless you’re part of my immediate family or the handful of people I text often, I just don’t have time to keep up with you. It’s not that I don’t want to, and it’s not that social interaction is dying. It’s just changing.
Sometime in the last decade or so, the world got really fast. We had to get fast with it.
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