Today is Facebook’s 5th birthday. Can you believe it? Five years? We’ve been stalking our friends (and friends of friends of friends) for 5 whole years?!
I’m always astonished by how quickly novelty becomes routine, and how easily routine slides dismally into annoyance. When I first logged on to Facebook, you know, senior year of high school – damn! – there they were, Joe and Chelsea and Ian and Howie and, oh boy! When did I get so many friends? And when did everyone start looking so good in pictures? My excitement was boundless. I was so pumped, I posted on my own wall.
Since then, the spell has worn off a bit. Facebook has become at best a boring tool (the seventh simple machine?) and at worst a recipe for failing your finals. We’ve all spent those wee-morning hours clicking through photos of proms and parties past. We’ve lost (real-life) friends over comment arguments about “just how drunk Mandy was” in that one album. And now our mothers are on Facebook, and they’ve Bitten us. “Start Biting people, and raise your own Vampire Horde!” Thanks, Mom!
But c’mon, Facebook’s great, right? We really do love it. It’s like a drug. And if you took that drug away, the withdrawal symptoms would be severe. In a world where all our Facebook connections were replaced by tin-can telephones, what couldn’t we do? More importantly, would we be able to park our culture in the handicapped spot?
Fight the good fight
Whether you’re into ending the Iraq war or whether you think bears should run the country, you can quickly, efficiently coordinate your frothing teen acolytes through Facebook. Just today, I was invited to a group devoted to publicizing a coal waste accident that polluted the Tennessee River. See, without Facebook, I wouldn’t have heard about this terrible accident at all, and I’d probably just spend the rest of tonight eating chocolate and listening to Bing Crosby records. Instead, I’ll be thinking about Appalachia while I eat chocolate and listen to Bing Crosby records. Hey, wait a minute! How often do you think about whatever groups you joined on Facebook? It’s regular, offhand, unnoticed. I mean, it’s great to connect with passionate youth from across the globe about every issue imaginable, but in a way, when you’ve got seven hundred different Causes, it’s hard to care that much about any one of them. Now, if some ragged protester with a gaze of steel and a booming voice came to my door and screamed at me, I’d probably be a lot more inspired.
Hail some hook-ups
Without Facebook, random hook-ups would be a lot more… random.
Real Science Fact: 95% of Facebook users really just use the system to find people to have sex with. You log on, you take a look at your feed, and you then you spot them: that guy/girl who was a total schlub in high school but now has just come back from digging Korean water mains or building the pyramids or whatever and is totally smokin’. And if you were to call them up, actually pick up the phone and dial their number, it’d be awkward – because when someone you haven’t talked to in three years calls you up on a Friday night, it’s weird. But Facebooking someone asking to catch up – nah, that’s normal, that’s easy. Standard operating procedure. “hey happy bday, hows your semestr, haven’t talked in a while lol… lets get starbux sometime.” Try that line face-to-face, and you just get funny looks. But with the convenience of Facebook, you’re a master flirt – because you know what? They see your message, and they’re probably secretly thinking the same thing. Hopefully they don’t have syphilis.
Invade other people’s personal lives
Thanks to Facebook, we can all be armchair control freaks. Wondering who the boyfriend’s been talking to lately? Check his Wall. Where’s he been without you? Check the photos. Who’s he been playing Jetman with? You can look that up, too – no hidden cameras or hairs on the closet door needed. And stalking becomes effortless – without Facebook, you’d have to resort to the ladder by the bedroom window, the slow, repeated drive-by, the overcoat and wide-brimmed hat on the street corner. Far less dangerous, and completely anonymous; I’ve allowed names I didn’t recognize friend me before, and I’ve yet to figure out exactly who they are. In my imagination, I have many stalkers, and they’re all tall, beautiful women who pine desperately for a strapping young man like me to accept their love and joint ownership of their enormous bank accounts.
So, let’s see what we’ve got here: without Facebook, we’d probably hear about fewer causes, but we’d also care more about the ones we did hear about; we’d generally have fewer awkward hook-ups with people we only barely know; and we’d actually have to talk to each other if our relationships had serious trust issues. Sounds like stopping the Facebook insanity before it reaches its 6th birthday is a good idea.
Right after you get with your lab partner from high school physics, of course.