Today: Jul 23, 2024

Facebook: Creating a new generation of thinkers


A few months ago, as the product of both boredom and my reluctance to write my midterm paper, I tried my hand at developing an app for Facebook. I just wanted to see what it entailed, and if it was something I could possibly wrap my brain around. After testing the process out and getting a message that said “Fatal error: Cannot instantiate non-existent class: facebook in /3w/ on line 13”, I decided that maybe I should leave developing to the developers. Pokemon Yahtzee probably wouldn’t be as much fun on Facebook, anyway.

Let’s fast forward to Sept. 22. It’s a big day for Facebook users: the annual f8 Summit. On this glorious day, the High Priest of social networks, Mark Zuckerberg, blesses us with his presence and announces to his people that the Facebook they’ve grown accustomed to is about go through some big changes. Do you love your profile? Well, now we have Timeline. See everything you’ve ever done on Facebook! And you know what? You don’t have to “like” things anymore! Now we have verbs! You can just see Mr. Popper’s Penguins now! The 500 characters isn’t enough for your status update? How about 5,000? Of course, these are all relevant, timely, well-thought-out changes that I was confident the entire Facebook population would embrace with open arms and adopt immediately—by the way, I hear the riot victims are doing well. As a former developer (ha!), I was offered an invite to try the new Facebook before everything changed over on the 29 of the month.

Instead of the Facebook profile 800 million users have come to know and love, we now have this very pretty layout with a large customizable banner (Facebook calls it a “cover photo;” let’s see how long it takes before someone covers it in glittery Tweety Birds). Status updates, wall posts and new picture uploads now appear in two columns, alternating left to right in their own little boxes. They all follow a common thread down the middle of the page, which you can follow to the day you were born. There’s even a space for you to upload a baby picture, which I thought was a cute touch. And of course, between then and now, you can see everything you’ve ever been tagged in, the friends you made, and your status updates from back in the day—all organized by month and year. If your brain is still functioning after all that embarrassment, you can even retroactively add status updates to certain times in your life, as sort of a way to comment on your past. Altogether, it’s a sweet little package that certainly extends the use of Facebook and turns it into more of a social utility.

By far, though, the silliest addition to our friend Facebook is the new limit for status updates. From what I gather during my years in this place (I joined on July 30, 2007—thanks, Timeline!), a status update is meant to let your friends know where you are, what you’re doing, what you plan to do, or how you’re feeling. If you need 5,000 characters to explain how you’re feeling, perhaps there are some larger issues in your life to attend to. It’s just a matter of time before someone decides to abuse the new limit and post some obnoxiously huge block of text that will clutter all of our news feeds. I’m willing to bet it’ll be around Christmas time, and it’ll be in the shape of a large tree. And if we don’t copy and paste it to 10 people, some dead little girl who, in the afterlife, apparently bought a computer and learned how to use the Internet, will find where we live and stare at us while we sleep.

But she won’t find out where we live. Nobody will. If there’s one complaint I’ve heard from my friends about the new Facebook layout, it’s that Zuckerberg is indirectly giving birth to a new breed of stalker—a stalker that will find out you clicked “like” on Flavored Pistachios and make you pay. Frankly, I am amused at the number of people who think their lives are interesting enough to warrant stalking. And frankly, I couldn’t care less what the majority of my friends are up to.

Since its inception, Facebook has transcended website status. It’s not a website anymore—it is the future. It’s incredibly clear that this site we use every day of our lives in one way or another has influenced an entire new generation of thinkers and communicators. Despite what college students may use it for, a number of users greater than us make use of Facebook to find long-lost relatives, or to meet their future spouses, or to reunite with children who’ve long since been put up for adoption. And when those people are brought together on this social network, they’ll be able to see, read and experience each other’s past in a way that I doubt the creators of the Internet would have ever imagined, in their wildest dreams.

Or they’ll just update their status with the entire biography of Colonel Sanders like I did, and be happier for it.

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