Monday, January 21, 2013

Looking Back on the Early Days of Facebook

I often wonder about the wisdom of looking back. Can we learn something about ourselves from the past or is it mired in confusion?

"When you reach 95, after you get over your surprise, you start looking back," commented Kirk Douglas.



To look back when you are younger is overindulgent, but what the heck? When I started this blog in 2009 I thought my posts were witty but it occurs to me now they were mostly overlong and displayed a vein of pathos which seems to be lacking in me now now I am desensitised.

More than 500 posts later I have long ago realized nobody will hang on your every word and it's vain to think they will do so. If they get hung on one line, you are doing well. I think my early posts sucked in the loneliness of the late shift in an empty newsroom. I also wonder if I suffered more then from the displacement felt by the immigrants who are recently arrived in this vast continent.

Most immigrants from the Old World will tell you there are two distinct phases. The alienation and the assimilation.

You cross from one to the other the first time you visit a Golden Corral and experience for the first time the joy of the lukewarm buffet on a sticky tray.

This is a rather meandering preamble to explain I'm posting an old blog. The third one I ever wrote in 2009. It's curious to think there was a time when Facebook seemed like a novelty item, like an upscale piece of Belgium chocolate rather than a big old slab of bog standard Hershey's.

If I drank a coffee every time I logged into Facebook I'd be six foot under with caffeine poisoning by now.
I don't think I'm an addict. I don't get withdrawal symptoms. It's just that there's so much going on there that it draws my attention on quiet days.
And I'm not alone. Most of the people at my office are on Facebook including technophobes, sensible people and people as old as me.
If Facebook had been around in the 18th century when the Scottish castaway Alexander Selkirk (the inspiration for Robinson Crusoe) was marooned on a Pacific Island, he'd probably admit he never managed to start a fire but he had poked someone on Facebook.
Yet if you suggested these eminent work colleagues 'hang out' on MySpace they'd look at you as if you suggested membership of the street gang the Bloods was possibly a jolly good idea.
Still there's a kind of law of diminishing returns going on with Facebook. I know there are people who like to lord it over others because they've got more 'friends' but I am ashamed to confess I have some 'friends' on this site who I'd walk past and in a corridor and not a - recognise b - talk to (the latter probably goes without saying because it's not very English to talk to complete strangers).
And the more friends you have on this site the greater the potential for you to be bombarded with photographs of children of relatives of 'friends' who you wouldn't recognize in the corridor closely followed by photos of those children's friend's new bicycle.
Then there are those mindless status updates, which I am as guilty of as anyone, in which you are informed the friend you wouldn't recognize in the corridor had bagels for breakfast and they tasted good.
Then a friend of that friend will tell you they had sausages but ended up throwing up.
Facebook also allows you to comment on an update from a friend who you would recognise in a corridor and to then be ritually bombarded by follow-ups from people you wouldn't know from Adam (or Eve) who are attacking you for being an unreconstructed pig.
Then there are some of the more annoying features of Facebook - the pokes, the super pokes, the nuclear pokes, the opportunities to throw oxes at people, or buttons with smiley faces or council estate memorabilia such as white dog turds, snow balls, Christmas trees, potted plants etc.
The list is endless.The weird thing about Facebook is that I have good friends from back in the day on there but they're not friends as I used to know them, Jim.
Instead of having a good chat over a beer, you make do with sending a bijou Halloween cat or super poking them from 2,000 miles away.
Facebook has brought us closer to our friends but paradoxically pushed us further apart by consigning us to a sterile parallel universe in cyberspace.

16 comments:

  1. You know, this sounds a lot like your later musings on Facebook. Especially the 'bombarded with photographs of children of relatives of 'friends' who you wouldn't recognize':-) Oh well some things never change.

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    1. cool you remembered Starla - I am old and tend to be incoherent and repeat myself

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  2. I have many, many thoughts on this particular subject. I have been a FB addict since 2008. I didn't really 'get it' once I joined and it took me a month or so to really check it out. At my highest, I was actively playing 30 or more games, not to mention doing all the gift apps where you could send flowers, stuffed animals, snowglobes, hippie pictures, etc etc etc to your friends. Back when you could display all your crap on your page. I did Pieces of Flair. I made & uploaded hundreds and hundreds of Super Flair and was crushed when the developers pulled the app. I have been dragged into each new upgrade kicking and screaming. I miss the Superpoke app b/c the digital sheep and animals were so adorable. I was obsessed with leveling up in everything to unlock more crap. I reconnected with old friends and coworkers. I had over 800 friends at one point for gaming mostly. Every Sunday night, I'd wait for the new egg to be released in Hatchlings and spend hours and hours hunting for it. For awhile we had FB access at work b/f our boss felt we were abusing it too much, and we were. Debby would be out front playing mafia wars and I was collecting eggs. I got kicked off FB for 17 days in Aug. 2009 b/c I was on it too much; too much commenting/liking.

    FB started to play an important role in the family law scene as spouses began affairs with old flames and friends, or meeting new ones. I didn't think it would happen to me, ever, but I reconnected with my old high school friend and ended up leaving my husband and moving 3200 miles back east for this man. But now I've trimmed way back to about 304 people that I really do interact with regularly & only play 3 games.

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    1. interesting comment JoJO - plus you are the first recipent of the Comment Longer than a Post Award :)

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    2. JoJo - forgive the hijacking, but did the romance work? Did the move make you happy? This story is quite fascinating!

      I hope all worked out for you.

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  3. "Facebook has brought us closer to our friends but paradoxically pushed us further apart by consigning us to a sterile parallel universe in cyberspace."

    You literally put something I had been feeling and thinking for years and put it into words. This quote is genius. You really hit the nail on this one.

    I feel like we've been thrust into an unknown world, an online existence that is completely changing communication and social interaction for good. There is a really good chance one day my grandkids will be fascinated by my stories of what life was like before Facebook/twitter/godknowswhat. It'll be like when I asked my grandmother what life was like without TV or something.

    It still creeps me out to think that I'm interacting every single day with such random people, who I normally would have absolutely nothing to do with before Facebook. These people shouldn't be in my life anymore, but they are. Every day. Every minute.

    I remember when high school reunions used to be such a huge deal. For my mom's 25th high school reunion, she flew out to Chicago and it was such a hyped up event filled with intrigue and excitement. Last summer, I chose not to fly out to Ohio to attend my 10 year reunion. The plane ticket price didn't seem worth it because I see everyone from high school on Facebook every day. I found out later that only 28 people (out of a class of 500) showed up to that reunion. And the people who didn't go gave the same reason: facebook. That blows my mind.

    FB is changing the world in so many ways, and most of them are unsettling.

    Great (old) post! :)

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    1. thanks Jen - yes you are right. Often the virtual world makes me feel I am losing a grip. I have a million online iteractions every day but when do I take the time to meet anyone to chat anymore?

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  4. Facebook is indeed an odd phenomenon, and it has mushroomed into something I don't think anyone could have predicted. If someone had described Facebook to me when I was a teen, I would have thought they were completely crazy.

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    1. or indeed the whole idea of the Internet Daisy lol

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  5. I'm one of the last hold outs from Facebook. I never "got" it (maybe because I hate sharing personal things) and it just seemed to be a replacement for those plastic fold-out things in wallets that allowed people to show you umpteen pictures of babies while you struggled to think of something nice to say. Of course, I also have a cell phone which does nothing but *gasp* make phone calls...

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    1. wow Li - you have my admiration. Do you have a pocket watch?

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  6. Facebook is an fallible guide to who the most attention hungry people are. Just count the minutes between their updates.

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  7. I don't agree that Facebook pushes us apart from one another. I think it sets up a space for you to see who your good friends really are. I'd elaborate but I'm le tired. Also, ye cannae change the laws of physics, Jim.

    (You know that song, David? Star Trekkin'? If you don't, here 'tis: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCARADb9asE)

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  8. hey Mina - would agree with that but sometimes think people use it as an alternative to real interaction - yay will check it out, thanks. I sort of think I do.

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  9. This post really truck a tone didn't it? I not totally certain how I feel about it. I've learned a lot about a lot. And it can seriously be a time suck.

    But I'm so good at wasting time!

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