Almost 10 years ago some friends asked me if I had heard of Facebook. “It’s the new, but better version of MySpace” they said. Blissfully unaware and with youthful intrigue I asked what it was and how to become a part of it. The first thing I was told was that: “it’s a place to pick up chicks”. Needless to say I signed up pretty quickly.
It’s with a fondness that I now recall Facebook of 2003/2004. It was an unknown and exciting quantity. Although I figured out pretty quickly that Facebook couldn’t compensate for years of social ineptitude on the “picking up chicks” front, I nonetheless discovered that it was a magical place where I could measure with numerical reference exactly how popular I was. I had never known anything like it. I could become “friends” again with people from primary school I had lost contact with, conveniently forgetting why I had lost touch with them in the first place. I could “poke” attractive women to indicate interest and become annoyed that I wasn’t poked back. I would even be reminded of the birthdays of my Facebook friends to then spend hours writing generic happy birthday messages to people I barely knew in the hope they would be acknowledged.
Facebook of 2003/2004 was great. It seemed as though everyone was excited to be a part of something so huge, and initially we were all in the same boat. There was an innocent harmony about the place. There was no competition between people. There was no need to impress and there certainly wasn’t any need to take faux spontaneous selfies in random overpriced burger joints or pretentious nightclubs – I didn’t know what a “selfie” was back then! There were even countless occasions where Facebook was actually a useful tool, especially when it came to organising non self-promoting gatherings.
However, as quickly as Facebook rose through the social media ranks, rendering MySpace completely obsolete, it then plummeted into what it is today: a bloated mess of a platform, overwhelmed with ads and people trying to outdo each other at every turn. To blame is our obliviousness and obsessive self-importance. We actually believe that people give a damn about us. The truth is: nobody cares. The older I get, the more I realise people worry about their own crap – they don’t have time for you. Nobody on the internet cares how many Facebook friends you have or that you’ve had an awful day. Despite this, people love to air out their grievances on the internet in a desperate plea for empathy from a stranger. The saddest thing about this is the person is probably ignoring a loved one sitting right next to them as they look to Facebook for validation.
We also like to accumulate things as humans, whether they be material possessions or Facebook friends. Initially, having loads of Facebook friends was fun, but then it became burdensome as it required tactical decision making on friend requests made, rejected or accepted. As regards my own use of Facebook, the turning point occurred on my commute home one day where I saw a fairly prominent “Facebook friend” on the tube. If this was my actual friend, I would make an effort to say hello no matter how grumpy I was. Being naïve and thinking this was an actual friend I tried to make eye contact, only to receive a glance, followed by the person in question pretending not to see me. This was a person I had spoken to regularly on Facebook, but it was clear our relationship couldn’t survive beyond the keyboard. This person was deleted soon after and led me to perform one of life’s more rewarding tasks: a Facebook cull. Culls are needed as human beings are not built to have too many friends. It’s time consuming, expensive and brings little reward. Having too many friends also dilutes the quality ‘real’ friendships you do have. It has taken me some time to realise that quality is better than quantity when it comes to friendships, which is why Facebook has now become all but abandoned for me.
While this might come across as the ramblings of a bitter person who has realised that he isn’t as a popular as he thought, I would hope that you can appreciate the truth in my words – even if you remain an avid Facebook user. I’m also humble enough to admit Facebook does continue to have some utility, which is why I can’t bring myself to formally delete my own profile. You (I mean this generally!) can stalk the pretty girl you once met on holiday; you can check old school crushes to see if they’ve “still got it”; or you can promote yourself or a business. As to other benefits?: I’m genuinely at a loss.
Facebook provides a stark lesson in how nothing lasts forever in this life. One day you’re the next big thing, the next you’re on celebrity big brother telling people your cocaine stories when you were at the top. Facebook will eventually end up on the scrap heap like its older brother MySpace. Even more profound is that Facebook provides a timely reminder of how we have regressed as social beings in the last 10 years. Whatever happened to meeting up with friends, having a good time and cherishing the memories? What now happens is we tag ourselves at random locations, tweet about it, take unappealing photos confirming our location and getting pissed off when nobody gives a shit. Putting to one side how reckless it is to publish your location to the wider world, giving a green light to anyone who might want to burgle your house, the social media age saddens me a little. Everywhere I go it seems that only artificial and fleeting fun is had. How can you possibly be in the moment when you have your phone out tweeting or posting about it? Are you really ‘there’ at dinner when you’re telling people about it on Facebook while the steak is still hot? Do you really need 6000 fake friends given that you would have an actual conversation with 30 or less of them?
I think we need to get back to basics, remember that we are naturally social beings, put the phone and keyboard down once in a while and really enjoy the company of others. Also, Facebook is dead.