Last night, I fell into a pool of reminiscence, digging up an album that I haven't been able to listen to since I had my heart broken by my sophomore-year boyfriend. It was amazing. The journey made me feel wildly nostalgic and also accomplished, and I cleverly have my Facebook set up so my old friends, those who I've known for decades, can see very particular posts. I wondered aloud if anyone wanted to come over and listen to old rave records (don't ask), even though we are scattered throughout the Midwest (and I am now firmly entrenched in New York). The discussion took on a life of its own, and suddenly my little post became an old-school message board, with a single thread with people chattering and answering with no hope of chronology.
Facebook, however, is all about chronology. It is about dates, times, tagging, really emphasizing the social in social network. And, according to the very creepy "Lookback" tool, the last nine years of my life have been spent on this website, letting it be a catalog of my (often unintentional) proudest moments. (Like when, in the midst of Occupy Wall Street, I posted an amazing picture of my cat in the sun and said, "What's the big problem with fat cats, anyway?" It got a lot of Likes. That was a good day.)
Look, I love Facebook. I was able to start a group (when Facebook was still pushing the group thing) for my independent project my senior year when I directed a movie that starred my friends. Being that perfect age, one that was a junior in college when FB launched, I've watched the site document my emergence of adulthood. Look, I'm graduating college. Look, I'm tending a bar and living with my boyfriend. Look, I'm looking for a new place. I'm moving to New York. I'm seeking a job. I'm meeting interesting people. I'm eating ice cream, hugging cats, heck, hugging famous cats. Each of these stories are ones I chose to tell to a varying degree of my personal public, and as such, Facebook has become a little narrative of my life.
The 'Book wasn't the first social network I threw myself into: My freshman year of college was all about Friendster and I believe I still have a MySpace somewhere (though it probably blares some sort of abrasive electro when you visit it). Yet, it was the first site, other than my erstwhile LiveJournal (don't ask, again), where I started broadcasting my thoughts. Remember the old, "Leila is:________________"? "Leila is really quite excited about Happy Feet." "Leila is not Patrick Bateman." (These are all real statuses. Before, I would write on your Wall, you would write on mine, but then Facebook allowed us to have some sort of conversation. Facebook didn't just encourage us to comment on photos, but tag our friends in them, too. And, Facebook's clean interface reminded the 20-year-old Leila that she was growing up.
Facebook centralized the News Feed, allowing me to see everything that was happening with my network at once — or now, anything it deems "viral" happening within my network. I miss, however, being able to sort people's feeds based on what I wanted to see. (Remember that "mini-feed"? You could ask it to only show "Relationship Stories" and then enjoy whatever schadenfreude you like.) It's where I turned when Michael Jackson died. It's how I weeded out my friends during the election. It also reminded me that, hey, I am totally fine with the way I turned out, in the grand scheme of things.
So, maybe Facebook is the place for aunts, and the kids are fleeing it in droves. And, that is fine with me. They'll have their Tumblrs and SnapChats and Grindrs and other such networks conspicuously missing vowels, but I feel nice and safe amidst that field of cornflower blue. Everything I need is there — all the things which I have selected to share and the people with whom I choose to share it. And, Zuckerberg, bless his billionaire heart, has all of my information somewhere in some vault, and you know what? A lot of it is cat pictures. So, I don't really mind all that much.
Happy birthday, old friend. Never change, except every other quarter, when you have to.