I joined Facebook in 2004, in the early months of my college career, mere weeks after lying in my dorm room and leafing through what was likely the last printed installment of an actual campus “Facebook,” a booklet containing the photos of everyone in the freshman class.
Wait, sorry, correct that. I signed up for an account with “thefacebook.com,” which had just opened its network to include all Ivy-league and Boston-area schools. Substitute “Holy Cross” for “Harvard,” and it looked something like this:
I uploaded a profile picture (you only got the one), and spent a few hours clicking around. Who else was in my Intro to Poetry class? Who were the other three people on campus who listed “A Confederacy of Dunces” as one of their favorite books? How ABOUT that “random” button that just plopped you onto a stranger’s page, hoping you’d share the same interests? (Three out of five times, it landed me on the page of a junior named Jack Hanlon, whom I previously knew only as “the cute boy with the shaggy hair and the messenger bag,” launching my first serious case of internet-induced delusional campus crushing. Did we have a conversation in real life that year? No. Did I illegally download some Bright Eyes and check out “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” from the library so that I’d be totally prepared to stage an entirely fake spontaneous meet-cute where, whoa, we have the same taste in books and music, do you think we should make out with each other sometime? YES. Mercifully for all involved, I chickened out and we met in a normal way a few months later. Turns out he’s a super nice dude who just landed on the Forbes 30 by 30 list; we never made out, which is probably for the best. I’ve never shared this story with him before, so: Hey friend! So, like, ten years ago I semi-stalked you online because an algorithm told me you were dreamy and we liked all the same movies and you had really nice eyes. Sorry! Are we cool? Say hi to Amanda for me. XO, Katherine).
I was hooked. Entirely, utterly, indescribably hooked. When it became a photo-sharing site? AWESOME. When it added the status update feature? Katherine is: INTO THIS. The “Like” button? LIKE. When concerns began to arise about privacy and data mining? Yeah, that’s really troubling, but not troubling enough to stop posting links to that article about the python-alligator explosion or telling you that hilarious story about what I overheard on the bus this morning.
Today is the tenth anniversary of the site, and I am loath to publicly confirm this, but it has changed the way I communicate. It’s made me feel, perhaps artificially but real nevertheless, like I have a personal relationship with people I might otherwise have never seen again. It’s brought people back into my real life — that acquaintance from college stranded at the Philadelphia airport, who spent the night in my house instead of on a bench in Terminal D. That dude I brutally rejected as a date to my sophomore semi-formal dance, who grew up to be a drummer in a rock band, whose shows I see now when he comes through town. I still smile when the “Like” button is clicked by people that I simply don’t interact with in person anymore. It’s like a tiny high-five from the past: that girl from high school I wished I had talked to more often, that dude I dated briefly like five years ago and now think would be an awesome friend if we lived in the same state, my summer stock mentor who lives far away. Want to hear some super crazy shit? I got a friend request and a message from a dude who found me through this blog………. who grew up in my hometown, who sat behind me in Spanish class in 2002 in upstate New York……… who now lives in Philadelphia………. two doors away. We’d been living on the same block for nearly a year when the internet made the connection that real life simply didn’t facilitate.
I know it’s on the decline, and I believe it: I sometimes teach teenagers, and mentioning Facebook induces the kind of eye-roll reserved for, say, hugs from a parent in public: daddd, stop embarrassing me, I know I secretly like this but it’s not cool anymore STOPPP. I know that in a few years some as-of-now uninvented site is going to take over, and I’m probably going to hate it at first and then slowly warm to it, just in time for the next big thing to hit and for my newfound useless knowledge to become passé.
But here’s the thing: I’ve been using this site for ten years. Ten years! And here’s what it taught me today, with its just-added video montage feature:
I watched another friend’s video to compare, and it genuinely moved me: her wedding photos! Her newborn baby! The post where she announced she’d finished grad school!
And then there’s mine.
(Note: I am not, in fact, pictured in this photo).
It’s much better if you watch it with the volume turned up and the instrumental music swelling. Here are some of the highlights of the past online decade of my life: Ikea bags. Hoop skirts. Multiple publicity photos, none of which I am actually pictured in. My friend Matt farting on my friend Kristen.
In the past ten years, I’ve graduated from college, I’ve moved to a new city, I’ve become a full-time costume designer and fulfilled a longtime dream. I’ve started a blog that has gone viral. I’ve experienced love, and heartbreak, and sorrow, and joy. I’ve stayed up all night to watch the sun rise and I’ve worked harder than I ever imagined possible. I’ve signed with a literary agent, I’ve helped run a small theatre company, I’ve been published in the New York Times.
And none of it actually matters. Facebook, I love you. That batshit one-minute tribute to the past decade of my life had me weeping tears of laughter. It actually says everything it needs to say: life is super weird, and I’m super weird, and I’m super grateful to all the other super-weirdos in my life who choose to spend their hours on earth with me.
Thanks, Facebook. I’m gonna miss you when you’re gone.