Then, Facebook opened the floodgates to people who weren’t in college. We saw kids attending our old high school add us as friends. We couldn’t decline their friendship, that would be rude! We were accepting people back then.
When our parents started adding us as friends, we began to get a little worried. While we used to only have a hundred or so people filling our walls with interesting stuff that affected all of us, now our list of friends was approaching nearly half a thousand. It took real work to stay on top of our ever-growing news feed, and it got harder to find out what was actually going on. We tried to trim our friends list to just those people we truly cared about, but we didn’t want anybody to feel left out. So we kept them all. Facebook promised us the option of putting our friends into groups, but that felt too divisive. Sure, I could put all of my family members in one group and my college friends in another, but I’m not even in college anymore and the few college friends I’ve retained are more like family to me than half of my relatives.
With the parents came the apps and the ads. Someone realized they could make a lot of money here, and companies started getting their own Facebook pages. Now, when you liked an artist, you were subscribed to their news feed so you could hear about every single opportunity to buy one of their tshirts. God help you if you were a fan of Starbucks coffee before Facebook sold us all to marketing. Now, I don’t even know what Facebook is, except that it enables virtual relationships to negatively affect real ones. Everyone who posts to Facebook has their own internal context for the significance of their post, and that significance has to be surmised and speculated upon by their friends, and their friends’ friends, and their friends’ friends’ parents. People are more judgmental and hostile towards each other than before, when we could just ignore one another.
Now our timelines are the fodder of internet focus groups. The daily story of our lives is tabulated as demographic data to be mined for new marketing approaches. The intricacies of our personal preferences and individual idiosyncrasies have been reduced to the binary “Like” or “No comment.” I don’t feel connected anymore.