My 14-year-old son laughs if I ever open up Facebook. “No one uses Facebook anymore.” The unspoken underlying statement is “young people don’t use Facebook.” I started thinking about why.
I use Facebook mostly as a means to reconnect with people from my past. People I went to college and high school with and fellow colleagues I collected from a decade of corporate jobs and there are even a few stragglers from elementary and junior high school. What’s interesting about having all these connections in my digital world is they don’t make me feel like I actually have that many friends; in fact, I have few true reconnections with the pool of people from my past.
For the past nine years, I’ve collected these hundreds of “friends” and while they’re some of my biggest writing supporters, happy to click “like” on most things I share, strangely, I never see these people in real life. Even after rekindling our “friendship” sometimes twenty years later, there is no more than the obligatory “friend request accepted.” They’re not the people I would call in the middle of the night if the shit hit the fan. Let’s “face” it, these are people I dress up for, clean my apt for, and take a fake picture for; not the people who see me in my pajamas without makeup. In an ironic twist, they are the ones who witness my life through the bits and bytes, words, stories, and photographs I carefully curate for their consumption.
So why keep it up if it’s superficial phony baloney; part exhibitionist, part voyeuristic? To a degree, it is a connection to my youth. I maintain a constant pulse on the ‘where are they now’ of my past. A rekindled friendship, even if only virtually, is still a bonus; like getting a [good] sequel to my favorite movie. Also, these peripheral Facebook Friends have branded themselves in between the coils of my brain and somehow anyone of them can trigger a memory from my past; essentially helping me keep it alive.
It’s a strange phenomenon to watch an entirely new culture emerge based around social media. It’s interesting to see the younger generation perceive Facebook as the “older person’s social media platform,” even though according to ebizmba.com, it’s sill ranked as number one. The kids are all about Snapchat and Instagram. They live in the now, want to share in the now, and have no qualms about deleting it all. They don’t value nostalgia yet; they’re creating it by living it and will go foraging for the forgotten bits twenty years from now. My generation has grown old enough to yearn for the past, desperate to dive back into a sentimental wistfulness far away from the realities of adulthood.