The Facebook Generation

I’m 28 years old, and Facebook belongs to my generation.

I joined Facebook as a college student, when it truly was ours and only ours.  All the youth growing up now constantly connected to the internet are following in our footsteps.  In high school, we chatted on AOL Instant Messenger late into the night.  In college we experimented with various online connections (Xanga, LiveJournal, NationStates), but when Facebook entered the scene, all those other options fell away.  Oh, they still exist, but none of us use them anymore.  We still use Facebook.

College Roommates Freshmen Year.  One of the first photos I posted to Facebook, when posting photos became possible.

College roommates in our younger years. One of the first photos I posted to Facebook, when posting photos became possible.

I remember hoping and waiting for my college to connect to Facebook.  That was the day when Facebook belonged to the colleges and universities.  That’s why I joined, actually.  As far as social networking went, Facebook offered more security and privacy than other websites like MySpace back then.  We had to sign up with our college-assigned e-mail account, and there was no such thing as a public profile.  Our college network plus our friends from other schools was as “public” as we could get.  I chose a more private option, limiting my profile to only my friends and blocking out the rest of my college network.  

That was when we had “walls” to write on instead of “newsfeeds” to follow.  That was when the only games on Facebook were the sporadic “poking” wars between friends.  That was when we could upload our course schedule to connect with people in our same college classes.  That was when no one under 18 or over 22 were on our social network, so we developed our own unwritten rules for communicating on the internet.  We understood that not everything our friends posted had been written for us.  Maybe their post was an inside joke directed at someone else.  Any post we didn’t understand, we just left alone.  We navigated the waters of cryptic, dramatic messages left by people who (apparently) wanted attention without actually saying what was wrong.  We learned through them not to discuss anything overly serious on such a “public” forum.  And that was before Facebook really went public.

These days, only the name hearkens back to the day when Facebook belonged to the college students of the world and no one else.  I wonder how many teens updating their status on their cellphones now even know what a face book was before the website existed.  I’ve watched the evolution of social networking as first teenagers and then our parents and grandparents joined our online conversations.  I played my share of games until I decided turn off the application platform for fear of viruses and hackers.  I don’t have a smart phone, so I don’t carry my social network in my pocket, but I do check my account daily.  Like it or not, Facebook has worked its way into my bloodstream, like so many others of my generation.

I don’t post often myself, though.  Even with a private profile limited only to my friends, I’m connected to 251 “friends” through Facebook.  Anything I post is like speaking through a microphone to 251 people, some of whom I barely know or haven’t spoken to in years.  I don’t feel the need to announce my personal life to those people.  I know I can limit who sees specific posts now, and I do appreciate that feature and use it occasionally, but really, I don’t want to think through all that when I write a status update.  So instead, I write funny quotes my students say, or equally generic bits of information that don’t give away personal issues.

However, Facebook has impacted our personal lives, anyway.  On a more serious note, this week several of my friends have been processing through an intensely personal situation.  Even without posting the details of what happened, the influence of Facebook on our generation (people in our late twenties) is clear.  I’ve sent private messages of support and care to my friends.  I’ve read emotionally charged status updates that don’t reveal specific information but do send clear messages.  I’ve watched profile pictures change in response to certain events.  While we’re careful enough not to air all our dirty laundry in public, Facebook is still in our blood and often our primary means of communication.

I cannot speak to the positive or negative impact of Facebook.  People claim the appeal of Facebook is that it helps them be more connected to others.  I don’t necessarily agree.  Facebook hasn’t really changed the amount of my connectedness, but it has changed the method of my connection.  I have Facebook “friends” that I never speak to and will probably never see in person again.  Do I feel more in touch or connected to them because of this social networking platform?  No.  I don’t think the course of my friendships would have run any differently if Facebook didn’t exist.  However, I appreciate the means of communication Facebook provides for those friends still in my life.  It hasn’t changed who I connect with, but it has changed how I connect with them.  For that reason, I continue to check Facebook daily.

*Note:  This post was written in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge.

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133 thoughts on “The Facebook Generation

  1. I completely agree. I actually work at a college and one of my older coworkers was talking with me about how difficult it is for her to connect with students at times, when I asked her why she explained “Well, you have to understand, I didn’t have Facebook, or any social networking growing up, I’ve never experienced it, and I have no idea what it would be like to go through college, or even high school with it”, I sat and thought about those words for a minute and realized, I have no idea what it would be like to go through college WITHOUT it, for better or worse, it’s definitely here to say. Great post, very well said.

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  2. I remember the beginning of facebook as well. I have to say it has become a huge part of my life and I try to see the postive things. I do, however, worry about the younger generation that are leaving “digital imprints” of their life at an early age. Before posting we should always ask “Would I say or share this to someone in person?” 🙂

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  3. Ah, poking wars. I remember those. Can you even use a poke option anymore?
    I enjoyed reading this and agree with you. It’s definitely made it’s permanent place in our lives.

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  4. I truly believe that the impact of FACEBOOK today is the ability of the people to speak their minds, even in the darkest places. It has become an Inseparable tool in our everday lives.

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  5. Yep, Facebook back in the day was a place to connect with friends, organise a catch up and yes, poke each other! Now it’s been overtaken with overkill of people’s day to day activities, including every meal they eat, every bit of fitness undertaken and every unhappy event that occurs throughout the day. I definitely prefered it at its more simple time, and yet, i visit it daily (maybe hourly?)!

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  6. Interesting perspective. I definitely think from the perspective of connectedness there have been both positive and negative impacts. I know people who have found people they otherwise would not have found via facebook, and kept up with their lives. In that sense it is a powerful tool. However, I have also known people to alienate others by using facebook in a poor manner, particularly people who use facebook as their personal sounding board and say things that would not necessarily be appreciated by every single person they are “friends” with. It could easily be argued that all of those connection and alienations would have happened anyways, via some other method. But, facebook, and social networking as a whole may have acted as a catalyst in some way, as it is a lot easier to type a name into facebook than to make an effort to find an old friend via other means, and a rant made on facebook is something you may have only made to 10 or 12 people around you as opposed to the hundreds that see your posts in your news feed.

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  7. very interesting post. it has for sure changed the way we communicate. i agree with not putting everything on facebook. i see it all the time and its like do we need to know that. I’m guilty of checking most of the time. I do have restraint where some days it like whatever i dont need to know what people are doing for one day.

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    • I had similar thoughts. 28 with nostalgia issues. People wonder what it was like before Facebook? Well, there was a lot more face to face meetups in the student union, and the occasional mass phone tree invite for a house party. Big deal. What I see being overlooked here is that it’s all adaptation, and even though there’s an adjustment period, it can be adapted to live without.

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  8. For me, Facebook is like the “research” that my boss gets before going to a function so that he knows ways to connect with people in person. If I pay attention to the newsfeed, then when I see my friends in person (because nothing substitutes for face-to-face interaction), I can ask about Jilly’s riding lesson or Billy Bob’s Prom night. Also, if I can’t remember what Jojo’s spouse’s name is – I can look it up by the time I walk in the door!

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  9. Cool story bro. No, seriously. I love it. This is all true. In a couple of years, someone will be writing about something else that used to be different. There is only one quote that wraps up nothing and everything at the same time(for me) and that is…”In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”. The world is constantly changing and we usually don’t stop and think about the changes. This is a little bit off topic but that’s the whole reason that clothes and styles come back…because they were good then, we just wanted to move on and completely disregarded them and now we want them back because we realize how good they look or how good we had it.

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  10. The good old days as we put it i guess. The excitement and anxiety I had back then waiting for my college email so that I could be part of this exclusive group of college students when myspace and xanga were starting to crumble and fall apart. Great post. Definitely had me reminiscing about my younger days.

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  11. I have a large and scattered family and Facebook is how I can keep up with them. I mostly just post things to amuse people and would never post anything personal on a website, so I’m not concerned much about privacy settings. I do think there is a problem with some people not knowing enough about Facebook and putting there life out there.

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  12. Pingback: FACEBOOK: TO POKE OR TO PUKE? | Aurora Morealist

  13. I like how you pointed out that when Facebook was more private- being open to ONLY college students- people didn’t air so much of their dirty laundry on it. It’s amazing that now that pretty much everyone can see everything, people can’t stop telling everyone their problems. Seems a little backwards to me.

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  14. Pingback: The Facebook Generation | randytuedon

  15. I remember having to use my school email to create my Facebook account, and seeing all my future classmates (it was the end of my senior year of high school) on the school page. I was a big Myspace person too, and it’s weird to think how these things become part of our personalities.

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  16. Pingback: Freshly Riffed 40: Pretty Sure I Won’t Be Coming In Today | A VERY STRANGE PLACE

  17. Call me old school but I still enjoy messaging and now with texting simply master this for me…but facebook is still nice to see and have…with my business facebook now I wish I was more facebook friendly.

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  18. I might be one of those belonging in the younger generations… And indeed facebook plays a very important role in our communication now a days. Announcements became post on facebook, couples arguing through public wall post, and all those relationship status updates . But well, i can communicate with friends i haven’t seen in a long time so thats a good part of it. I love this article of yours, mademe realize things change and the world evolves and that i need to take the time to appreciate the here and now.

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  19. It was way passed college that I found FB. At first it was a way to find old high school friends, search for old flames only to see a wedding photo or newborn in their profile picture.

    When I was in university, I had chat rooms, forums, hacked website pages, and dare I say I had a web log. The level of instant connectivity was not what is available today. Oh, and my mobile phone had numbers on keys, no LCD with better graphics than my PC.

    I like the way FB has energized the minorities and the voiceless or helpless. Look to Egypt. Boston. Calgary. The Texas Ledge.

    I don’t like the adverts that appear in my feed, pretending to be updates from someone I may or may not know. But Mark Z. has to pay his people somehow. I get it.

    I can’t imagine what networking will be like in another decade, when my kids will be old enough to access and use it. I hope only good things lay ahead, for all of us.

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  20. Pingback: The Facebook Generation | JeanClaudePitre

  21. Wow, you really captured what Facebook was like in the beginning, when it was truly just for us students. Sadly, I miss my old wall, and the little counter telling me how many posts there were on it…
    After I graduated from university, I looked over my facebook friends list and did a massive clean out. I did a major friend dumping. From over 700 friends down to under 150, I just felt it was the best option for me. I didn’t need to stay connected to that guy I had a class with once or that girl I met at a party and never saw in person again. Because as you say, every action taken on your facebook page is like a microphone to all of those connections. Better to be safe than sorry, right.

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  22. I use Facebook to keep in touch of my friends across the country, and some across the world. I also use it as my go-to social calendar – make it a Facebook event, and it’s easy to check. I ignore the more political or inane posts for the sake of finding out when people are getting married, graduating, and becoming more awesome.

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  23. I think, Facebook is here to stay – it is hard to think there could be some other site that will rise up to be more popular or successfull than Facebook has been. Many have come, and been popular, like Bebo and Myspace, but the way Facebook has evolved is indicitative of their long term plans!

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  24. So true! Being the same age as you and my husband being ten yrs older it is crazy the mindset difference on anything social media like because he was trained that it isn’t necessary lol he’s right but you said it perfect it’s almost like its just naturally in our brains as our boot resource

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  25. I like Facebook but sometimes I deprive myself logging in to it so that I can work well and see production at work 😀 So, probably it’s really good for us but it’s up to us how to use it for our advantage.

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  26. I get the “nothing personal” thing. I ended up so frustrated with what to do with my “friends” whom I don’t want seeing my personal posts, then created my Close Friends list (which is the only one I post to). This is an option. And then, I agree that it’s changed how we communicate. But sometimes, communicating through Facebook doesn’t really feel like communicating at all.

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  27. I’m 26 and I really miss the old days of Facebook, when people actually had fun stuff to say, rather than just showing off about who looks better than the other. Still, it’s a good way to play re-union, i guess.
    Great post!!

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  28. What a relevant post Christine! Thanks for this…I can relate in many ways since I am your age. I loved the metaphors…. about facebook being a microphone you speak into, airing out our dirty laundry , made me chuckle 🙂 I’ve cancelled my account long ago and there’s never one day that does by where I don’t think “I am so glad I did!” I agree with you on the myth of social media bringing us “closer” as I also never felt any closer with those random people I would never even call go to a public event with. This piece you wrote was much needed, I hope many people read it! Congrats on being FP’d, it’ll definitely help to get the message out there! 😀

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  29. I was already out of university before Facebook hit the scene, so all I know is the public Facebook. I have to agree with you that sometimes I feel like it’s a great way to stay connected, but really all I am doing is creeping on friends that I haven’t talked to in years, but just want to see what is going on in their lives. But it’s a great tool for businesses.

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  30. It’s just a communication channel, that we all need to use wisely and responsibly. I enjoy catching up with old friends through Facebook and reading what they have to share. Nice piece!

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  31. Pingback: Facebook Leads to Competition |

  32. FB has totally changed our living style. Now we didn’t meet our friends physically visit..just update status or pass the message on FB..!

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  33. While I do see and lament the loss of real interaction that the ‘Facebook Age’ has brought, I can’t help but see the positives. The inter-connectivity, the ease of access and widespread userbase all add up to pretty much a global conversation! And of course I’m not just talking about Facebook when I say that, Facebook’s just become the face(hah) of the internet, I feel. We can be closer than ever to our idols and celebrities through twitter, connect quickly and easily to our friends with facebook, instant video chats, amusing messages – all this good stuff has come from this era!

    And I wouldn’t change a thing.

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  34. That’s true. We can’t spend a whole day without signing in because it’s addictive as hell and almost impossible to invite the notifications 😬 Actually fighting a serious obsession with electronically gadgets these days…

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  35. That’s true. We can’t spend a whole day without signing in because it’s addictive as hell and almost impossible to invite the notifications 😬 Actually fighting a serious obsession with electronical gadgets these days…

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