Friday, March 9

Facebook is addictive, I spend all my time on it, blah blah blah what else is new? Oh, how about that suddenly every single human being has an account. Like every person I’ve ever shared a school building with, every person I forgot I knew, and all those random people from random clubs, camps, jobs, and places I haven’t thought about in several years. And of course, we all have to be friends because Facebook isn’t a social networking site—it’s the place where you virtually recreate your social circles and social history. And in most cases, Facebook has more detail than what ever occurred in real-life.

When MSN got really huge—you know, back in the day when you couldn’t use swear words in your name and there weren’t any display pictures—I thought about what it would mean for our generation. We grew up with instant messaging, progressing from IRC to ICQ to MSN, making us the first group of people to have immediate access to every acquaintance made over the last ten years. But I wondered if as we got older we would slowly wean of IMing and move towards more typical middle-aged forms of communication, like dorky email forwards and long-winded phone calls.

And then Facebook came along and pushed passive communication to a whole new level, completely reinventing cyberspace. A year ago, I wrote an article claiming that Facebook was only popular because it finally made the internet friendly. It showed us who our friends were and how we knew them—we didn’t have to worry about talking to No-Name-Pedo-Bill from random town, because everyone on Facebook was connected to someone else you knew, and, up until they opened registration for all, Facebook was exclusively for well-educated and well-off North America.

(Fun fact: Thanks to Facebook, I now know that almost half the girls I went to middle school with have babies! Four-year-old babies! Damn, if only “Active Ovaries” was a network option—though I guess the If U THINK ur Baby is a QT!!!1 group is a good enough outlet for all the post-secondary mothers.)

And now Facebook is the sixth most-visited website in Canada and the US with over 19 million users. It’s become a replacement for instant messaging, emailing, and cell phone use—how many times have you met someone new and instead of giving out a number or email you write down your full name? Hell, you don’t even have to go that far, just cite a common friend on Facebook and you're connected. On one hand, how refreshingly basic. But on the other, how extremely distant, to rely on keeping in touch through such an extensive network of networks.

Not only that, but we’re under this illusion that Facebook is a form of communication, when it’s nothing more than a collection of names, updates, photos, and statuses. Automated prompts of join, edit, add, and create guide us through the site on a daily basis—all insignificant features designed to make us feel involved, included, and productive. You’re not speaking to anyone by clicking a friend request, though it does produce the satisfying feeling of making a connection.

And that is exactly what we’re hooked on. We were raised in the era of 24-hour everything, and came of age in the digital-on-demand boom. We crave as much information as possible, with little emphasis on actual knowledge. Just give us summaries and constant updates! Because when something isn’t easily accessible it becomes obsolete or simply no longer part of our reality. But when we can quickly scroll through all our “friends” and instantly see who got a new job and who’s traveling in what country, that sense of knowing, and the ability to continue knowing, is very fulfilling.