By now everyone should be aware of Facebook’s recent stunt: introducing Timeline, which chronicles the users’ entire Facebook past on their profiles, all the way back to their actual births. Now it will be made obligatory.
Needless to say, I find the whole idea utterly ridiculous, especially when you look at the information Timeline users are encouraged to share: purchases they’ve made (great for companies), surgeries and illnesses they’ve had (WHY on earth would anyone want to share or know this?), loved ones they’ve lost (I wonder, can you link to their profiles? Is this the next step: a virtual cemetery for all the profiles abandoned by the dead?)…
But what I find also incredibly annoying are all the comments by clearly conservative and clueless people wondering: “Well, why are you on Facebook in the first place? No one’s forcing you!”
Of course, I am compelled to use Facebook! Sure, no one is holding a gun to my head, but have you ever heard of society? When you are a young, tech-savvy (well, I try) and well-connencted person, not having Facebook is simply not an option anymore, at least not a smart one. And I am not talking about the overreaching self-promotion of some individuals, the sometimes excessive networking and oversharing; I am talking about staying in touch, staying informed and staying connected.
1. Staying in touch: If you’ve lived in one place all your life and you have a working phone, then no, you may not necessarily need Facebook. But if you’ve travelled a lot and lived in other places (or your closest friends have), then most likely you will know a considerable amount of people you love and care about, who don’t live anywhere near you, maybe not even in the same time zone. Facebook is a way of keeping track of what is happening in your friends’ and family’s lives, when it becomes impossible to send out twenty e-mails every week. Sometimes all it takes is seeing a picture, liking a status update or sending a link to know that there are people out there who care and think about you, even when you’re not physically present. One may find that superficial; but this kind of superficiality can feel really damn good sometimes.
2. Staying informed: Well, you could read the news and use Twitter, and you probably wouldn’t miss out on much. But you may want to inform yourself not just through Facebook, but about Facebook. Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t change the fact that millions of people worldwide are using it, and everything that Facebook does will affect these millions of people. So don’t be ignorant; after all, this is a world-wide phenomenon that continues to shape the world: your world as well…
3. Staying connected: Networking is my worst nightmare, probably because I suck at it. But when you’re a twenty-something looking for a job, and you have a degree in humanities, you better get into it. Because knowledge in social networking is almost a requirement these days, especially when it comes to jobs in cultural and media institutions. Plus, when you have a blog, like this one, and you actually want people to read it, Facebook is indispensible. Sending everyone e-mail updates would take too much time, and it would drive everyone crazy, who actually doesn’t care about what I write (shocking, I know). So unless you have a good alternative I need to hear about, stop patronizing Facebook users!
Just to be sure, none of this makes me a huge fan of Facebook; in fact, I find it highly problematic. And if Google+ and Diaspora finally took off, I would leave the book in a heartbeat. But in the meantime I cannot do without this tool and if I don’t like the new changes, I get to complain about them as much as I want to!