I used to love Facebook. Of course, I would have never admitted it. But the truth is, up until about 2010, Facebook was mainly a website for young people. Young people doing stupid things. And it was glorious. But now, I can't stand it. Now, all it is is one big family photo album full of weddings and babies all the time and I'm so bored with it I can barely bring myself to go on.
A new study is out about Facebook regret. Researchers explored what type of information people post to Facebook that they later regret and why. Interestingly enough, it reads to me like a litany of the Facebook posts of yore that are so frequently absent from newsfeeds nowadays. People regretted posting pictures of themselves partaking in illegal drugs or underage drinking. One of my favorite research subjects is the woman who regretted posting a video of her husband and her having sex when she accidentally tried to post a video of her daughter's first steps and didn't realize the mistake till the day after when she read the comments from her husband's coworkers. But most of the regrets are more trivial and reminded me of the small mundane ways people used to constantly embarrass themselves on social media: After being broken up with, one guy writes on his ex-girlfriend's wall "I f&*#ing hate you! You will never be loved again you anorexic piece of s#%!." Another guy said on his page that he wanted sex with a newly divorced friend. Another woman wrote on a friend's page congratulating her on her pregnancy only to be told that the friend wasn't pregnant but had undergone serious weight gain. Most of the participants then talked about how they became more careful after these experiences, sanitizing their walls and comments.
Which is exactly what I've noticed, and it's made Facebook suck. Facebook used to be one big dare to see who would really throw caution to the wind. People used to drink too much, use the grainy pixelated cameras on flip phones, and take truly embarrassing photos of themselves passed out on bathroom floors. Just from my newsfeed alone, I used to regularly see pictures of bongs, learned what a vaporizer was and began to wonder if maybe the life of a vandal was for me. I remember finding out an acquaintance of mine's husband was cheating on her when their status got changed from married to single, and a friend of the woman posted on her page about the lying cheating jerk she was married to. People used to write lots of flirty messages on the walls of their crushes or make plans to go to the spa in the middle of the day on a friend's wall as opposed to texting each other for no apparent reason except to make other people jealous. But just last week, one of my friend's posted on another friend's wall about Coachella plans and the next comment read "why don't you PM me," as in private message. I found this incredibly irritating. How am I going to know now if the place I'm staying at for Coachella is cooler than their place?
Facebook used to be about us. About my friends' lives and thoughts. But as my friends have gotten older, begun taking their jobs more seriously and started families, my Facebook experience has changed with them. It's like my timeline got married, knocked up and moved to the suburbs, and now all it wants to do all day is talk about new social networking sites for kids. It's practically impossible for me to go on and not come across new bridal pictures and baby photos. And, I'm sure this makes me a horrible person, but honestly, am I the only one that thinks all my friends' babies look alike? I get it, they're cute, you've dressed them well in ironic hipster onesies, but would it kill you to put up one drunk photo of yourself now and again? The worse is when they change their profile picture. I get it, now that you're a mom, you've moved so far beyond vanity that you no longer care about how you look, and the only thing in the world that matters is your kid. But come on, usually this is the same person that put up 500 different pictures posing in her wedding dress and is carefully culling every photo tag for unflattering pics to detag. It seems more plausible that you've changed your profile pic to your kid's because you are sure you officially have the most adorable baby in the world and want everyone to know.
This has all happened gradually, over the last few years, as our parents and bosses have become Facebook friends and as we've entered a new stage of life. But it seems to be at a critical mass; my friends only posts now are about what kind of food they're eating, where they're on vacation or how great their spouse and kids are. The only friends I have that post anything interesting are the ones that use Facebook to broadcast their extreme political views, usually with some preamble in the post about how they never normally post things but this petition is so worth it, or this one video will make you cry, or this one article will change your life. This group is somewhat annoying, but also somewhat tolerable because they're still willing to put themselves out there in a way; I may snicker behind their backs or talk about how crazy they are to all our mutual friends, but at least they're still interesting.
But all my other Facebook friends are just perennially lost to me. What happened to them? These are the friends that used to seem edgy and cooler than me and like their lives were one misstep away from an arrest. But now, every time I login, it's like going to Grandma's house in Florida while she flips through pictures of graduations and Bar Mitzvahs and weddings of people I don't know on occasions I don't care about it.
I'm guessing this may be acutely noticeable for my age group. Having been in college when Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook and having joined very early on in 2004, I feel as though my generation is aging with Facebook -- literally I've almost spent a decade on the site. I understand, now that we're all older and care about human resources trolling through our online profiles and that our lives have changed and our posts will be different, but maybe that's a sign we need to bow out of Facebook. Maybe it's our time to turn it over to the younger generations. Let the younger generations make fools of themselves the way young kids do in epic ways on social media. But maybe we, the generation that started it, need to stop using it? The same way you stop going to college bars and get too old to sleep in your car or have blue hair or a tongue ring or work as a waitress for a living. Some things are better left for the young at a particular time in life -- maybe Facebook should be on that list. I was recently at a college bar where half the kids looked they had used fake IDs to get in. It was fun to look around and see how young and nervous everyone looked and how little they knew about their tolerance level. We had one drink but then we left. I didn't want to stay. It would have been weird now if all my friends wanted to go hang out there and talk about wedding planning or who was pregnant or how much being a lawyer sucks.
Dropping in on a college bar brought me a nice nostalgic feeling, but it's not where I belong anymore. Is Facebook really so different? It's something we did in college and our early 20s when we were reckless and didn't have a lot to lose. Can't we leave it at that? Embrace it for what it is, so it stays fun in our memories instead of trying to turn it into something we grow with? Once you have the urge to turn Facebook into a family album, let that be a sign that you've outgrown these britches. Join Flickr and send the albums to your friends. Turn your wedding website into a family website where you post pictures of your kids for the grandparents to see. Email links to Picasa. But please, I'm begging you, leave my news feed alone.