It’s Facebook’s fifth birthday this week. And while I love every status-updating, picture-tagging, friend-stalking pixel of it, I often wish it had never been invented.
Its obvious time-thievery and propensity to turn me into an obsessive page refresher, jonesing for my next next notification fix aside, I find Facey-B was the first step in a downward spiral (if spirals can have steps) to my entire life being played out online in some form or other. And I’m exhausted.
“The Facebook” was started by Mark Zukerberg on Feb 4 2004 while he was a student at Harvard University. Initially it was a way for the Ivy League students to easily network and identify each other. In half a decade this pet project has grown to over 150 million members and an estimated value of $5billion.
What’s great about FaceBook is that unlike email, it creates a little online village of your friends – conversations are no longer singular, but circular, drawing everyone into the mix. When I recently asked what my middle name should be, I received answers from the US, France and Scotland, varying from “Sigourney” to “Riot” and “Dimmer Switch”.
What’s also great in a deliciously shallow sense is that it lets you act as your own personal PR agency. Careful selection of status updates, images and daily actions mean that “Brand Fryatt” is far more interesting, funny and having much more fun than the actual me.
But that’s also why it sucks. I find myself poring over my mates’ albums of them teaching in Thailand, skiing in the Alps, partying in Shoreditch, and wonder where my life went wrong, why their friends look more fun than mine and why I’m still up at 2am on a Wednesday.
And please, can my friends with babies just STOP putting their progeny as their profile pictures? It may have your DNA, but it’s not you. And that goes twice for ultrasound images.
Facey-B has also affected the way I act in the “real world” too. Going to a gig, meeting your mates down the pub, going on holiday – all are at some level Facebook events in my head before they’ve even begun – I start envisioning the Facebook presence before I’ve had my second pint.
Like when digicams hit the mainstream, the event itself turns into an exercise in projecting a good time just as much as having a good time. Note the lack of snaps of people crying in toilets cos their boyfriend’s dumped them. Maybe there should be a Miserybook.
But what stings the most in my love/hate relationship with FB is that this is only the first step. It’s merely the initial stitches in a tapestry of multi-layered communication that could literally end up being my life’s work.
I can send geotagged snaps to Flickr and let Geo Photo stick them in Google Earth, Twittytunes will send a Twitter feed of everything I’m listening to using my Foxytunes browser add-on, I can share my Netflix list with my friends – and Friend Feed will aggregate all this information so that every minutae of my life can become its own mini documentary. And not a very interesting one at that.
At their best, these new tools for communication, networking and citizen reporting give the world an amazing (and amazingly democratic) way to keep connected. But happy-clappy webtopia aside, the fact that Facebook is banned at work means that my evenings are spent maintaining and grooming my all-important (to who exactly??) profile.
And the 55 unread Tweets I’ve received since I’ve been writing this has sent me into a state of utter hypertension.
That’s it – I’m off to change my status to “Linsey is having a lie down”…