Sunday, March 23, 2008

Does Facebook make you who you are?

My FB proves that I'm only half as pretentious as I act

Last night after eating an entire pizza at our friend's apartment in the W. Village, Ashley and I came home and started having a stoned conversation about how we became friends. Our group of friends is so strange because there's no direct lineage tracing back to how we know each other. Well, there is one thing: Facebook.

Ashley and David lived on the same floor last year, but the rest of us knew each other simply through Facebook; it's how I met my current roommate Dhani, and it's how I knew who Josh was that fateful night at the rooftop party even though he didn't even live in my building. It's how I knew David was (unfortunately) gay and that Sam was rich and that Luvina's mom was the character from Diary of a Mad Black Woman. (Not really but they tricked me there for awhile)

But isn't that strange? How has Facebook changed the nature of friendship?

If this had been college 10 years ago, there would be no Facebook, and we'd all be forced to just befriend the people around us. Friendships would most likely be more based on convenience, and we wouldn't be so damn picky about who we're friends with. I probably wouldn't be friends with any of the people I am now simply because there would really be no way of meeting them and getting to know their interests. I'd stick to the people living on my floor, and maybe a few in my classes, and call it a day.

But the thing about Facebook is it has allowed people to be so much more discerning about who they're going to befriend. Don't like the music they list? Don't have to be their friend. Facebook has allowed us to not only perfectly tailor our own interests, but also make sure we choose people to be friends with who have interests that line up exactly with the kind of people we think we want to know.

And I think that's a little bit tragic. Friendship now is so much more robotic and so much less organic. Incoming freshman choose the people they want to know, and those they don't, based on a few little boxes on a ridiculously popular website, as opposed to getting to know them and seeing if they actually click or not. In some ways, Facebook also mandates social circle boundaries; people go with what they know, and Facebook allows you to avoid befriending anyone that you don't think fits into your archetype of a friend. Therefore cultural, linguistic and ethnic hurdles are less surmounted than before Facebook, simply because you can choose the most white-washed inoffensive person and decide to be bff with them.

So not only has Facebook changed the way friendships operate, but it has also completely retooled self-identity. Our friend Mike deleted his Facebook a few months ago and the running joke was that he now "didn't exist." If I meet a guy in a bar and he doesn't have a Facebook I consider that to be unquestionably shady. When did Facebook become a birth certificate, a driver's license and a passport, all at once?

It's true in some ways that if you don't have a Facebook you don't exist. You don't know about parties, you don't know about relationships and you can't see the most recent slutty pictures that trashy tanorexic girl from your high school who now goes to a shitty state school posted. But the deeper problem is not that others don't think you exist, but that possibly, without a Facebook, you don't think you exist!

I am probably one of those people and Josh is definitely one. We often joke about how he takes his Facebook "way too seriously." And in a way I think it's because it's become an integral part of how he views himself. To have ironic, silly jokes in each of the little boxes makes us feel like we're ironic, silly people and cuts through the pretension that our MisShapes default pictures conjure. With such painstaking concentration and somberness do people fill out their profile, because they know that they're going to be judged on it; not only by other people, but by themselves.

In this way Facebook has become this specter, an alternate life looming over everyone, filling in the gaps that our own personal pursuit for self-discovery can't patch together. And are we really okay with that?

-Jess

5 comments:

kroo kroo said...

10 yrs ago you would have had to check out my AOL homepage or AIM super profile

Anonymous said...

but, like this LA Times article i read
about iphoners knowing too much and pissing everyone off with their internet access everywhere, is just sort of an extreme morphing of things that predate technology like this like, there have always been know it alls now they just are a little more annoying with their iphones and people always judge others now its just on the internet

matt said...

jess, you're forgetting about the networking powerhouse that is nancies.org

Jess and Josh said...

matt - LOL. we don't talk about that, remember?

mazi - thanks for the LAtimes article, i'm gonna read it now.

shloo - remember that link in the super profile where you could like see who viewed your profile? LOVED THAT. made me feel like i had reason to be stalked or somethin.

all of you - i love you thanks for commenting.

ashley said...

haha yes! and you would put the date of the last time you updated next to the link and of course you just updated one little thing to get people to click on it