The obvious answer is that Facebook has given us a way to communicate with each other that is dramatically different than anything we have ever done before. We grew up with three modes of communication at our disposal. We could be in the same general area as another person and either talk to them face-to-face (if in the same room) or yell (possibly with cupped hands, if we were out of eyesight of each other). We could write letters. We could use the telephone, and, since a lot of phones had “party lines,” in which more than one person shared the same phone line, we could, anytime we wanted, listen to another person’s conversation until that person started yelling “Ged offa tha phone before I tell yer mother!,” which was especially interesting because we didn’t know who they were and they didn’t know who we were. Now, Facebook gives us the ability to talk with hundreds of people at exactly the same time, and we can inform them of our deepest, most private and profound thoughts, things like “Rainy day” or “Um,” or “Whatever,” or “I have just finished an entire quart of Ben and Jerry’s ‘World Conference of Every Possible Ingredient That Could Go Into Ice Cream Plus Avocado and Nacho Extravaganza.’ Can someone please call 911?”
A bonus is how Facebook has expanded our lives. We grew up in a diminished world where the only people who cared about livestock were farmers, ranchers, and Upton Sinclair. Many of us lived for decades without experiencing the joy and satisfaction of raising pigs, trading pigs, worrying about pigs, begging for pigs, or ignoring people who were begging for pigs. We mostly concerned ourselves with eating pigs, or, in the case of having two parents who maintained a kosher home, not eating pigs and wanting to. Now, through the miracle of Facebook’s Farmville, we can live in urban high rises, carefully manicured and maintained 55 and over communities, and adorable little cottages at the beach, and still spend all of our time building and running our farms and trading pigs. And cows. And chickens.
Facebook gives us the ability to have many more friends than we ever had in real life. It doesn’t matter that we have no idea who most of these people are, since we are starting to have no idea who the real people in our lives are. And, unlike the real people in our lives, our Facebook friends are always giving us things: bouquets of flowers, fortune cookies, horoscopes, hugs, hearts, angels, cakes, jewels, elves, beams of sunshine, disposable trashcan liners, and the ever-present livestock.
Another change is that, mostly, like dinosaurs in the days before Jurassic Park, the people from our distant pasts used to stay in the distant past. Unless we married them or attended a class reunion with them or ran into them on a bad hair day when we were wearing sweat pants and sneakers and had just come from having dental surgery, we probably didn’t have any contact with them decades later. Now, people from kindergarten class through high school can find us and worse, post photos of us online at a time in our lives when our teeth all assumed different sizes and shapes and when we had not yet grown into our noses.
Boyfriends are an especially fertile territory on Facebook. LBL hasn’t been contacted by any old boyfriends, mostly because she married her one-and-only old boyfriend who gradually, through the miracle of modern science, morphed into her Then Husband. But many of her friends have contacted or have been contacted by ex-boyfriends. LBL realizes that younger people can track down old loves or be tracked down by them also, but it’s so much more exciting when this happens after several decades and various body part replacements. She has already written a column about how she and her friend Bobbi spent hours tracking down non-boyfriend-type guys on Facebook. They didn’t care that most of these men had no idea who they were, since when they were all teens, the men had no idea who she and Bobbi were, either.
When LBL first joined Facebook, Beloved Daughter told her that if a lot of people my age joined, people her age would drop out. LBL hasn’t seen any evidence of that. And it’s gratifying to know that MySpace is in serious trouble, while Facebook usage keeps rising. It’s either that LBL’s generation still wields enormous power and influence, or it may be due to all that farm animal activity.