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thought i was a donut, ya tried to glaze me

5.02.2008

On Facebook

Let me tell you a thing about Facebook--I worked my ass off to get it. Seriously. Back before they let just anybody on, the Book was all exclusive. It was only for college students, people who had a legit .edu email address. And on top of that, they only let a few colleges on at first, slowly letting in other schools, once they got all the information (colleges, majors, dorm buildings) posted on the site.

Supposedly, they only let smart schools on first--the Ivies (not surprising for something started by & for Harvard students), those small smart schools I never knew about (Dartmouth? Smith? Vassar?), and some big named ones. I went to St. John's and didn't care that my school hadn't been given the golden ticket in; I only feel slighted when my own friends started signing up, and talking about it like it was the greatest thing since AIM. Oh, you gotta get on, they said. Here's my password and username--see for yourself.

Logging into other people's Facebooks was fun at first, but after a while it got old. It just made me pine more and more for a page of my own. How was Mark Zuckerberg about to let on SUNY Albany but not the second largest Catholic University in the country? And how was I going to get my school on the site?

Someone in my dorm--apparently also eagerly waiting for acceptance--told me that the people at Facebook would let a school on if you sent them information about it. They're looking for, like, a packet about the school, they told me. A list of everything.

St. John's is a large university. There is a lot to the school, a lot to write about. But I thought about the Facebook, the wall, the searching capabilities. I wanted it bad. I got down to work.

It took me about two days to complete what I'm pretty sure amounted to the largest paper I ever wrote during my SJU career. I researched, I paraphrased, I typed; I found out the history, what it was founded on, how many majors are offered through the St. John's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the highest degree offered through the College of Allied Health and Pharmacy. I learned so much about St. John's University that I felt a little bit like Father Harrington, (President since 1989), and it was all for the sake of social networking. To this day, if I ever speak of a random fact or piece of information about my school, it's probably as a result of Operation Facebook, and not from anything I had to sit through during Freshman Orientation. The end of my packet came off sounding like some desperate plea, like Meredith Grey asking McDreamy--"pick St. John's, choose St. John's...look at how diverse we are! And you remember the 80s, right? We owned at basketball!"

I sent the packet with my fingers crossed and a Hail Mary in my heart; as I waited I continued to endure the mean spirited teasing I had since my friends got Facebook, making fun of my lack of participation. I waited some more, over a month, until I came home for Thanksgiving and woke up Thursday morning hungover and hungry. I signed online, checked my email,and then, like I had every day since I sent out my report, checked Facebook. They used to list the recently added schools almost daily, a small list of random schools that were now allowed on. I had grown used to not seeing my school's name for so long that when I finally did, I actually did a double take.

There, listed proudly along with my sister's school, SUNY New Paltz, was St. John's University. I don't think it said "CONGRATULATIONS! YOU'VE BEEN ACCEPTED!" on top but it might as well have, with the way I felt knowing I was finally in. To a college student with too much time on her hands, this was the equivalent of making the cheerleading squad, the varsity soccer team, and the lead in a school production of "Fiddler on the Roof."

I did it. Maybe it had nothing to do with my 50 page paper on St. John's, but I liked to think it did. I screamed down to my sister--"ROSEANNE! ROSEANNE!! COME LOOK!"--and we both fought for the computer, for who would make their profiles first, add their first friend.

And dear Lord, what would I say?! I had spent so much time lusting after Facebook that I forgot I had interests before it. Favorite movie? TV show? Book? Shit--I'd forgotten all about these previous forms of entertainment. Remembering what I used to like, I typed it into my page(Zoolander! Gilmore Girls! any and all Sedaris!); what came next was my profile photo, what was going to represent me for the rest of my internet life (or until I found a better picture to replace it). I wisely chose a photo from the summer, one where I look tan and I'm standing sideways so I look thinner. I posted it all up and waited for friends to add me, setting the wheel in motion for what may be, second to TV, the biggest time waster in my life. The wheel's been happily spinning ever since.

Facebook's advanced quite a bit since the early days. The first noticeable update was with the wall, making them individual block posts instead of the blank wall it used to be. They added the photo option, then the option to have groups go global, but the biggest, most noticeable change was when they stopped being so snobby and let anybody on. Dropping the requirement for a school email seemed like the beginning of the end for some people, or at least it seemed that way through groups trying to stop it.

"DON'T LET HIGH SCHOOL KIDS ON FACEBOOK!" people declared, urging us to sign petitions. "IT'LL JUST BECOME LIKE MYSPACE!", the creepy, sluttier older brother of Facebook, the one that would sleep with anybody, no questions asked. We all thought Facebook was different. It was like the nice brother, the one who went to college and might talk about his favorite books before asking you to meet up in person. As typical college kids we all liked feeling a part of some secret, exclusive club, and letting those younger kids on made us feel cheated. Facebook was ours, much like Edward Forty-Hands and SparkNotes, Snood and Ritalin. We all felt like we'd earned the right to have our own site, or at least I did. Let those younger kids discover it on their own, when they're old enough, when they manage to get into college. For now, let them emoticon it up on Myspace.

The petitions went unanswered, and of course, Facebook got huge. But I never ended up really minding the HS kids once they logged on. They didn't bother me much, and I still spent the majority of my day stalking and creeping. In fact, they didnt' seem to get into the site as much as we all had feared, and in a few years they all became the "right age" for Facebook anyways. As Facebook evolved and I swore it was the end (most notably the invasive mini-feed), I couldn't pry myself away. Which was fine, as I soon started noticing a new trend.

The one group of people I hadn't expected to take to the Book so highly was old people. That's right--Facebook is now overrun with people who actually graduated from college and got jobs way before the madness began. People in their late 20s, their thirties, even into--gasp!--their forties and fifties. Holy crap! How do these people even know how to use a computer? What are they doing wasting time on this stupid (amazing) website? Don't they have children to raise? Businesses to run? Who's running this country if you're all playing Scrabulous? It feels a little bit like when you see an older person in that trashy college bar you always go to; part of you wants to go over to them and slyly ask, "what are you doing here?", but instead you just sit in the corner and judge them. Loser!, you think, but then you're back there every night and even after you graduate, too.

It's weird to see your professors or your bosses, on Facebook. At first I didn't know how I felt about it--I'll admit it creeped me out--but then I saw what it meant for me.

Old people on Facebook means I don't have to get rid of my own page when I get old. This was what I'd feared all along--that it was only temporary, that I'd grow out of this phase and grow tired of Facebooking all day long. That a social stigma would push me off the site and I'd go back to calling people or visiting them to keep in touch. But like binge drinking and random sex, Facebook doesn't have to end when college does. Sure, you might think it'll get old, but you'll soon realize you haven't grown or matured emotionally since getting your degree. It's a blessing to know you don't have to give up the crutches you've used since Freshman year--cyberstalking, insincere friendships, flirty yet meaningless wall posts and sultry messages. Facebook can and will always be there for you; in twenty years you can still spend half your workday looking at some stranger's photos because the world has now let you. You're still a part of this not-so-secret club.

When I first saw all the old people, I thought, Get a life! Now I think, Good for you! You give me hope. That can be me one day.

But can we please talk about all the applications on your pages? You can say no, you know that, right?

1 comment:

Charles Wankel said...

Your history of Facebook at St. John's was quite fun to read. Things have progressed to the point that I require all students in many of courses to join Facebook and then join a Professor Wankel's students' Facebook group. I am very big on social networking and have more than 2000+ contacts on LinkedIn (the businessperson's Facebook), which I have all my students join and do things like ask a Question to their LinkedIn connections (usually being connected to me they over 400,000 including 3rd level ones). Then I have them use the advanced search to locate global executives in the functional area they are majoring in. (I'm in the business school). I also have them contact virtual entrepreneurs in Second Life in teams. Hey add me "Charles Wankel". My home page is http://facpub.stjohns.edu/~wankelc . Right now I head up a book project for Routledge publishers with 900 coauthors. See: http://globally-collaborating.com

I wonder if my writing has even improved?