We first met back in 2005. (Do you remember? Of course you do. You forget nothing, you digital elephant, you.) I’d been hearing about you for a while, but I wasn’t quite sure how you’d fit into my life. But at the end of the summer, it turned out I’d be transferring to a new high school, so my friend Coppelia Banana made a profile for me to help keep in touch with everyone from my old universe. And that was the beginning.
We’ve come a long way since then, you and I. Now you have a newsfeed, and timeline, and a like button. Only poking has remained ambiguous—is it sexual? Friendly? Stalkery? I know one day you’ll give us a dislike button and hologram video chat, but for now, you are everything I need to connect with my far-flung friends and family. Facebook, you have become one of my primary forms of communication. This probably says something about the Digital Age, but with most of my friends living in different states, some days just a poke from my best friend in our seven year (completely platonic) poke war, a message thread with my college roommates, or reading about the lives of my high school classmates on our five-year reunion page helps me feel less isolated. I know some people prefer Twitter, but I have a dumbphone, not a smartphone, and it just seems impractical for my life. I don’t know what the deal is with Google+—as Curlicue Jones pointed out recently, it only seems to be useful for the free multiple person video chats that Skype can’t provide. I’ve heard of ooVoo, but it just seems complicated, and MySpace and AIM seem to have gone the way of the floppy disc without anyone noticing. You help me stay connected, and you’re often the first step for engaging in the lives of the people that matter to me.
I’m notoriously bad at keeping a diary—I’m constantly acquiring new journals, but I never use them up. I have about 11 stashed in various places, but the most-written in one is only about halfway used. But you, Facebook, help me remember all the great days and strange thoughts from my high school and college years, without me first rummaging through closets and drawers to find just the right journal for the occasion. I can go to my timeline and read a status update from 2009 and step right back into my past, complete with pictures. I have an interactive scrapbook of my life over the past eight years, and I have you to thank for it.
But most of all, Facebook, sometimes you just remind me who I am. When I feel out of touch with myself, when I’m unsure of how the person I am today reconciles with the person I was, I can look through my old profile pictures. The girl who rocked a red clown nose with pride and a smile is also the girl who took every opportunity to wear a Steak ‘N Shake hat, and the girl who can’t stop laughing when ringing in the New Year. I’ve survived high school, a major haircut, two internships, the death of her childhood dog, college, and now almost the first year of graduate school. I’ve seen eight New Years with you, Facebook. I’ve visited 17 states, and kayaked the first nine miles of the Mississippi River. It’s not about Mark Zuckerberg, the Winklevii twins, or Eduardo Saverin as played by my boyfriend Andrew Garfield. It’s not even about my Facebook friends or your millions upon millions of users. It’s about you and me. Our relationship is not complicated. Because I’ve chosen you, because my status updates and photos and embarrassing favorite movies (here’s looking at you, “Soapdish”) are all out in the open, I’m forced to be the best version of myself. God has always been watching me and encouraging me to grow into the person I’m meant to be. I’m sure Big Brother also has an eye out, not to mention the fact that just like when I was back in high school, my parents still have the password to my account, so they can see what I’m doing with my life from 388 miles away. And almost every day, something about me or my life goes up on my timeline, and I have to make sure it’s something I can live with, something I’m proud of, something I don’t mind other people seeing. My life is an open book for real because of you, Facebook. Thank you for helping me learn how to choose my words, know when to unfriend, know when to comment, and when to be silent. Thank you for helping me stay in touch with far-flung family and friends, for giving me a way to give my bestie a poke to let her know I’m thinking of her when we’re both a little too busy for an actual conversation. Thank you for changing with me as I grow up. Never let anyone call you “just” a social networking site. You are so much more than just that.
P.S. But seriously—who first thought of poking? How did this even come up in a meeting? The world wants to know.