Written by Ava Moore Hobbis
Illustrated by Luc Seacroft
Facebook has been dubbed the “problematic” social media platform. The “annoying” social media. The eyeroll, the most basic.
Instagram offers much more opportunity for self-expression through its emphasis on visual culture and the exchange of images and recorded insight into our lives, an aesthetic voyeurism which allows us to partake and witness the lives of those we choose to follow.
Twitter lets us vocalise our opinions, perhaps even sensationalise brief opinions, encouraging us to engage with the content offered by others.
So what happened to Facebook? Who decided it would be degraded to the shameful sibling of social media?
Only several years ago, Facebook was the place to be. People would share tidbits of their day, fleeting thoughts, like and comment and share. Poke wars.
The excellent David Fincher film The Social Network aptly demonstrates the wildfire that Facebook ignited, encapsulating how Mark Zuckerberg targeted the vanity and curiosity present in our DNA which compels us to share ourselves with others, and to scope out what others are doing.
Now, Facebook seems to be a presence in which we only lurk as individuals, liking and at a stretch commenting on the posts of our friends, maintaining a sense of modesty and distance from what might be seen as too obsessive use of social media. If we all hate it so much, why do we keep using it?
Ethics aside, why else aren’t we using Facebook? When did it become a simple vehicle for picture-sharing and a glorified invite list? Yes, okay, I love your 2018 photo album, but I’d actually love to hear how you’re doing more.
Facebook is a great tool. From university in New York, I can speak to both of my digitally-disinclined grandmothers and video chat. I send messages to groups at a time. I’ve found theater groups that I wouldn’t have otherwise known, and now I’m in a play!
I have entire conversations accented by emojis, GIFs and stickers, frivolous fun which fills the indelible void left by the thousands of miles of ocean between my best friends and I. These are all things which are aspects of amazing technology, and we take them so for granted.
As much (unfounded) nostalgia that I have for a time where I would sit and handwrite letters by candlelight and post them home, the undeniable presence of Facebook has actually made human connection so much more centralised to our daily routine. I don’t really have an excuse to ignore someone on another continent, seeming as they are online. Stressful and exhausting as this can be, it is a blessing that is not to be shunned.
These are all considerations I pondered upon when I decided to start posting on Facebook in September. After my big move to America, I was disgustingly homesick to a crippling degree. Sitting in class one day, I started scribbling my thoughts on nationality into my notebook to stave back the tears. I loved what I had written. It totally encapsulated how I was feeling at the time. And more importantly, I realised I was surely not the only person far from home who was feeling like this.
So, back in my dorm room in the East Village, I typed out my words and published them in the virtual abyss of my Facebook timeline. I was flooded with messages from those who identified with my emotions, of support, of advice, of compliments for my writing. Several weeks later on Mental Health Awareness Day, I wrote about my experiences with depression and therapy, knowing that what I had to say might help someone who didn’t know how to vocalise what might be the exact same thing. My friends, relatives and people from various parts of my life embraced these shouts into the void, and shouted back. The ability for conversation is there, but someone has to start it.
So what happened? When did it become “uncool” to actively engage with your Facebook page? Is this a question of it becoming “uncool” to use your voice? Correlated with the airheadedness we think people want to see in us? I’m sorry, but no. We are all incredibly complex individuals, with fascinating thoughts and emotions and feelings, and we are always changing. If you decide to change your profile picture 14 times in one week, that’s great. You have an amazing face.
I’m bored of the politics which dictate I can only use my platform for minimal purposes. I’m 5000 miles from the majority of my family and friends, so you can bet that I’ll be using Facebook to make sure they hear everything I have to say.
Now excuse me while I go and post this article to my Facebook wall. So meta!