NEW YORK — Facebook positioned itself as a "social utility." However, they don't seem to understand how people truly interact in RL (real-life).
Who among us really wants our high school, college, or grad school friends, our business associates (or potential clients or employers), our significant others—or, most importantly, potential significant others—to have an excruciatingly detailed portrait of our distant past?
America has always been about reinvention—the high school dork who becomes an internet billionaire; the sharecropper's grandson who becomes a Supreme Court Justice; the polio victim who becomes a renowned plastic surgeon; the child of welfare who becomes a Wall Street titan. Some of us wear our pasts as a badge of honor. Yet, for many others, the past is something we prefer not to expose—the abuse victim, who seeks to escape completely from their past; the thirty, forty, or fifty-something whose life didn't quite pan out.
In real life, many of us try to live in a meticulously cultivated present, one that forgets the bad jobs, bad relationships, bad experiences of our past. Many more wish to present a rosier portrait of our present than our credit report might suggest.
Sometimes, our status updates are trivial: "Go Blue!" These are moments of escape. Sometimes, our status updates are something we believe to be important: "STOP CONGRESS FROM DEFUNDING MEDICAID." We want to post them where people can see them, not below some massive photo.
One has to wonder why Facebook keeps morphing itself into something different? Are they afraid of becoming the globe's White Pages? Or, is something more sinister at work? Are they trying to develop more comprehensive profiles on each of their soon-to-be billion users? SERIOUSLY, is the "big picture" that haunts the new "Timeline" profile pages some kind of psychological TESTING DEVICE trying to divine our proclivity to riot—or, buy some new kicks? Or, perhaps the reason they want our social underwear to show simply a way to get the millions of casual users to sign back on and prune all of their old beer pong photos (which had been buried in some ex-frat buddy's spring break album since 2006) from a prominent place in their new "Timeline."
Of course, one thing we can say about Facebook: they won't listen to the 5 million people clamoring to "bring back the old Facebook." They will stick to their guns and won't make any changes to their change—until, a few years from now, they decide to change it to something even weirder. Of course, we ought recall, at one point in time, America Online WAS the Internet for millions of users; and Yahoo was the number one search engine; people actually "asked Jeeves," Friendster was the most important social network, and.... Facebook was just for Ivy Leaguers. Someone, somewhere, is working on a better, more functional, more utilitarian, social network. But, we doubt that it will be coming from Facebook.