Having a Facebook is the ultimate balancing act. Trying to manage the expectations of family, friends, and even potential employers is an incredibly tall task. Instead of defining ourselves through posts and pictures, users are often forced to define themselves through social trends and corporate slogans. And the more you use it, the deeper this assimilation between your “profile” and brand becomes. I was definitely a late bloomer when it came to Facebook, but as soon as became a little more comfortable with the site, I began to see just how coercive Facebook could be. It was truly a marketer’s paradise.
As I saw it, they key to using Facebook effectively, i.e. enjoying your experience on the site, is to find and exploit the liminal space between the prescribed “tracks” a new user can follow. I didn’t see any other alternative that made the balancing act any easier. So during my first months, I meticulously constructed an outline of what I pages I needed to “like”, trying to come off as someone fun yet balanced. It was high school admission season after all, and I wasn’t going to risk a possible acceptance depend on whether or not I liked the Lil’ Wayne fan page. Remember him?
I tried to please everyone, unsuccessfully of course, but I still powered though. I tried so hard to be no one, dare I say average. But by not becoming a devoted fan of companies’ pages, and using Facebook to interact rather than to define who I was, I began to realize that this balancing act became a lot easier. Yes, my profile began very rough and very patchy, but by focusing on on friends and not trends, my profile quickly began to take substance.
By taking the approach that I was going to define what Facebook meant to me, and not the other way around, I felt like when people looked me up on Facebook, they were never surprised.
Then I got a girlfriend.
She had a very different philosophy about social media than I did. She was the type of person who obsessed over the amount of likes their pictures had. All too often she would ask, “How many likes do you think this will get?”. At times, she lived her life only through Facebook, and became all too obsessed with it prescribed tracks. Then she convinced me that I needed to “utilize” all that Facebook had to offer.
And being the blind boyfriend I was, I began to give in. I never got to the point where I became obsessed with likes, but I could tell that Facebook was beginning to overrun my life. I found so many new and fun things, which turned out to be what I was avoiding back in middle school. Now my news feed in inundated with updates from NFL network, ESPN, SportsNation, SBnation, Bleacher Report, and both The Official 49ers and SF Giants Team Pages.
I may have failed my 13-year-old self, but looking back Facebook never ruined my life like I thought it would. It became my timeline. Looking back, as I did for the first time before writing this, I began to see how I’ve changed over the past couple of years. To me, everything on Facebook is a memento. And in 20 years, when I look back at my profile and see all of those pages I liked, and the only thing I can think of was how weird I was in high school and college, it will all be worth it.