It’s Facebook’s 20th birthday, and you’d be remiss to forget it. After all, if there’s one thing Facebook is good for, it’s reminding you of the birthdays of people you used to be really close to but have lost touch with over the years. And really, at this point, that is all it’s good for.
There’s no way Mark Zuckerberg could have known what kind of havoc he was unleashing on the world when he first set TheFacebook.com live all the way back in 2004. What began as a way for Harvard students to keep in touch with each other eventually became the personal data-mining, propaganda-spreading, uncle-radicalising horror we see before us today. Who could have guessed that a man who created a website designed to objectify women would be capable of facilitating such evil?
I was a pretty late adopter of the site, only joining back in 2009 when we desperately needed to fill a spare room in our student house after one of our mates dropped out. Until then, I had been ride-or-die for Myspace, utterly convinced that Tom would eventually come out of retirement to put the smackdown on this cheap imitator. I mean, what even is Facebook? You can’t even put a Death Cab For Cutie song on your homepage!
In hindsight, there was always something a little off about Facebook. The way we would start every post in the third person (“RYAN COOGAN is listening 2 deth cab 4 cuty”); the way we would have private conversations in the comment sections of other people’s posts (“u ok hun?”); the way we would put our romantic partners on blast with a tactical relationship status change (“no, I’m not ‘ok hun’ – it’s complicated”).
That being said, Facebook did have its uses. It was a great way to plan and invite people to events. It was good for finding like-minded people who shared your niche interests and hobbies. And it was the premier website for stalking people you used to go to school with and jealously comparing your own life to theirs… sorry, I meant “getting in touch with old friends”.
Like most people, though, I haven’t really used Facebook for years. Virtually every feature of the one-time king of social media has been replaced and improved by other websites. If I want to ramble incoherently into the void, I go to Twitter/X. If I want to cry about an ex, I go to Instagram.
I don’t blame people for abandoning ship. At some point all of our parents and relatives joined social media, and they congregated on Facebook like squatters in a once-beautiful mansion. What are you doing here, Uncle Pete? Stop liking all my female friends’ posts.
Nowadays, Facebook is borderline unusable to anybody under the age of 50 and politically left of the Red Skull. On the rare occasions I log in I’m immediately beset by offensive memes, fake news from websites with names like “PatriotNoVaxxTrumper.org”, and adverts for products and services that don’t even seem to be pretending to be real. Its only remaining purpose seems to be to rob me of any remaining respect I had for the grown-ups who raised me, who, it turns out, are among the most gullible and least literate people on the planet.
Visiting Facebook now is like visiting a condemned theme park. The colours have faded, everything is a little creepy, and it sort of feels like I might be murdered if I hang around for too long. It’s a shell of its former self – and it was never that great to begin with.
But hey. At least it’s still not as bad as Twitter/X.