The Many Ages of Facebook. Where Do You Fall?
The differences in our different generations have never been more apparent than when it comes to the use of social media, Facebook specifically. I noticed this the other day when I was unfriended by someone because I had the nerve to “like” a humorous picture someone else had posted on her wall. It was shared from a site called “someecards” and said:
“Thank you for the 15th self-portrait you posted this week. Without it, I might have forgotten what you look like.”
When I saw this, I howled with laughter. Because it was true. Every time this person cut her hair, grew her hair out, changed the part in her hair, changed her lip color, eye color, or aura color she posted a picture of herself on Facebook.
“That’s what the young people do,” someone told me recently. “It’s all about the self-portrait.”
Choosing to ignore the fact that the person speaking to me was implying that I was no longer part of the young crowd and that I was, in fact, so out-of-the-loop that I had no idea the generation following me had an obsession with seeing themselves pixelated in a format that allows everyone from their 1st grade teacher to the guy they think they met in a bar once to comment on how amazing they looked at 1:20 PM, 1:22 PM, and 1:27 PM – I started thinking about how our age affects what we post on Facebook.
Let me break it down for you.
When you’re in your 20s, it’s important for everyone to think you are having a great time no matter what you’re doing and there is no better way to convince everyone of that fact than by taking pictures of yourself doing everything from drying your hair in a flirty fashion to drinking a beer near the bumper of someone’s car. You must have at least 20 pictures of yourself wearing college gear (even if you do not go to said college), 100 where you look like you’re “dressed down” and just hanging out (even though it took you 20 minutes to primp for each picture), and 500 group shots with people you don’t really know but have friended on Facebook just so that you can tag each person (including pets).
The 75 profile pictures you have were taken by you, with your own phone, as you stood in the mirror, sat in your car at a stop light, stood in line at Starbucks for your Mocha Frappuccino and sat in your airline seat on your way to Spring Break 2012 (woo-hoo!). Each photo is flattering both in light and angle and it appears that you walk around with a professional staging crew to capture these Kodak Moments (if you’re reading this and you’re in your 20s, I’m betting you don’t even know what a “Kodak Moment” is).
Your status updates go something like “having a great time with ____ and _____! BFFs!” or “some people are just rude. U know who u r.” You have occasional political insight and, if you’re a girl, post things about the football game that’s on so that you seem like you know what you’re talking about when the guy you like looks at your profile.
As far as Facebook goes, life is perfection.
Now, here’s where things get tricky. Depending on where you are in your 30s, you may not have had Facebook in your 20s and you’re cursing all of those 20-somethings you’re friends with because they have all of these adorableprofile pictures you wish you had. Now you’re stuck with that Christmas picture from last year that you cropped your parents out of but figured that it hides your budding double chin the best so you’ll go with it. Most of your pictures involve your kids or one of your pets doing something cute. And your day is made when one of your other 30-something friends posts a picture like this and you can share it:
Your status updates involve pictures of the stuff you bought in your 20s that you’re trying to unload so that you can upgrade or questions about why one of the kids or pets you have displayed all over your timeline is throwing up all over your house. At least once a month, you mention how much you hate Mondays and every once in a while you try and update your profile picture but then figure out that Christmas shot is still the best you can do. You make sure that everyone knows how proud you are of the pictured pets or kids, that last week you went to Happy Hour (just to make sure people know you still kind of have a life), and enough stuff in your profile to make things look good just in case someone you hated in high school looks you up.
In the World of Facebook, you’re doing pretty well.
So, now you definitely didn’t have Facebook when you were in your 20s so cute profile pictures are not an option. You choose a beautiful landscape or picture of someone else who may or may not be an actual member of your family to represent you in the world of social media. At this point, it’s very important to have in your profile where you work so that people don’t think you just sit around and look at Facebook all day (when, really, that’s what you’re doing at the advertised job).
In 2012, you spent much of your time trying to come up with witty and life-changing political statements in order to change the minds of the three 20-somethings you’re friends with and unfriended 25% of the people on your profile because their political statements didn’t agree with yours and were, in fact, more witty and life-changing than you could ever come up with. The main reason why you log into Facebook each day is to see if George Takei has downloaded any new pictures so that you can share them before your other 40-something friends.
Most of your status updates involve “Mom is finally out of surgery and Dad’s back is acting up again” or “I won’t say what my son was caught doing but that’s the last time I bail him out of jail.”
Facebook is making you look a little disgruntled. But you’re starting to care a little less.
You’ve put a profile picture up of you with your kids/grandkids but all the little square shows is your chest because you can’t figure out how to work that thumbnail thingy to get it centered right. Most of your status updates involve pictures of inspirational quotes trying to get those 30 and 40-somethings you’re friends with to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
People have started tagging you in pictures they’ve scanned in of holidays when they were 2 and you were 25. So the fact that you didn’t have Facebook in your 20s really doesn’t matter because now you have 100 pictures on your profile of yourself with an unlined face, laughing at your crazy life, drink in your hand, and a waistline you would kill for right now.
And the world of Facebook has come full circle.
Catherine Tidd is a writer, widow and mother of three. She is the founder of www.theWiddahood.com, a free peer support website dedicated to anyone who has lost a significant other and has a Facebook peer support page under the name Widow Chick. She has been published in several books about grief and renewal and also writes a blog on anything that pops into her nutty brain called Bud Light Wishes and Cheeto Dreams.