Monday, August 23, 2010

10 Ways That Facebook Has Changed Us

I can't walk into a restaurant, nail salon or doctor's office without hearing somebody mention the word "Facebook". Facebook knows no age, gender, race or socioeconomic boundaries. Literally everyone is on there!

So I started thinking about how Facebook has changed us, listing ten examples below.

1. Non-Productivity Begins When You Login. Before Facebook, you might have come home from work, cooked dinner, washed a load of laundry, worked out at the gym, stopped by the store, called a friend to catch up and read a couple of chapters in a good book before hitting the hay at a reasonable hour. But now, thanks to Facebook, you're tempted to sit on the couch, staring at your laptop, just waiting for the next status update or photo comment. And how about the workplace? I recently read a study saying that work productivity was down 12.5% and that decrease was solely contributed to Facebook. I'm not sure what that equates to in dollars, but my guess is that it's somewhere between a boodle of money and a whole heck of a lot of cash. About 77% of all employees have a Facebook account and over half of them access it during work hours. Facebook sends a big shout out to smartphones; employers do not.

2. Stearning. A few years back, I watched a Fox News report that listed the top 10 technology trends for the upcoming year. Most of them were easy to guess like texting, iPods, wireless internet, etc. But the number one trend really caught my attention: Stearning. It's a hybrid word combining "stalking" and learning" and was specifically created for the social networking phenomenon. People spend countless hours trying to find out who an ex-boyfriend is dating now or trying to see just how hot their husband's new female boss is. It's a total waste of time. Sort of. Because the scary thing is that you'll probably find all the information that you're seeking. The ends do not deter the means, making stearning the new black.

3. A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words. Any event that you attend, whether it's a formal wedding reception or a casual poker night with friends, will be photographed and posted on Facebook, giving a visual play-by-play of the evening. The downside? It keeps you from wanting to wear the same outfit twice. Unless I'm Paris Hilton, I'm probably wearing that dress again, so I'm not really sure why I don't want you to know that. But the upside? Before most events, I'm out stimulating the economy. Support you local retail shops; start a Facebook page. I've also been known to pull the car over to snap a humorous mobile upload or to sneak into the bedroom to photograph my children napping because it's just too sweet to miss! I take a camera with me everywhere. The silver lining found in this obvious inconvenience is that I'm capturing so many more memories than I did before. I look back at photos from when Bailey was a baby (pre-Friendster, Myspace and Facebook) and see so many gaping holes in her story. And speaking of, how many of you have invested a thousand bucks or more in a professional grade camera? Nikon should really send Facebook a thank you note.

4. The Tag Attack. Forget Nuclear War. Move over, plummeting economy. There's a new game in town called Facebook Photo Tagging. Few things scare me more than the email notification that I've been tagged in a photo. Sure, call me vain, but some of this fear exceeds good ole fashioned self-centeredness. People will tag you in any photo, and I mean any photo. It doesn't matter if you're picking your nose or dancing with a lamp shade on your head - they'll snap it and post it. I've literally had my butt tagged in a photo before. I mean, if I was unfortunate enough to have my backside captured while standing behind you, I would hope that nobody would notice it or call attention to it. So thank you, Facebook friend, for the photo tag and for crushing yet another pipedream.

5. Presentation Is Key. My Grandmother always placed a lot of importance on presentation teaching me how to plant flowers, eat with the correct fork, serve punch and decorate a formal living room. Little did she know, she was way ahead of her time. Because of Facebook, you give your friends (and even strangers) a glimpse into your house, your child's birthday party, your best friend's bridal shower and pretty much every little corner of your life. Presentation is becoming alarmingly important. I find myself fretting about little details while planning for an event that I never did before. I blame Facebook. Now if only I could find a way to get Facebook to pay for these extras, too - well, that'd be great.

6. Grammar 101. All Facebook users have stepped up their grammatical game because everything you write is permanently branded onto the worldwide web. You don't want anybody thinking that you're 35 years old and still haven't learned the difference between there, they're and their. And now going with the opposite train of thought, text shorthand has become completely acceptable. Terms like LOL, BFF, OMG, ur, luv and nite are constantly used on Facebook and we all know what they mean. Punctuation also plays a bigger role in the portrayal of emotion now - thanks to Facebook. If your status says, "I'm hungry", then people might not know that what you really mean is that you're about to shake salt on your arm and eat it. But if your status says, "I'm hungry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!", then people really get it, ya know?

7. Peeping Tom Syndrome. Facebook has created a medium to reconnect or stay connected with friends and family in a way that you never thought possible. I spend time each day reading about somebody taking their dog to the vet or eating Italian for dinner. And the most intriguing part? I'm genuinely interested in these otherwise unimportant and nominal tasks and activities. But sometimes it backfires. Have you ever been listening to someone's story and interrupt to say, "Oh, yeah. I read that on Facebook"? It sort of makes you feel creepy and stalkerish. You aren't sure if you should have just smiled, nodded and kept your mouth shut or if she was flattered that you're interested enough to keep up. Knowing so much about a friend can take some of the fun out of face-to-face conversation, though. So you compensate by talking about things that you saw on Facebook or laugh about things that you'll post tomorrow. It all balances out in the end.

8. Relationship Labels. When I joined Facebook, I was already married, but I can definitely see how Facebook can put unnecessary pressure on a relationship. When I see so-in-so's status change from "Single" to "In A Relationship" to "It's Complicated" and back to "Single" in a matter of a month, I think, "oh, bless her heart". And that is not to say that I haven't been there before myself. It's only to say that, luckily, I didn't have to broadcast it to thousands of Facebook users. And the comments that I see under those relationship status updates are pitiful. Like, it's not bad enough that you're not-so-lucky in love, but now you have to publicly accept condolences and better luck next times? It makes a bigger deal out of the tedious task of casual dating. And how do you know when to change the status from "Single" to "In A Relationship"? I can imagine that conversation is pretty uncomfortable, especially if the approval request is sent a little too quickly or just a little too late.

9. Liar, Liar - Pants on Fire. You can't lie about anything anymore. And I'm not just talking big stuff, here. I'm talking small stuff, too. No more "Sorry, I had a headache and that's why I couldn't make it to your Tupperware party" or "Hey boss, sorry I'm late to work, but there was an awful wreck on 575." Because before you even tell them, they know where you've been and what you've been doing - either by your own careless admission or from comments by your friends. As for big stuff, Facebook is keeping people faithful. I don't care how strict you think your privacy settings are; there is always a way to penetrate that cyber firewall. I love hearing stories about Facebook facilitating a Grade A bust. It's not like it wouldn't have come out eventually anyway; Facebook just speeds up the process. Do you know that "Facebook" is specifically mentioned in over half of divorce proceedings today? Facebook is making the world a more honest place - one status update at a time.

10. It's A Small World After All. That obnoxious little Disney tune has never been more validated than it has been since I joined Facebook. For pretty much every Facebook friend, there is at least one surprise when I look at our 'friends in common' list. Maybe I used to work with somebody that he went to high school with. Maybe a bridesmaid in her wedding took ballet with me when I was three years old. Maybe somebody I went to college with has moved to another state and is now neighbors with my cousin. And these connections would never have been revealed without the help of Facebook.

So, is Facebook still worth it? Yep. ;)

The really interesting part of this blog will be five years from now when I writing about how old, crappy Facebook compares with the new, cool [insert hypothetical social networking site name here]. Then Facebook will be soooooo 2010.