Ever wondered what happened to Facebook? Connecting online looks different than it did in the past. When I was a kid, social media wasn’t a thing. Facebook wasn’t popular until I was a freshman in high school, and that was just a way to communicate with close friends. I still had a flip phone back then! Now, social media is a way to communicate your brand and build a following. Social media skills can help you land a career with a massive company. This hasn’t always been the case. From connecting with close friends to becoming a way to manage a business, here’s my take on the downfall of Facebook and how that led to the evolution of connecting online.
Facebook was founded in 2004. However, it didn’t reach global popularity until 2010. In fact, at one point, it was the most downloaded app of the 2010s. Everyone was on Facebook. When I was in high school, I remember taking photos of my friends with my digital camera and showing them off on Facebook. Those were the good old days. Sharing photos became a status symbol. It was a way of saying to all of your social media “friends,” here’s everyone I hung out with this week. We had an amazing time, and you weren’t invited, so you must be lame. I blame Facebook for my chronic FOMO.
Forever an Outsider
In retrospect, Facebook was the beginning of connecting online. Even though the site was accessible to anyone over 13, you still had to request friends. In some way, you had to be let in. I know people who created clubs on Facebook specific to their friend group. Even though everyone was using the site to connect, there was always a sense that not everyone belonged there. It felt like a club that you could see from the outside but couldn’t find the door to.
Your Facebook “wall” was a place where your friends could post photos and messages. This kept you engaged with the site. It was normal to constantly check Facebook to see if you got any new friend requests or see if someone wrote on your wall. Having lots of messages on your wall was a way of showing your social status. All of the popular girls had tons of friends, and everyone wrote on their wall. This was a way to show people that you belonged to a certain social sector, and that sense of validation was addicting.
Now, Facebook is for bored housewives and aging mothers. Sorry, Facebook, but no one really uses you anymore. What happened? People found other, more engaging ways to connect. Instagram became the go-to app shortly before I graduated high school in 2014. The app quickly became popular because you didn’t just connect with friends, you could connect with celebrities, too. It was fascinating to see other people’s lives in photos, and this lessened the power of exclusivity that Facebook offered. Instagram gave us the chance to explore other worlds instead of staying confined to our own circle.
Being able to look at other people’s photos incited everyone’s inner exhibitionist. People started being creative with makeup, with their outfits, and with their behaviors to get their 15 minutes of Instagram fame. Connecting online became a game of how many people you could reach in the shortest possible amount of time. Apps like Instagram and TikTok are the reasons behind the concept of an overnight celebrity.
Facebook was about reaching your inner circle and showing off to people on the periphery of your life. Instagram is about reaching a massive audience and making them like you enough to follow you. As social media has evolved, everyone’s circle has become bigger. Maintaining an air of exclusivity is no longer the goal. Now, everyone wants to connect with anyone who will boost their profile.
When was the last time you opened Facebook? I know it’s been a long while for me. Honestly, I don’t really care what anyone’s status update is anymore. That could just be because I’m older now and care less what people think, but I believe it’s a common trend. This desire to see the inner workings of people’s lives who we don’t even know speaks to a larger cultural trend.
Now more than ever we are searching for validation. Perhaps it’s because we are insecure, but to me, it seems more likely that we just want to know we’re making the right choices. Everyone wants to feel like they are doing okay in life. That is how we gain a sense of security. When random strangers like our photos or comment on our posts, we get the affirmation we need that we are on the right track. We are doing something of value. We are buying the right things. Knowing these things gives us a sense of security.