Facebook turned 15 earlier this week, and you’ll have to excuse me for not rushing to the bakery and ordering a celebratory cake. It feels like most people don’t want to be on speaking terms with Facebook, even though many still check the site regularly for a quick fix of cute animal pictures, a chance to shit-post at people with terrible viewpoints they don’t agree with, and a way to catch up on all the fun your friends are having without you.
What was once the greatest social network since MySpace… is still the greatest social network since MySpace, but Facebook’s Galactus-like hunger for every data point in your life — and the lengths it will go to get them — seems to turn off its longtime users. At least, that’s the impression I got when I asked my Lifehacker colleagues to reminisce about the social network before we collectively blow out some candles:
Facebook is the first thing I’ve quit and felt really good about. Prior to this, I’d quit the field hockey team, several jobs, a band, carbs — and about all of these, I felt at least a twinge of remorse. Not so, Facebook! I can’t believe the devil’s network has existed for 15 years.
I know people who have spent a minimum of five of those 15 curating their existences for an audience of people they should have stayed out of touch with. Think of all the epic poems those people have not written!
– MELISSA KIRSCH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
All Facebook has done for me is given my uncles and this one guy from college a platform on which to argue with me about capitalism. It’s also my one-stop shop for daily reminders of how I used to be married and my dog used to be alive, and a way for me to read mean comments about myself should regular comments sections not be enough.
I guess the only reason I’m still on it is because it’s the only social media my mostly offline boyfriend uses (and I’m his only source of memes!), and it’s a good way to find out about shows in town. If not for Facebook, I probably wouldn’t have known about the Eric Bachmann show I went to last night. But I’m sure there are mailing lists for that kind of thing.
– Claire Lower, Food & Beverage Editor
My facebook experience went from something I was excited to have when I got into college to something I never use. In-between, it was great when I lived in Milwaukee, and was part of a private mums group called Bayview Broads — it provided a community of 200 mums who had each others backs and gave great advice. But it also was a platform for family members, lacking proper posting etiquette, to add their two cents to my page.
It is a wormhole of people-past, full of pictures that don’t matter that I don’t need to see. It’s a peeping tom’s playground, which ultimately is why I quit. Now, I can’t even remember the password, which is fine with me. It is home to the only photos of my 20’s, which i’d like to hold on to.
– Heather Hass, Creative Producer
In the past fifteen years, Facebook killed, directly or indirectly, nearly every other method of online communication I used to use. Opening Facebook is more convenient than visiting a bunch of Yahoo Groups or web forums or a bunch of different news websites. It replaced listservs and email announcement lists because spam has made our email inboxes unbearable.
It thrives because we can get information on Facebook that 15 years ago was only available via phone calls. (Nobody likes phone calls except the generations that grew up with them being necessary.) We pay the price in data and privacy, but we pay it as a society, not individually. I could quit Facebook and lose touch with people, but Facebook will still have all my data.
I love seeing all the baby pictures. I hate that if I post any, Facebook recognises my children’s faces and asks me who they are.
– Beth Skwarecki, Health Editor
I was always ambivalent about Facebook and only ever created one because some friends I met at Space Camp wanted to keep in touch. I’ve used it on and off over the years, but it never affected my relationships with friends or family in a notable way. I pretty much only used it to self-promote my projects. Even then, I feel I haven’t escaped the monumental ways in which Facebook reshaped society, and my personal data most definitely hasn’t escaped Facebook’s clutches.
There was a time when the idea of having my life documented forever seemed appealing. But now my tweets are set to auto-delete, I haven’t posted to Facebook in almost 6 months (I only keep it around because I have to for random work stuff), and I only use Instagram stories. I’m over this whole social media thing.
– Abu Zafar, Video Producer
For a while there, Facebook made it real easy to choose what events and parties to go to, based on who else was going. Which is a valid approach because that’s what parties are for. Now I visit Facebook once a week and get bombarded with “notifications” that people I barely know have posted something. The site does a very good job convincing me to stay away.
– Nick Douglas, Staff Writer
Facebook has been innocuous for me in the past several years, since most of my social media use is on Instagram and Twitter. These days, it can be a pleasant way to see what people I otherwise don’t stay in touch with are up to, and otherwise I barely use it.
But my strongest emotional memory of Facebook is how crazy it made me in the first couple of years of college, looking at photos from parties or trips I hadn’t been a part of, and convinced everyone was constantly having a better time than me. Even now it’s embarrassing to admit how much I cared about it as an 18- or 19-year-old, and the amount of time and emotional energy I sunk into it makes me sad!
I was so excited to have it at the time, but college would have absolutely been better without Facebook.
– Virginia Smith, Managing Editor
I still remember the day I signed up for “thefacebook.com.” I enough of an early adopter at my college to qualify for a silly “Facebook Member Since The Ground Floor” group someone started, which eventually went away along with those “member since” designations in each person’s profile. Ah, the good ol’ days. Now, almost every day I’m on Facebook, I think to myself, “Maybe I’ll quit this week.”
I feel like I’m getting less and less useful information from the algorithmic feed Facebook stuffs in my face. And even then, it feels like most of my friends’ updates are related to one of the following topics: How great our jobs are, how rich we are, and how our great jobs enable us to flaunt our wealth for everyone else to see. It gets old.
That said, Facebook is a useful tool for receiving direct information more newsy topics: ticket sales and promotions for my favourite bands, useful articles I might not have seen on my sprawling Feedly collection, new cute animal GIFs, et cetera. Maybe if I purge all my friends and just follow companies and brands I care about, Facebook will feel more useful as an RSS reader instead of a playground for oversharing .
– David Murphy, Senior Technology Editor