Last Tuesday Facebook celebrated its 10th birthday. Relative to human years, it sounds very young, but it feels as though Facebook has always been around. It is almost hard to believe that just 10 years ago it wasn’t a part of most people’s lives.
Anyone who uses Facebook will probably have noticed friends posting their Facebook Look Back films. Your short film shows you highlights from your time on Facebook, accompanied by rousing music. I had to laugh at mine – apparently one of my most Liked updates ever is the one about the time I found a £5 note whilst out jogging – but I’ve enjoyed watching those of friends and family. Seeing photos of friendships, weddings and babies is bound to bring a smile to ones face.
However, it did get me thinking – I wonder what the last 7 years of my life, according to my Facebook account, really look like? I also wondered how my use of Facebook has changed since I joined and how it might change over the next 10 years. So I delved in to my Activity log to see what I could uncover.
Overall, I noticed a few key differences between my Facebook activity in 2006 and my Facebook activity today.
I joined Facebook a few weeks into my first semester at university. Although by the time I joined Facebook it had been opened up to everyone, not just university students, you still had to be part of a network – either a university or location. This meant that only people in the University of St Andrews network could see my profile, so it still had the feel of a closed network. Facebook was my first foray into the world of social media. Up until then my experience of online communication had been limited to email and MSN Messenger, which are both closed forums, primarily involving (relatively) private conversations between two people. It’s clear from my early Facebook activity that I was still operating on this earlier model. My Activity log between 2006 and around 2009 mainly consists of comments on other people’s timelines (or walls, as they were called then) and people commenting on my timeline. These back and forth exchanges mimic the kinds of conversations you might have on MSN Messenger. The emphasis seems to be on communicating with friends, but in a much more visible way than instant messaging. Now I’ve come full circle, in that I’m more likely to send someone a private Facebook message than write on their timeline. Looking through my early Facebook activity, it was also striking to see that I was interacting with a much wider range of friends, many of whom I’ve now lost touch with.
The other big element of my Facebook activity early on, is status updates. I seem to update my status on a daily basis, sometimes more than once a day. There is also a big difference in the kinds of status updates. Back in 2006 I was far more likely to share my emotional state, whether I was happy or sad, and trivial information, such as what I was eating or the fact that I had an essay due. I also seem to quote song lyrics a lot – probably a reflection of the fact that music was a much bigger and more important part of my life then. I now update my status around once a week. In fact, the majority of my Facebook updates are passively done via WordPress and Goodreads, which are both linked to my Facebook account. When I do actively update my status it tends to relate to more substantive events, and is usually information I think my family would like to hear, such as the fact that my boyfriend and I went on a 30 mile cycle ride or the fact that it is our anniversary. Another big change, one instigated by Facebook, is that up until November 2007 status updates had to take the form of ‘Naomi Racz is…’ Looking through my Activity log made me a little nostalgic for the missing ‘is’.
With the introduction of the Like button in 2009, Liking has become a much bigger feature of my Facebook activity. In fact, my 2011 a large proportion of my Facebook activity is simply Liking other people’s status updates, photographs or the updates of Pages I follow. I do wonder if the Like button has turned me into a more passive Facebook user. Now, if I want to show that I have enjoyed someone’s post, I no longer have to comment on their post, I can simply click a button.
Facebook has also become a lot more visual over the 7 year period I’ve been using it. Although, back in 2006, my friends and I were sharing albums of photographs, people seem to have moved away from this and towards sharing a single photograph – smart phones have probably played a large role in this. As I mentioned earlier, before Facebook timelines, the feed of updates on your profile was called a wall. The move to timelines, where photographs feature prominently has also probably encouraged this increase in visual updates. It seems, at least from my own Facebook account, that there has been a definite move towards a more passive intake of easily digestible information. I wonder if this is the case for everyone or whether it is because I now spend a lot more of my online time reading articles or blog posts – so when it comes to Facebook I don’t want to have to think too much.
Around 2008 my family started joining Facebook. At first I resisted friending my parents because I felt a bit like I was being spied on. My mum liked to idea of being able to see what I was doing, but I didn’t. Now, I can relate to her point of view much more, because that’s primarily what I use Facebook for. I like seeing what my friends and family have been up to, especially my growing nieces and nephews. I now live in Amsterdam and my family is in the UK, so it’s nice that we can all stay in touch. Even if it doesn’t entirely replace email or chat, it’s a nice daily reminder of what we’ve all been up to.
So, between 2006 and 2014 there has been a huge change in my Facebook activity and in the way I use it. As I’ve grown up, my Facebook usage has grown up too. But how will I be using it when Facebook is 20? Will Facebook even exist in 2024? I’m not really one for making predictions, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say I think Facebook will still be around in 10 years time. New social media channels that don’t exist yet will have been dreamt up, but I just can’t see Facebook disappearing completely, especially as it continues to diversify with new products.
Will I still be on Facebook? I’ve certainly thought about leaving Facebook over the years – in fact I deactivated my account for a few weeks when I was in university, mainly because I thought it would be cool to not be on Facebook – but I think as long as my family continue to use it, and as long as I’m working in social media (and therefore need a profile to manage Pages), I will keep my Facebook account. Rather than deleting it altogether, over the years I’ve decreased the amount of time I spend on Facebook and I no longer feel like I’m wasting a lot of my day on it. Usually, I go on the morning, have a scroll through my news feed, like a few pictures and that’s it for the day. Then again, can Facebook survive if all its users follow the same pattern of declining usage?
If I’m still blogging in 10 years time, I’ll be able to see if I’m right!
Take a look at this album of screen shots to see how Facebook has changed over the years.
This video parody of the Facebook Look Back film overlays the film with privacy updates, game requests and ads – a reminded of how frustrated we get with Facebook at times.
And some predictions for the next 10 years.