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WARBeat the Reaper: A NovelThe Hellhound of Wall Street: How Ferdinand Pecora's Investigation of the Great Crash Forever Changed American FinanceThe Evolution of Bruno LittlemoreThe Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man, Red HarvestGlengarry Glen Ross

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The End of Facebook Freedom

I was recently asked to do a guest blog appearance, and below is the piece that was originally published on May 29, 2010 at…

I’ve lived twenty-five long years now, and certain things become apparent to one who is lucky enough to make it this far. Being one of the “old-timers,” I believe I have license to reminisce on days gone by, things we enjoyed once that have faded into the ether, or changed beyond recognition.

Facebook, for instance. Boy, in my day that sure was something.

It was the autumn of 2004, the time of the carefree and the exuberant. I happened to be studying abroad in London that semester, but the ubiquity of the Internet ensured that the blue Facebook wave crashed on our shores as well. I remember it like it was yesterday—I was in a computer lab with one of my roommates checking fantasy football stats, when he turned to me and asked if I’d heard of “this Facebook thing” yet. I replied that I hadn’t. He told me to check it out, though qualified his endorsement by saying it was in fact pretty stupid, just to save face in the event that he was on the wrong side of a lame fad. He urged me to just try it, that it was addicting and I would soon be hooked.

And I was.

Most everyone in my undergraduate class of 2006, as well as the other pre-baccalaureate classes of 2005, 2007, and 2008, was either already on or joining by the hour. It was like Woodstock for the tech generation. We were free to document the debauchery of our formative years through text and photos (and soon videos as well.) It was one great shadowbox homage to liberty and youth.

But, as all things tend to do, it ended.

Somewhere around the autumn of 2005, the beginning of our senior year, one of my friends announced that he was closing his Facebook account because he’d heard that potential employers were looking at applicants’ profiles as part of the hiring process. Well, that just started a frenzy of untagging photos and adjusting privacy settings. And shortly after that it was announced that our beloved site was to be opened to the public. Our wonderful little island on the web was being threatened by outsiders, and it was like the lights turning on at the end of the party of the year.

Pretty soon people started using Facebook to market themselves. This was appalling to me, and I raged against the dying light of the site’s ideal. For it wasn’t supposed to be about money or fame—it was supposed to be about friends and fun.

I guess we all have to grow up eventually, and now that I’m in the publishing industry (and I’ve accepted that the Facebook I knew and loved is gone for good) I can see that there is real value in utilizing the site to connect with and build an audience. I’m an “old-timer,” as I said, so it’s been difficult for me to make the transition from a fun-based Facebook experience to a business one.

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8 comments to The End of Facebook Freedom

  • JJ Wright

    Dude,
    Your writing is really great, I wish you would write more.

    JJ

  • Nicole

    JJ,

    Fact.

    Nicole

  • Thanks Chris,
    Congratulations on your recent sales.
    Well done.

  • Raz Elmaleh

    I’m enjoying your blog.

    Whatever gains popularity ends up becoming business. That’s how humanity works, isn’t it?

    I saw photos from the Tel Aviv gay pride parade a couple of weeks ago. Civil rights, right? Wrong. What those pictures showed me was a monstrous marketing ploy for big beer, energy drink, and condom makers.

    As for Facebook: much like the way people recall the Kennedy assassination or 9-11, I remember precisely when and where I first heard of “that Facebook thing” – I was in an Internet bar in Bangkok, and this Canadian dude said his friend’s into it. I didn’t think much of it at the time. I also remember exactly when and where I first heard of Google… before the IPO, lord forgive me. :)

    Cest la vie. Thanks again for a great blog.

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