Thursday, October 2, 2008

Facebook: My Own Personal US Magazine

Us Magazine has always been an escape for me. It has offered me a glimpse into the lives of the wildly rich and the overly exposed. I have seen countless mugshots and Wedding photos. I have tracked bump after baby bump and groaned in disappointment at yet another totally unforgivable baby name. I have always likened the addiction to following the cool crowd in High School. Remember the hallway gossip, the ten minute relationships, and the keg parties? All of it fodder enough to fill an entire glossy gossip rag each week. This is why I love Facebook.

Facebook has truly become my own personal US Magazine. It is a daily update of the lives of not only the cool crowd but every other person in your High School who decided that if you graduated within a two to three year period of each other that they should friend you. This is the real life good stuff. Forget celebrities with their nanny's, drivers, and hangers-on--give me the guy I haven't spoken to or seen in fourteen years and then show me a picture of his new tattoo, photos from his latest vacation and an up to the minute report on what he is doing right now.

I have admitted to using Facebook to silently stalk. I love to see how people have chosen to live their lives. I love the photos, the updates, the quizzes. I will friend somebody I haven't seen in months or years and then never even contact them on their wall. All the while I have checked out their page. I know where they live, work and play. I have seen photos of their kids' birthday parties, and memorable shots of late nights out. US Magazine doesn't even come close to this type of exposure. I can poke you, send you a bumper sticker, invite you to join my favorite cause, quiz you or send you a challah, but I never have to actually speak to you at all. It is the ultimate High School reunion. Everyone is on display.

I recently had a real life encounter with a guy from High School. He is perfectly nice and I have seen him a few times here and there over the years. Here we were in a social setting, a night out and this is what the conversation consisted of:

Him: Hey you have a baby now?

Me: Yeah, she is however many months she was at the time.

Him: That's great.

Me: How was your vacation to Aruba?

Him: We had a great time.

Me: The pictures were really nice. We have been there a few times.

Him: Yeah.

Me and Him: See you on Facebook.

I mean that might not be totally verbatim, but you get the gist. We had an opportunity to actually catch up, to engage in conversation. Facebook allows you to skip the awkward public exposure and just pry and spy in the privacy of your own home. Voyeurism at its best.

US Magazine runs a page called "Stars-They're Just Like US!" On it they show pictures of celebrities buying coffee, going grocery shopping, walking their dogs and playing with their kids. I know it always makes me feel better that Jake Gyllenhaal cleans up after his dog. With Facebook it is more like "Random People from Your Past--They're Just Like Me." I think it is actually humbling to see the successes and choices that people have made in their lives. I mean who really cares if some star carries a reusable shopping bag--isn't it infinitely more interesting to see how the class clown became a dad of four and works in finance?

There are so many opportunities out there for people to reinvent themselves, to project themselves as different from their past. There is also that need to connect. At one point in my life, I walked down the same halls as these people, sat in the same classrooms and listened to the same lectures. I saw them at football games, homecoming, in the woods behind the school, at parties and awards ceremonies and just passing by in my car. It amazes me how easy it is to just fall back into a casual friendship, like the last fourteen years almost didn't exist.

Those High School hallways have made their way online. I walk in and interact on a daily basis. We have all grown up, some of us have changed, and some of us haven't. But we choose to connect with each other. Even if it is just to silently stalk, to gloat in the weight gain of Miss Popularity or to be amazed by the utter transformation of one of your peers, Facebook gives us what US Magazine never could. Connection to the bits of our past in many cases we thought we left behind, connection to people and experiences that helped shape the way we live our lives today. Is it a real connection? I don’t know. If given the opportunity to meet face to face with someone, like I did, things can sometimes feel forced and awkward. Facebook gives you that locker door to stand behind or a seat at the cafeteria table two over from the conversation. But it does give you the opportunity to take advantage of including someone with a shared past back into your present life.

I doubt I will give up my US Magazine. I think I will continue to subscribe until I don't recognize any of the faces anymore or can't lose myself in the fantasy. As for Facebook, who knows where it will take me. Will I still be writing on the walls when I am 40? 50? I don’t know, but I know that I am always going to want to see what everyone else is doing. I am always going to want to keep viewing those photos, catching up on the everyday issues of people's lives. I am always going to want to connect.


  1. I find it life affirming that Ashton pumps his own gas.

    Is it wrong that sometimes I make microwave raviolis instead of a home cooked low-sodium meal for my 1 year old so I can catch up on US?

  2. Any shortcut that leaves you time for yourself is totally acceptable. US time is sacred.