Remember the days of AOL Desktop, where the biggest draw to installing the software was having chat room access? No? How about Friendster, one of the first social networking sites? Still drawing a blank? Okay, well then surely you remember Myspace, where friends could post comments on your page that normally went a little something like: "dRoPpInG bY yOuR PaGe 2 SaY heLLo." (Even though we don't like to fess up to it, we were all guilty of mixing upper and lower case letters at some point during the Myspace heyday.) I've survived all of these mediums of Internet communication, and now enjoy a happy existence on Facebook along with the other one billion plus users on its site.
I joined Facebook back in 2008. During the past five years, it has helped me keep in touch with friends, connect with new people, and promote my writing. In a society where social media has exploded and become an effective communication tool, Facebook has served me well. However, I've noticed some changes lately in the way both others and myself utilize the site. This shift in activity is reminiscent of when Myspace was nearing the end of its popularity and makes me wonder if Facebook has peaked.
For starters, my friend count has fluctuated quite a bit in the past few months. On one hand, a part of that is due to users who periodically deactivate and reactivate their accounts because they need a break from social media. Apparently, a proper vacation from Facebook requires disabling the account as opposed to just letting it sit there dormant. Then there are the people who frequently "de-friend" because they suddenly realize they have 3,967 Facebook friends and no longer want to stay connected to so many people. Of course, it's not enough to just quietly remove friends from their list. No. It wouldn't be a true Facebook experience without announcing in a post: "I need to do some cleaning up of my friends list. May the odds be ever in your favor." While it is cute to quote The Hunger Games (especially with the sequel fast approaching), this kind of grandstanding seems needy. It's also an indicator that perhaps this person isn't the sharpest tool in the shed. Adding Facebook friends requires approval on the user's part. If you don't want to have too many, stop sending and accepting requests.
Speaking of adding friends, I can't remember the last time I received a legitimate friend request. The ones I get lately are usually women who reside in Kissimmee and want my phone number so they can text me, or eighteen-year-old college freshman that are in desperate need of inflating their friend count so they can prove that they are indeed popular.
Posting habits seem to be changing with most people solely sharing pictures directly from their Instagram accounts. Aside from the usual barrage of selfies and food porn, I've seen an interesting trend develop where photos containing thoughts or expressions are preferred over the actual words being typed into a status update. Is this a sign that we are becoming more visual and relying on photos? Or are we just getting lazier? It's probably a little of both. But don't worry, written status updates aren't dead yet. You can still find them if you scroll and examine your newsfeed carefully. The problem with this is that a majority of the people who are still posting in this fashion feel the need to go on and on... and on... and on. While some of them are relaying pretty witty stories, they carry the same weight as being trapped in an elevator with a person who hasn't experienced human contact for quite some time. Once I'm done reading the long-winded status update, I've been entertained, but I also feel like I've been held hostage.
Naturally, Facebook does its best to stay on par with the latest social media trends through various software updates. In just the past couple of years, they have allowed us to subscribe and follow people as an alternative to sending friend requests. They have also rolled out a "blue checkmark" verification program that guarantees authenticity of certain profiles. Hashtag usage is now available as well. The problem with these features is that they sound oddly familiar, and it's hard to get excited over something that already exists on another social networking site. It's called Twitter.
While I do believe its popularity is waning, the bell isn't exactly tolling for Facebook at the moment. Myspace is still around, and if you find your old login information, you can probably still access Friendster (even though it's been converted into a gaming site). So Facebook isn't going to drop off the face of the Internet anytime in the near future. I just think we'll all start logging in a little less as we embrace the next social media craze. My teenage cousins have already moved on. They rarely use it and are all about Snapchat, Instagram, Vine and Twitter. I myself used to have Facebook constantly running in the background on my office desktop. Now I check it about once a week, and only post when I've written something I want to promote. I'll be posting the link to this entry once it's published, and I'll most likely get de-friended by a few more people after they've read it. But if you're a woman from Kissimmee or a college freshman, by all means feel free to add me.
Follow Justin Hernandez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/HernandezJustin