We need to talk. About Facebook. Or rather, EngagementBook.
It's Spring, the birds are chirping, and everyone is engaging the crap out of each other on my newsfeed.
I'm trying to remember the first day I got Facebook. I couldn't sign up until I got my .edu email. I remember waiting and waiting for it, because it meant I could officially join a network of what I imagined were cool "adults," college kids. Would I be able to see what college would be like? Who would I be friends with? Would they, too, put Clarissa Explains It All as a favorite TV show and an ironic throwback?
Or how about the boys. I could see the older guys at Penn, or at least just look at their profile pictures. Endless potential for holding hands on College Green or laughing at a formal or doing whatever college kids did in my mind, like party and fling their arms in the air and learn what it really meant to be able to eat whatever you wanted without parental supervision. No foresight about how 2 a.m. cookies would affect my waistline (though I have to say, leggings were timed perfectly with my college existence).
I could be someone new with Facebook. It was my first foray into the freedom that comes with going somewhere completely new. I got to write a profile, write about my interests, tell you what the quote from Emerson or Thoreau that everyone puts in his or her yearbook page means. It means something deep to me, you know. All those Warhol quotes are seminal sentences in my life (well, because it's very true, "all I ever really want is sugar.") So there Facebook was, an oasis from my parents and a glimpse into the person I wanted to be in college.
It was nothing like what Facebook is now -- a hodgepodge of Farmville (seriously, if I were to waste two hours of my time, it would not be e-farming, or whatever it is Farmville has become, where you harvest carrots or milk cows. The extent of my knowledge from milking a cow derives from A League of Their Own. I'll let Geena Davis do it) a million requests to Branch Out (a competitor to LinkedIn, or another app where I'll feel bad about how few foods I've tried in my lifetime).
Facebook was once exclusive.
But more important, Facebook once hinged upon a singular sentence, or phrase, rather, "relationship status."
It was, singlehandedly, the thing you went to first on someone's profile. Nobody cared about your interests. They just cared if you'd be interested in them. Or vice versa. Mark Zuckerberg cum Jesse Eisenberg cum hideous flip-flops said it too.
The agony over relationship status. Should you put "single" and seem too available and desperate? Should you marry your best friend, or be "it's complicated" with your best guy friend? (Seriously, has anyone ever used "it's complicated" for serious? Because every relationship is complicated, and there's no need to announce it.)
Or what about the ultimate token, sign of a real-life, serious boyfriend: "In a relationship", without a name. For the more coy -- no name necessary. You didn't need to know WHO he or she was dating, but just that there was someone special enough to warrant a declaration. I remember agonizing over an "in a relationship" from a boy I lusted over who didn't seem to have a girlfriend. But Facebook told me so. What, or who, was I supposed to believe?
Announcing your Facebook relationship is still a seminal milestone in your adolescence. You can toggle back and forth, linking in your relationship in digital ink. Hyperlinking your significant other, like the Wikipedia page of your life. Don't lie, you wanted it. You probably still do. It's still a BFD.
But now, all of that isn't as important as the ultimate relationship status update: your engagement.
When did this happen? How did this happen? Everybody's doing it, and they're definitely linking to each other. Permanently.
Personally, I'm engaged to this pint of Ben and Jerry's Half-Baked Frozen Yogurt. Can that be an option? I'm deeply, deeply engaged in the third book of the Hunger Games (I'm late to this party).
I've been engaged on Facebook, once. To my best friend, because we thought that was hilarious and cool. Three days later, her aunt called her mother telling her that her daughter was engaged to another woman on Facebook and that she had no idea she was gay. We ended our brief engagement on good terms.
Maybe there's something in the SmartWater. Maybe it's the debilitating allergies that are forcing everyone to find a long-term, forever partner to feed them allergy pills. Maybe it's because I've turned 25, or made the adult decision to store my shot-glass collection under the sink instead of as decoration (and put my lollipops in a classy martini glass from a sorority party). Maybe it's because I have a business and know some things about a Roth IRA (really, did I go to camp with Roth?)
The second I log on to my Facebook, it is an evitable stream of people getting hitched. Putting a ring on it. No longer neon tank tops at concerts, or Spring Break albums that give you a hangover by just looking at them.
I'm not knocking people announcing their engagement online. In fact, the opposite. Even though it sucks away two hours when I should be doing work, I'll comb through shocked and happy faces and the 857 MAZEL TOVS! on each person's Facebook wall.
It's that same curiosity that allowed me to sift through three hundred "Jareds" when I got my Penn Facebook. Markers of adulthood. Facebook has become a record of milestones in our lives. From college, to post-college sadness that it's not college anymore, to weekends away visiting friends and going to Lollapalooza and trying to get back to a time and place where there were no consequences. And from now engagement parties to wedding photos to babies to first days of school to grandchildren.
I think, though, we may as well call it Engagement Book. Maybe there should be an entirely separate section for the ring: I Got a Pear Shaped Diamond From Stephen Webster (hyperlink). Or Kevin Proposed to Me During a Romantic Ski Vacation (link to picture). There should be a drop-down menu, for a number of things:
location (skiing, beach, at home cooking whole wheat penne, walking your Dog That Will Give You An Indication If You Will Be Good Parents Even Though It's Not the Same Species),
reaction (shock, happy shock, teary happy shock, happy happy joy joy, snot, kisses)
reaction-photo (these are my favorite to stalk, capturing genuine surprise among Millenials is pretty damn hard to do),
shape of diamond (Pear, princess, king, queen, pawn, whatever),
friend reaction, (I've never seen so many exclamation points in my life)
family embrace (look, Mom's crying!)
I've learned of more engagements via Facebook, a medium on which I play Words With Friends and look up old camp crushes, than anywhere else. And so if this is the next stage of my life, as exhibited through an electronic medium, then so be it.
But let's be real, all we want to see is a picture of the fucking ring.
Follow Meredith Fineman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/meredithfineman