01/05/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Why We Really Join Facebook: It's Not Politics

I am so glad the election is over. And not just because Obama won. But because we probably have at least until inauguration to use
social networking for what it was made for in the first place. Not
building grassroots coalitions and electing a president, not uniting
people with a river of electronic ideas and ideals, but rather, looking up
people we knew when we were young and comparing our lives to theirs.

At least that is true for people who are over the age of 25. It's
a cold, hard, fact. We all pretend that we are just "socially
networking," joining clubs, and supporting social causes, and during
the election it was easy to carry on that ruse. I can't tell you how
many "I'm smarter than Sarah Palin" groups I joined. But now that it
is all over? We can get back to the reason we all joined in the first
place: comparing weight gain and eye wrinkles. Have any doubt? Look at
the profile pictures.* There are roughly five types, and all are
designed to let people from the past know just how well the person in
question is doing.

The Glamour Shot

We all have a picture of ourselves that we
love above all others. And sometimes, that picture has little basis in
reality. That is the glamour shot. While it is technically a picture
of the person in question, you wouldn't necessarily be able to
recognize them in public using it as a basis. Usually taken at some
kind of social event, not necessarily in the past five years.

The "Look I found someone who loves me despite what everyone
might have thought" Shot

This one comes in two varieties. The first is
a picture of the person in question and the object of their affection.
The second is the person in question in full wedding regalia. Both
give the same message: I am married, and so I have won. It doesn't
matter if the marriage is unhappy, or the bride was bought from a
catalog, everyone who looks at the Facebook profile will at least know
that person is married. And that's what counts.

The "Look I reproduced" Shot

I don't know why babies are seen
as currency in our society, but they are. These pictures let everyone
know that the person in question is doing well in the genetic stock
market. In some situations these profile pictures are only of the
children, which at first gives the strange impression of eternal
youth, but really usually is just an indication that baby weight has
not been lost -- even if the kid is in their teens.

The Obscured Shot

This is my favorite, and the one I use the
most often. It is a picture of the person in question, but shot in
such a strange way that it may not be obvious that it is a person at
all. The picture can be out of focus, or shot from a distance, or
taken from behind (usually not a good choice though), or from a
Halloween party. It is supposed to give off the vibe of being
artistic, but really it is all about covering up flaws without using

The Random Shot

A cousin to the obscured shot, this one could
give off any number of impressions: funny, artistic, mystical,
socially conscious. During the election these types of shots
multiplied, as people put up the Obama logo, and pictures of pit bulls
wearing lipstick. The only important thing about this kind of shot is
that it not feature any kind of human form that could in any way be
construed as the person in question. The reasons for using such a shot
are the same as in the obscured shot, only much more vehemently felt.

Have I ruined Facebook for you? Hopefully not. I mean, I don't want
you to miss out on Paul Volcker's profile pic... I'm thinking glamour

*All photos were found searching the name "Mary" on Facebook.