Once upon a time, a million years ago, there was America Online.
The world was brilliant and normal and the internet was still a clandestine place for a privileged few.
America Online was at the cutting edge of a revolution because it created a community. The Internets were a vast and nebulous thing in the days of Web 1.0. Google had not yet cornered the search-engine market, uniting the web into a single dimension AOL provided a place with chat, games, and instant messaging. It was a one-stop-shop for closet queers and cheating spouses.
Fifteen years on, America Online is a punchline. AIM, its free standalone instant messaging service, managed to sputter on for a few years until someone incorporated the same feature into a cell-phone. It used to be that you were a douchebag if you were spotted talking on a cellphone in public. Now, every douchebag can be seen simultaneously texting and Facebooking in every coffee shop, every Subway, every McDonalds . . . Hell, every fucking building in America.
So what the fuck did Facebook do that AOL didn’t?
Facebook started with the individual. Facebook wasn’t about creating a community. Facebook let you create a profile so that others could come to you. This was Web 2.0; Google had united the Internets. Everyone now had broadband internet. What the fuck is a baud, anyway?
Facebook is the internet’s “third time’s a charm” for Social Networking. Friendster failed. MySpace got a bunch of people laid, launched a few bands, got Dane Cook fifteen minutes, and failed. Facebook succeeded where the others failed by being clean, simple, and (most of all) exclusive . . .
Because Facebook was about YOU. People came to YOU. Facebook is nothing but millions of people staring at themselves in a mirror. Reading their own status updates. Staring at their own photos. Marketing themselves to anyone who will have them, or at least anyone they approve. Facebook allows you to communicate with your family, stalk your ex, and queue up fresh meat, all without the weird FWD:Spam your mother sends to your Gmail account.
Which she has since replaced with Farmville and Mafia Wars invites.
People love Facebook because they love being the center of their own little world. They can exclude ALL negative feedback. They post only their hottest photos. They revel when people LIKE their shit. They immediately UNFriend people who don’t feed their ego, maintaining a vortex of positive feedback and approval for all things SELF.
You always look your best, at least to someone. You always have time to think of a witty comeback. You never have to say you’re sorry.
Facebook is narcissism at its logical extreme.
It cures cancer, AIDS and influenza. No one has the Clap on their Facebook profile. No one is ever an asshole, only a victim. Facebook is slimming. Facebook is better than vertical stripes. No matter how many times Facebook changes its interface, no matter how much of your private data they farm, you will always keep coming back . . .
As long as you are the center of Facebook.