Even if you have been asleep all these weeks and just woke up, you would have heard about the importance that folks are giving to Friday. Be that as it may, in addition to having created another cohort of millionaires for Silicon Valley who will go on to create their own successful ventures and VC firms in turn, Friday also marks a coming of age of what is arguably the biggest “network” within the Internet.
To use Seinfeld-like logic, a pre-Facebook world of relationships was largely black or white. You either knew someone and interacted with them regularly, or did not know them and didn’t know much about what goes on in their lives. A Seinfeld episode around relationships that are propped up by voicemail comes to mind. At some level, Facebook is a replacement for that – granted. But at another level, these “grey” relationships add a lot of color to our otherwise bi-modal lives. I may not have met that friend from college for 10 years, but seeing an update from him on his wall brings back memories of times spent together. And what is life if not what we recall of it, and most of what we recall of our lives is inextricably intertwined with the relationships of the present and the past.
Moreover, Facebook accelerated the adoption of the network itself as an expansion of memory – of who we are, what we did, who we care for, and what we would like to inform the world about. Yes, it does make it easy for someone to have a fake profile with embellished entries in their timeline. But there were always the pretenders in real life, so why blame the social network when they prop up there as well? Yes, disparately large amounts of time spent on Facebook might encourage people to substitute real relationships with online ones, but then again there is user discretion involved there. What networks like Facebook allow you to do is to qualify your relationships into real life only, real+online and online only. And there is value to each of those. When people try to reconnect with friends or acquaintances from the past and sound happy when they “Like” something they posted, it is not narcissism as much as a desire to belong back to the places, communities and social gatherings long gone, which but for Facebook one had no easy way to relate back to.
Yes, Facebook has scared us with multiple intrusions into our privacy.Yes, advertising on social media makes it hard to be frank all the time about what we post. But for the savvy user, there are options to limit encroachments on both fronts, at least for now. Despite that, what it allows us to do, is to have curated content sent to us from relationships that we trust, which enriches our lives in many ways. It allows us to elevate the “greyness” of a relationship towards white or away from it based on the place and time we are in our lives. And for immigrants such as myself that live thousands of miles away from home, it provides a colorful window full of riches from our home countries, in terms of little vignettes of life on the other side, making us feel for a moment that we are able to be in two places at once.
Friday might bring in a few thousand newly minted dollar millionaires into the world, but the long road to Friday has brought several million “memory millionaires” to the world, whose lives have had a lot more color added thanks to The Social Network. And for that we are thankful.