As the years fly by, the end of the light, fun Facebook as we knew it might be just around the corner. I argue that as we, the first generation of Facebook users, grow older, how we use Facebook will set a precedent for future users. And seeing that we are using it more and more as a networking tool, this might very well be Facebook’s predominant function.
Our generation grew up with Facebook. Literally, while we were getting ready to traipse off to college, Mark Zuckerberg was tweaking the last features on Facebook, structuring it strictly for college students. College email addresses were a very explicit requirement to acquire a Facebook.
High schoolers could only dream of the day when they, too, would attain their coveted university email address and join the network of elite, cool college kids. Then, the growing popularity of Facebook and profits associated with expanding the network to anybody prompted the Facebook founders to allow anyone to join.
To jump on the back of the speeding bandwagon and see what the fuss was about, people of all ages started joining. Forget the 13-year-olds MySpace-ers who migrated to Facebook for something “classier” and “more mature.” It’s the users on the other end of the age spectrum who are going to change Facebook forever.
This brings me back to the point I mentioned before about us growing up on Facebook. It’s been part of our lives, at least for about 90% of college students. And we’re not going to relinquish our precious Facebook time as we approach our mid-20s, or even 30s. But… hold on a minute. As each year goes by, don’t we get closer and closer to being those “creepy adults” on Facebook? We’re going to be the ones that teenagers fear of finding the red cup pictures or ridiculous beer pong photos.
And we’re not leaving.
So, where does this leave future generations? We know all too well the ritual of detagging after “So-and-so has tagged you in a photo” pops up in your Inbox. Are they now excused for over-the-top college behavior because we once went through the exact same routine? Do they alter their behavior to avoid the embarrassment and/or awkwardness of an employer seeing a picture of them pulling a ridiculous stunt at the most recent frat party?
I don’t think so.
I believe Facebook will no longer be the “Place for Friends” (Sorry to borrow the tagline, MySpace) that it once initially was. So many professors and professionals are on Facebook that it’s become a networking tool.
And I don’t mean to diminish this value. It’s incredibly useful when you have absolutely no contact info about a person, just a name.
But soon the days will be gone when you could leave some inappropriate inside joke on your friend’s Wall because employers could easily spot this tasteless comment.
We have to be so sensitively careful and analyze every public move we make on Facebook for fear of who will find it. It’s no longer going to be the virtual casually cool college hang-out. Instead, I envision that it will be a networking site for anyone with the tiniest smidgeon of desire to become a professional. Those who don’t care will continue posting their emo stare-into-the-camera-with-my-hair-covering-half-my-face photos as their profile pictures. But for those who care about professionals’ perception of them, Facebook will be a dramatically different platform.