Almost everyone is on Facebook these days – it's always a surprise to meet someone who has resisted the temptation to join. It has over a billion active users and despite it first having been invented for college students, it isn't just younger generations using it anymore. It has completely transformed how we communicate, and we use it more than ever now due to smartphones ensuring we have access to it everywhere.
Let's be honest, most of our 'friends' on Facebook aren't people we would consider real life friends; many are acquaintances and plenty are people from our past we're probably not going to see again. Before Facebook, when you left school you had no idea how your classmates were doing until – well, if – you attended your school reunion, but now most of us know about our old schoolmates' daily lives due to their status updates, whether we're interested or not. Some smartphones even sync Facebook friends with contact books so that near strangers phone numbers appear in contacts lists. Facebook also ensures we still have a connection with people from our past we wouldn't otherwise; whether it's the aforementioned schoolmates, friends turned enemies or exes. In this day and age, it's harder to forget the past when there are constant reminders online – someone may be gone from your life, but they can still hang around in your virtual one.
Nowadays we find out most of our gossip from Facebook; whether it's someone's new job, an engagement or a break-up. When I was studying abroad, it was an easy way of making sure my friends back home were updated on my life, and vice versa. But then again, Facebook also means many of us don't make as much of an effort as we might have in the past with our friends, as we already know what's going on in their lives without having to even ask; so you might not get in touch with them as often as you would otherwise, because you feel updated already. Most of the time I use Facebook's messaging system – which is becoming more like an actual email client, and Facebook recently gave all of its users an email address that is linked to it – to contact friends instead of email, as it just seems easier.
Instead of physical photo albums, these days it's far more common to have all of your pictures collected on your Facebook page. I realised recently that due to me not having backed up my last laptop, most of my old photos are only preserved digitally on Facebook and not stored anywhere else; an odd thought.
We used to send paper invites, now we use Facebook event pages to arrange social occasions such as birthdays and house parties (just always remember to make the latter private to avoid random strangers showing up at your door and chaos descending!). Event organisers are also increasingly using Facebook to promote and spread the word about their events as opposed to paper advertising.
Are these changes for better or worse? In many ways so much information being easily available has made our lives easier; but then again, it can also make some things harder for us. Personally I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook, and although I'm tempted to leave sometimes I think the pros generally outweigh the cons – so I'm sticking with it for now.
Image via westm's Flickr