I just scrolled through my entire Facebook wall, which dates from 2005. The fact that I could scroll through all of my Facebook activity and even read most of it in a short period shows that I was never a prolific Facebook user in the first place, but my Facebook activity went down with time. A few things really stood out while scrolling through my Facebook wall.
* In the first couple of years, my wall is almost evenly split between people from high school and college. The people from high school faded out over time and got replaced with Internet friends, almost all Wrimos.
* People socialize on my wall, but they also drop by on special occasions like my birthday (just like everyone on Facebook), Pi Day, and NaNoWriMo. The reread of my Facebook wall has cemented the fact that everyone I know associates me with math and NaNoWriMo. This should be a surprise to no one.
* There is not a single mention of romance on my Facebook wall, even though romantic interests have existed in my life over the past five years. Mentions of these romantic interests exist elsewhere, but as I’ve already mentioned, I never was an active Facebook user.
Anyone wanting to browse my Facebook wall wouldn’t find out much about the past six years of my life. Here’s what they would find out.
* I like math, French, NaNoWriMo, and Script Frenzy
* I went to France in 2008
* I really don’t like using Facebook
* I did math research one summer
* I spoiled the sixth Harry Potter book for one of my fellow researchers (sorry about that)
* I founded Wikiwrimo
* I’m fond of strange Facebook updates
…along with several other things of little interest. In other words, nothing I don’t intentionally hide from people. Well, maybe the bit about spoiling the sixth Harry Potter book. This is a good sign; I never had to worry about cleaning up my Facebook profile to make myself look presentable to the professional world. But if I can browse my own Facebook history, nothing’s stopping any of my Facebook friends from looking through it. They won’t learn much about my life, but it’s the principle of the thing. They’re better off browsing my personal blog for the juicy materials.
If my friends can browse my profile, I can also browse their profiles assuming they haven’t locked me out1. This is where the fun begins. Chances are browsing their profiles will take a lot longer than browsing my own did, and I’ll probably learn a lot more about them than they’d learn about me. Those bits and pieces reveal a lot: the groups, the events, the pictures, the relationship statuses. (The only time I’ve been in a relationship on Facebook was with my at-the-time roommate as a joke. She “married” another mutual friend, and one of my wall messages reflects this.) If someone spends more than a tiny bit of time on Facebook, it’s easy to put together a picture of that person’s life, make something out of nothing, and create a person who may no longer exist due to changes over time. This is the real danger of Facebook stalking, and this is why I’m grateful I spend most of my Internet time elsewhere. Immersing yourself in the past leads only to danger.
Ten years ago, even five years ago, people worried about being blogged at their worst. Now people worry about being Facebooked in their vulnerable times, but they never worry about staying Facebooked during times of mundanity. Should this become a concern? Millions of people are connected through the site, but what happens when a friendship ends offsite? Do you let the links to that person live on, or do you take an active effort to prune them out of your life? Do you take advantage of what seems like the ephemeral nature of the Facebook feed to bury the evidence with the hope of one day burying the hatchet?
Let me know when you figure it out.
1But why would I want to? Serious question.