Editor’s Note: Young people in the San Francisco Bay Area write about how they see their future with the regional Internet giant Facebook.
Molly Raynor, 27, Richmond
I am a 27-year-old transplant from Ann Arbor, Michigan. I run a creative arts program in Richmond, California, live with my best friend in Oakland and have a wonderful group of friends. I like to think that I have reached a point where I am super comfortable with myself and secure in who I am.
Despite all of this I find that I am obsessed with checking my Facebook. It’s like a sick addiction, this need to stay updated on everyone’s lives, including people I barely know or care about. I get too excited when I see the little red pop up signaling new notifications and sadly depressed when I don’t.
I often think about deleting my account, since I get sucked in for way too much time that I could be using for more productive things, but I can never bring myself to do it. I mean, what would the world come to if I didn’t know what so-and-so was listening to on Spotify or what this person just ate for dinner?
Our generation is so “connected” by technology, yet so disconnected from each other and our former, more meaningful modes of communication. While I could go on all day about how stupid Facebook is, I am still a complete sucker for it.
Edgado-Cervano Soto, 22, Richmond
As an aspiring journalist, Facebook is my friend.
At my fingertips, I have a personal directory through which I can promote certain news articles, points of view and happenings, or ask for leads and recommendations for my own reports, and remain connected to dispersed communities.
I have used Facebook to fulfill my own belief that information is power, posting anything from Youtube videos of a San Antonio Chicana rock band to links supporting the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights on my status updates. Facebook affords me a platform to promote my social justice views and see what other politics my circle of friends have swimming in their heads.
Alongside the politics, I post the personal. On some days I treat Facebook like a diary, typing nostalgic and very “emo” status updates when my world seems bleak, all for the public to see. When I enter these kinds of posts, I am reminded of Walt Whitman’s poem, “A Noiseless Patient Spider,” and I too am like the spider shooting strings of gossamer web into a digital world in need of human contact. I post remnants of the past, photographs of moments with my sisters, friends, grandparents and family — as if by digitizing them I am vowing to never forget them.
With Facebook, I have a documented life. I am often shocked when I see my photographs, archived chronologically in my online account, describing my life back to me. Facebook reminds me of the friends I no longer have, the places I left, the many identities of me I have shed and left behind in cyber-space.
But Facebook and I shouldn’t be friends. We’re complete opposites.
In the physical world, I am silent. I tend not to make my politics clear through my exterior self, and I don’t always share my feelings with the people closest to me. And yet, I choose to participate in an online community that requires a loss of inhibition. It’s a contradiction, the way I function as a cyber-person and the form I live in the flesh. In sending my random thoughts out over the network, in the moments when I reflect on my personality and my desire to be connected, I see that the reason why I choose the Facebook way is because I lack an honesty and self-satisfaction in the physical.
I’d like to think I am using Facebook as my own training ground, where I practice being loud and present, until I can express the political and personal through my very real body and voice.
Sean Shavers, 20, Oakland
In September of 2010 I got involved with Facebook, which I thought was a cool site to meet women and chat with friends. But after using the site for a while, I realized it was actually just a gateway for other people to nose around in your personal business.
People I never used to communicate with were suddenly eager to chat and discuss issues regarding my personal life. Even the church folks got involved, chatting with me online and pretending to be genuinely concerned about my life, when we don’t even speak at church.
After about a month, I deleted my Facebook account entirely and went back to my old life. I used the site for what it was worth but in my opinion, it wasn’t worth much.
Maybe because it was my first time using any type of social media network. I never had a Myspace page, never used a chat room or even had a personal email before.
Regardless, I don’t see Facebook leaving anytime soon, just because everyone I know uses it. From kids to teens to seniors, it’s all the same… There are just too many people involved, not to mention addicted, to Facebook.
Victor Petersen, 23, San Francisco
When I first created my Facebook profile over two years ago, I was sent dozens of friend requests and questions about how I’ve been and what I’ve been doing. Here I was in my private room, feeling as if I had just walked into a reunion attended by almost everyone I’d ever known. As much as I felt uncomfortable, I felt connected and found myself logging in daily, excited to discover who was sending me a friend request, message, or notification.
In 2011 I was isolated in the Central Valley, finishing up general education requirements to transfer into SF State. Being hundreds of miles away from all of my friends and family motivated me to log in to Facebook in the morning, noon and night. I remember chatting on Facebook one night with a friend, enjoying a glass of wine, while reminiscing about our past together.
Since I’ve moved back to San Francisco, however, I barely log in to my Facebook account. I haven’t posted anything in months and when I do log in, I check my messages then log out. Facebook was my connection to the world when I was isolated from friends and family. Now that I am back in The City, I can meet up with people and connect with people in person.
I believe Facebook is here to stay for a while, as is social networking in general, because many people may feel isolated and invisible without a Facebook profile. Be that as it may, I plan to use my Facebook profile as a tool to be useful and beneficial for the world surrounding me.
Taisa Grant, 25, Richmond
I’m a young black woman in her mid-20’s who enjoys writing, photography, music… I truly seek to live in a world that is better for all, so this desire is expressed in all that I do.
Facebook is something that I enjoy using. It allows me to share who I am with friends that aren’t presently in my life and it allows me to reconnect with people from my past whom I wish to be in contact with. Also, being young and single, it’s a nice place to stay in contact and learn more about potential love interests.
Still, I wouldn’t say I’m married to Facebook — if something better comes along I’d have no problem leaving it. For now, it is a place where I express my feelings and concerns through poetry or what I like to call “capturing thought” statements. I’m able to get feedback from people and this does give me a feeling of not being alone.