When I joined Facebook in the summer of 2004, I had no idea that it would become the global phenomenon that it is today. Few technologies have affected so many different aspects of our lives more than Facebook. When I joined the site I was one of the first 100,000 people to do so and I have seen it grow by leaps and bounds over the past eight years. Since Facebook’s IPO in May, I’ve thought a great deal about how Facebook has changed over the years and how I, conversely, have changed with it.
I can remember the moment I first learned about Facebook, when my friend, Andrey Finegersh, asked me if I had heard of “TheFacebook” (the original name for Facebook). When I asked him what it was, he told me: “It’s kind of hard to explain.” At that time we didn’t even have the vocabulary to talk about Facebook, as terms like social networking and social media were still on the horizon.
The first thing that attracted me to Facebook was its exclusivity, but that soon withered away. There were other social networking sites (MySpace, Friendster, etc.), but I was sick of my friends going on and on about how great these sites were so I refused to jump on the bandwagon. I was able to join Facebook early because I was a student at the University of California, Berkeley and it was one of the first universities where Facebook was available. I liked the fact that not everyone could access Facebook. When I first talked about Facebook with my mother, she asked, “So, how can I join Facebook?” and I was happy to reply, “You can’t.”
Eventually, Facebook opened up to several other universities, then to anyone with an .edu e-mail address, and finally to anyone with a valid e-mail address. I still remember the fateful day when my mother added me as a friend with a message of “Hello Sweetie!” Since then I have had to be careful about what I post or risk the rage or admonition of my mother.
Though I initially despised the opening-up of Facebook to the masses, I now enjoy connecting with friends and family around the world, which would not have been nearly as easy without Facebook.
The changes that have taken place on Facebook are quite remarkable. When I first signed up on the site I could only view my own profile page and those of my friends. There was a message wall on profile pages, but you were only allowed to post one profile picture and there was no option for posting photo albums, let alone videos, invitations, or any of the multitude of options that are available these days. We were able to create groups, which also had a simple page, but once again we were not able to post anything elaborate.
The first major change that I noticed was when TheFacebook became, simply, Facebook. I remember returning to my dormitory from class one day and dutifully signing onto my account when I was notified that I only had to type www.facebook.com into my browser. I distinctly remember thinking, “Great! This will save me time by not having to type three extra letters!” It was like having a drug dealer move three houses closer to my home!
Another early change to Facebook was the ability to post photo albums. At first, an album was limited to only 20 photos, which jumped to 60 after a while and then to 200. Now there is no limit to the number of photos you can attach to an album. When I traveled to New Zealand in 2006, I was only able to upload 60 photos in an album. Since I spent several months in the country and took hundreds of photographs, I was forced to create more than a dozen photo albums. I love that I am now able to post as many as I please.
Facebook users that have joined only in the last few years would be surprised to know that the ubiquitous “Feed” that greets us every time that we log on was not originally on Facebook and its addition to the site created outrage.
Facebook users cited privacy concerns and upsetting the status quo as reasons to protest the change. I attended a protest on the campus of UC Berkeley (one of many protests across America) where I held a sign that stated, “Don’t force FEED me anything!” Though privacy issues are still a major concern, I have to admit that nowadays the “Feed” is the only part of the site that I view every day.
When Facebook added its “Timeline” feature, I initially reacted with the same revulsion to change that I felt when the “Feed” was added, but since I had weathered Facebook’s changes in the past, I knew that I could cope with this. Now, I quite like the design.
I’ve had an interesting relationship with Facebook over the past eight years, and I know it will continue for years to come. I don’t see how I can communicate with friends and family around the world on a daily basis without it. It has become an incredibly significant portion of my life and I am grateful for it. Though my praise for Facebook is fairly high, I wish my mother still weren’t allowed on it.