My Week Using Facebook Like It’s Still 2010
That was hardly surprising. The last time I got any meaningful engagement on the platform was probably in 2018, and even then it was still well into its decline—the days of pokes, FarmVille, and writing casually on your friend’s wall replaced with the occasional life update and a tidal wave of bad memes and misinformation.
Maybe that’s why the idea of posting the status “in a weird mood today!!!” in the year 2020 tickled me so much. The status would have fit right in with my Facebook presence 10 years ago, when I was using the platform to complain about AP Statistics and post song lyrics aimed at my ex boyfriend. Now, as we face an election for which Walmart braced by briefly removing guns from their stores, the idea of treating social media like a playful hobby rather than a cesspool of QAnon conspiracies is a hilarious escape from reality that I could not resist. The looming question: Is Facebook too far gone, or can it still be used the way it was supposed to be in 2010?
To get started, I had to set the stage. I updated my profile picture for the first time since 2016, and my cover photo since 2014.
But there was one profile update that I was really dreading: requesting to be in a relationship with my boyfriend. We have been together for two years and living together for about four months, so it’s not like the gesture was going to be too forward or sudden, but it is precisely the type of Facebook activity that has fallen out of vogue with my peers. But I did it, earning likes from both of our parents and a “goddammit” from my boyfriend in the comments.
I then compiled a checklist of essential 2010 Facebook activity.
A key thing about this experiment is I didn’t want to make it seem like I was ever joking or posting these things ironically. I wanted to sincerely use the app how I imagine it would be used in 2020 if it had the same status (hehe) as it did in 2010. I kicked things off by tagging myself at a local restaurant, at which I ate with two friends. Only one of them still has Facebook, and I tagged her in the status. I expected to receive a text from her two hours later with a screenshot of the activity and a “?” but after a week she still had not said a thing about my unusual behavior. When I texted her to find out why, it turns out she just had never once logged into Facebook.
One person, however, noticed my activities right away.
“I see you made your annual FB visit LOL,” my mom texted me when I changed my profile picture.
She reached out again when I posted my first status.
“This reminds me of high school,” she captioned a screenshot. “Who’s logged into your FB?”
I ignored her (sorry, mom), mostly because I didn’t want to give away what I was doing, but also because I was busy trying to figure out how to make FarmVille work. In 2020, the popular Facebook game that dominated your notifications sadly looks like this:
Notably, when you start playing now, it promises it won’t post to Facebook without your permission—something longtime Facebook users are well aware was not originally the case. Luckily, you can still do it manually:
I also invited about 20 Facebook friends to play with me. At time of publication, not one of them has accepted. That’s their loss, because FarmVille is getting shut down at the end of the year.
One thing that you can still do? Poke people. Facebook does not make it easy—I had to watch a YouTube tutorial to figure it out—but it turns out we all have a poke dashboard. I had a bunch out outstanding pokes from 2013. Naturally, I poked everyone back, and sent out some more for good measure. People loved it! I got at least four pokes back, probably because you’re given an option to do so as soon as you get the notification. I also finally got a reaction from someone who was not my mom:
(It was my friend, Hannah.)
The problem with conducting this experiment during a pandemic is that I’m not really doing much that can be documented. But this past week I had plans to go out exactly once, and use the opportunity to check off two more tasks: make a status about what I’m doing, and upload an entire photo album of pictures taken at one event.
Everyone I was with hated this. It was dark and cold and I had a zit on my forehead. I remember when I used to literally beg friends to upload the 100-plus pictures they had taken of our night out the next morning, and now if I get tagged in a Facebook photo I assume it’s in a picture of discount sunglasses posted by a friend whose profile has been hacked.
“Wow I forgot what it felt like to see a photo of yourself so bad posted to the internet that you started to question your entire life and purpose on this earth,” my friend texted after my album featuring her appeared online.
I then tried writing on a friend’s wall, playfully wishing them a belated happy birthday (his birthday was two months ago). The post remains untouched, and he has not said anything to me about it IRL.
I was getting close to finishing this experiment, and was disappointed with how little anyone seemed to notice it. I started posting even more recklessly. I went searching for a quiz that I could take and then share the results of, landing on one that claimed to determine which D’Amelio sister I was. I got Dixie and no one cared.
So when it came to my final task—post a song lyric as my Facebook status—I knew I had nothing to lose. I decided to post the very lyrics all my peers were posting back in Facebook’s heyday in hopes of jogging some kind of Pavlovian response:
Reader, it received one pity-like. Even my mom had stopped caring.