Today, my little brother turned seventeen. This is a big deal. He can drive and now has an age-specific magazine to which he can properly relate in times of need, like a long distance BFF.
I felt pure enjoyment from reading the posts on his Facebook timeline. A lot of people wrote, “happy birthday bro,” which made me feel like a proud older sister–“bro” is probably the male equivalent of the female “babe,” meaning guys who have man-crushes on my little brother have written on his wall and yes, after all these years, he is a well-liked chap.
Writing on someone’s “timeline” for his or her birthday is the perfect thing to do when you have a man-crush/girl crush (as aforementioned), or even just a general crush (to whom you don an extra !! at the end of your birthday wish. Maybe he’ll notice me now!!!!!). Before Facebook, happy birthday’s were said the old fashioned way, like when passing someone in the hall even if you weren’t super tight.
But Facebook has added a new dimension to the birthday: it’s kind of like receiving a million cards; it gives you something extra with which you can measure how great your birthday was; it gives certain people no excuse not to say happy birthday because of how easy it can be to just say it, thereby allowing you to use your birthday as a way to gauge the legitimacy some of your relationships. (Then again, should we really be gauging the legitimacy of our relationships based on a Facebook wall post, or lack thereof?)
I’ve spent whole birthdays waiting to see if a few specific characters, let’s call them, reach out to me. And then the birthday is over, and they either haven’t reached out or they have. At this point, I can either pat myself on the back and be like, “you’re definitely the bigger person here,” or I can pout and hope they send a regretful text the next day, which they usually do.
I am intrigued by the way we use Facebook to extend warmest wishes on the anniversary of one’s birth. There is nothing greater than birthday collages, or when you see wall posts from one best friend to another even though they’ve obviously been speaking since the clock struck midnight. Still, we love the extra gift, free of monetary cost, yet with invaluable social cost, that Facebook gives us each year.
That all being said, I rarely use Facebook to convey birthday wishes.
It’s great for girl-crushes, it’s great for people whose phone numbers I don’t have but wish I did, and in my eyes, that’s about it. The last Facebook photo collage I made was for my best guy friend and included photos of us making strange faces on a camel in Israel. In that case, it was, as they say, irresistablé.
My most important question as of recent: Is it better to make a wall post, or to not say “happy birthday” at all?
There are pros and cons to each type of birthday wish, from Hallmark card in the mail to Instagram comment to text to phone call to Facebook message (yes, it holds a different weight than a Facebook wall post). “Happy birthday” isn’t really about wishing someone another year of beautiful life, preferably processed with VSCOcam C1 filter. It isn’t even really about what you say–well, unless you’re giving me extra exclamation points or a <3 or a “babe”. It’s about how you say it.
Since podcasts are so trendy these days, I decided to make one. Well, I was assigned to make one. But I made one (and it might end up on here, undecided as of now), and it’s about all the stuff you’d expect: social media, breaking up, hookup culture, young lurv.
In my interviews, I asked a male friend if he still Facebook stalks his exes. The answer was ‘yes,’ and if you’re wondering, as was everyone else’s, but he justified his tendencies with the following excuse: Facebook puts the people you interact with the most all over your newsfeed and at the top of your chat list. Stalking, therefore, is unavoidable.
Technically, he’s right. It’s hard not to stalk people you’ve been involved with or are involved with because their faces are front and center on the screen. But before I could grant him a free pass for stalking, I knew I needed to do the research on my own. I had to figure out exactly how Facebook does this–what they consider in their “algorithm” and what I need to do to make certain people’s photos go far, far away.
The first thing I did was take to Google. “Algorithm Facebook uses to order your chat bar” and “How Facebook decided who comes up in your newsfeed” were probably too wordy and therefore unsuccessful. The larger problem, though, wasn’t in my diction. I genuinely believe there was wasn’t, or isn’t, a solid answer out there.
A few articles mentioned that Facebook declined to comment, numerous times, when asked for the variables in its magic algorithm, an algorithm so magical you’d think it was a Baked By Melissa recipe. Nevertheless, many have speculated. They think it has to do with the following: who you’re geographically near to, which is freaky, who you have the most tagged pictures with, recent friend acceptances, who you chat with both recently and frequently, and a slew of some other things I’m forgetting but you’d probably be able to figure out, anyway.
And because I know you were wondering: apparently, none of it has to do with who’s looking at your profile constantly. Apparently.
Unsatisfied with my findings, I thought I’d make up my own list of ways Facebook orders your chat bar.
1. Your hookup/boyfriend’s best friend is always on there. (However, there is a rational explanation for this and it could be because he sometimes messages you from his friend’s account, or his friend messages you to find him.)
2. Not people you have messaged recently, but the one person you usually don’t Facebook-communicate with who messages you three weeks ago asking something very random but specific.
3. People you have recently texted but not messaged via Facebook. Which is weird. But happens more than it should.
4. Three to five boys from high school you used to be close friends with but rarely, almost never, speak to anymore.
5. The president of your sorority.
6. A few people who you never communicate with but stalk on a daily basis.
7. Completely random people because the people you stalk aren’t stalking you in return and Facebook just feels bad for you and doesn’t know what to do about that.
8. Friends of friends. Similar to the friends of boyfriend theory but slightly different. Like you two aren’t friends at all but share a best friend. You probably have never even met before because you’re from different places and go to different schools. “But, like, if you two met, you’d absolutely love each other!! OMG!!”
Have you ever looked very small, but not like skinny small, just disproportionately small, against a colorful outdoor landscape? Like someone shrunk you and dropped you off in Google Earth HD?
Have you been fisheye lensed without complete distortion? Just slight distortion so we know you still are pretty but are standing in front of a funky camera?
Have you starred in Beyoncé’s “7/11” music video?
Have you ever been skiing in Colorado? Do you do cool tricks? How about skydiving? Have you been strapped to the back of a Swiss man named Romain, kind of like the lettuce, and fallen through the sky at frightening speeds over the Alps?
Well, golly gee, you must have a GoPro!
I love something I don’t understand, and that thing is the GoPro. GoPros are meant for “high action” endeavors, which is why you see so many people with GoProfilePictures (see what I did there? eh? eh?) of themselves SUPing (stand-up paddle-boarding). You can attach them to a helmet. This is good for me, because I really should be wearing a helmet more often and this is a great excuse to do that. So maybe I should get a GoPro.
Side note: I love that the GoPro is called a “Hero.” Like, “Hero 4.” It’s like an action figure for grown men.
The other day I was having a conversation with someone about the difference between a GoPro and a selfie stick, a difference the other person didn’t quite understand. The GoPro is an actual camera that you can buy a more expensive, more official, selfie stick for, and you get to call that selfie stick a tripod and pretend it’s not a selfie stick. The actual selfie stick is different–you attach it to your phone and have a lot of fun with it when you aren’t worried about looking like a Times Square tourist. Hence, another reason we love the GoPro: it turns selfies into self-portraits. We can all be Frida Kahlo if we try hard enough.
In the beginning of high school, everyone got these big, fancy Canon and Nikon cameras for Hanukkah, like Gretchen Weiners and her gorgeous gold hoops, and brought them to “parties” and to “photoshoots” on Fridays after school. The photos were beautiful. I mean in terms of cell phone, all we had to work with back then was a Blackberry. You so easily forget how shitty its camera quality was. And the Blackberry flash–don’t even get me started on the flash. But I do miss my Blackberry. RIP. So the DSLR was a sweet, sweet remedy for an aged profile picture.
Now, we only take photoshoots in secret. You know what they say, or at least what my mom says, and it’s that it takes a million photos in order to get one good one. And then that one good one goes up on your Instagram. Group photos, tho. GROUP PHOTOS, THO. That’s a whole different story that the DSLR does not lend itself to.
The GoPro is extremely conducive to capturing college life–a life in which (too many?) things happen in groups. It’s just as conducive, if not more, than the DSLR was to capturing our virginally innocent ninth grade Fridays. Today, Facebook is no longer about proving to the world that we finally have boobs. It’s about proving to the world where we take them. How effin cray cray life is. How much fun we’re having.
GoPros, in a strange, magical way, make everything look more fun. It’s partially because they’re able to tag along in situations that were previously unphotographable. Now, nothing is sacred. No moment is un-GroProable.
So literally, pics or it didn’t happen.