Author: Elizabeth Kimmelman-Schwartz, C’04
Last year, I had a meeting with a Penn student about an alumni project she was working on. Our discussion turned to how things have changed since I graduated from Penn even though it wasn’t that long ago. I told her what it was like when Facebook arrived at Penn for the first time, and she told me how helpful it was when it came to connecting with fellow students before college starts.
I told her, “Just wait until you get older. Facebook will start to get really weird. First, people start getting married. Then, someone pops up in your newsfeed who you haven’t heard from in awhile, his profile picture is a baby and you realize that the crazy guy you knew in college is a DAD.”
To which she replied, “Oh, that’s really funny, because when someone I know has a baby picture as a profile picture, I just assume it’s them as a baby!”
I’ve never felt older.
I miss the days when all Facebook was about was what classes you were taking, who your friends were and whether you were in a relationship or not. With growing up and living lives, it turns out that simple things like social networking become much more complicated.
First up on the complications list: names. I got married over a year ago and, ignoring the outraged feminist within, finally took my husband’s name at our one-year anniversary. However, my name on Facebook is Elizabeth Kimmelman Schwartz. Why? Because no one knows who Elizabeth Schwartz is! I barely know who Elizabeth Schwartz is! (Honestly, will that name ever feel like mine or not look weird to me?) How can I expect other people who don’t speak to me on a daily basis to keep my new name straight?
The name change thing has led to some confusing Facebook situations. Like, when someone pops up on my newsfeed and I think, “Who the heck is that and how did we become friends? Do I care about the fact that she just watched a “‘Clarissa Explains it All’ marathon on Teen Nick?” (Answer: Yes, I do.) Or, I get a friend request and delete it thinking, “I don’t know that person,” when in reality we were best friends in second grade and I really would have liked to reconnect with her. Imagine our volunteers who make facebook pages for their reunions! They can’t add you to their fun reunion pages if they don’t know who you are.
Ladies. I implore you. Don’t get rid of your maiden name on Facebook. The whole point of Facebook is to reconnect with old friends. How on earth will people find you if you don’t have the name on there that you’ve had for twenty-plus years?
Secondly, babies. So, while it’s weird to get a friend request from someone who you think you don’t know because her name is different, it is ten thousand times weirder to not talk to someone in awhile and then learn from Facebook that he or she is a parent or parent-to-be. Remember in college seeing that crazy guy in your class who would go shirtless to football games in forty degree weather, paint his chest red and blue and run up and down the stadium? And you’d find yourself wondering, “God, I wonder what his future children will be like?” Or, if you were in a meaner mood, “I am really scared for his future children.” Well, guess what? He has kids and you can learn all about them on Facebook!
The other thing about the baby factor is that your newsfeed becomes clogged with status updates about children, none of which a non-parent like me can relate to. It’s either about how hard it is being a parent, or sappy like, “My little angel smiled at me today and my heart burst with sunshine and rainbows.” I de-friended someone once who wrote intricate details about her child’s poop. Not cool, and I’m pretty positive if that baby knew what was going on (which s/he will one day) s/he’d be pretty embarrassed. Mark Zuckerberg – I’m telling you – start Facebook for Babies. BabyBook. It will be a huge hit.
Facebook started out as a fun place to stalk, to learn more about people in your classes, and to find fellow Penn friends in the different cities you moved to after graduation. But then life changed, and facebook changed right along with it. So, Penn students – enjoy this Facebook while you have it! Turns out, like most things about college, it’s not how the real world works!