Once upon a time, kids watched television instead of YouTube, listened to Walkmans and not iPods and played board games not Webkinz. “E-mail” was a “buzzword,” and perhaps just as notably “buzzword” was a popular term. “Cyberspace” was another — a term affirming the distinction between the Internet and the “real world.” This distinction is now obsolete.
Images are worthless if not digital, and musicians are unknown if not on iTunes. Google is not only a Web site, it’s also a verb: “to search for information about a specific person through the Google search engine.” Thank you, dictionary.com.
Facebook might not be a verb in the dictionary, but it’s in the vernacular (“Facebook me!”), and the site has transformed the lives of 80 million users worldwide.
Mark Zuckerburg founded “The Facebook” while a sophomore at Harvard University in 2004. He expanded the social network to high schools and dropped the “the” in 2005. The digital floodgates burst open in 2006, when anyone and everyone with a social life got a Facebook account.
Myspace.com has largely fallen by the wayside since then. According to the blog Stuff White People Like, post- Facebook Myspace went from a “virtual utopia to Digital Detroit, where only minorities and indie bands remain.” Not to mention 14-year-olds.
Note to college kids: If you have a Myspace profile, get rid of it immediately. People will call you trashy. If you have a Myspace and also a Facebook and perhaps a personal blog, this is also unacceptable.
You’re an Internet junkie. Go outside once in a while. The savvy E-socialite knows that Facebook is all you need, provided you do it right. The following is a no-nonsense guide to presenting yourself electronically. Name: If you’re paranoid about people tracking you down and are hesitant to list your full name, you shouldn’t have a profile. Resist the temptation to add anything prior to your name, whether an article (such as “The Albert Jackson III”), an adjective (Sexi Susan) or a title (Lord RanDell). If you must modify your name, consider Myspace.
Activities: Sorority and fraternity members should list their 20 sorority and fraternity as their first and perhaps only activity.
Interests: Many users list “My friends!” as an interest. This might seem to be a redundancy; isn’t everyone interested in his or her friends? But the purpose of Facebook is to remind your friends and your “friends” that you have lots of friends, so it’s acceptable.
Favorite Books: Many ill-advised Facebook users list “I don’t read” in this section. If you don’t read, reconsider your lifestyle. If you’re set on illiteracy, there are ways to avoid making this public knowledge. You can omit this section of your profile. You can also list a favorite picture book as a joke, such as The Adventures of Babar. It’ll make it seem as though you have a sense of humor and are young at heart.
Favorite Music: Be warned that music elitists will judge what you list here. Remember that your Facebook profile doesn’t necessarily need to reflect who you are but how you want to be seen. As such, you might not want to list artists such as Ricky Martin, Creed or Shania Twain. Some people answer “Anything” or “Everything but country” to avoid embarrassing specifics.
Favorite Quotes: If you want to give off an intellectual vibe, include a quote from Shakespeare or a well-respected author or a good president. If you want to be pop-culture-savvy, use a quote from Arrested Development or Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Funny quotes from friends, even if they make sense only in context, are also a wise choice — a cyber shoutout to your existent and maybe even witty friends.
Your Profile Picture: If you want to seem more artsy than the average Facebook user, you don’t need to be in your photo. If a picture of a teapot or a flower more adequately conveys your spirit, it’s an appropriate candidate.
Candid photos are always fabulous because they make it seem as though you weren’t thinking “This could be my new profile pic!” as the camera flashed. Looking surprised or disinterested also helps.
To Tag or Not to Tag: A student at Miami University who might run for office one day recently lamented the potential liability created by drunken photos. “Sometimes I’m like, ‘Christ! There’s a picture of me passed out in a bush on the Internet,’ ” he says. “But then I think about all the drunken photos of everyone I know, and I feel better.”
It’s true that some employers are looking at the Facebook accounts of potential employees, which is unsettling for some, like Mr. Bush Sleeper from Miami. But I would advise these kids to consider the fact that employers will look at your drunken photos later. You look fabulous now. Photos taken of intoxicated young adults also have a practical purpose, as my Miami friend points out: “How else would I know what I did the night before?” The Facebook photo phenomenon has transformed the way students party. Capturing drunken moments is nothing short of a competitive sport, and discussing the name of the upcoming Facebook album is appropriate while partying.
Good luck out there, college students and Facebook users. I have to go update my Facebook status. How else would anyone know that I’m alive?
BESSIE TALIAFERRO is a junior at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y.