I belong to a cohort–the 40-somethings–that has a peculiar relationship with Facebook. It is a cohort that is entirely comfortable with computers, but which also has a memory of the courtesies and languor of the pre-computer age. We read a lot online, but also have newspapers delivered to our homes. We write e-mail as if we were born with the skill to do so, yet we wrote letters by hand until we were well into our 30s.
We don’t take Facebook for granted the way our children do, with their unthinking postings on each others’ walls, their casual use of the F-word on what is effectively a quasi-public forum, their postings of their own photographs in varying states of sobriety and decency. Facebook is a forum that we wish we’d had when we were much younger; so now that we have it in our 40s, we treat it with a certain self-conscious formality, a calibrated theatricality.
When we update our status, we don’t just toss off the update with a casual hack-hack-hack of the keyboard; we think before we type, pondering the effect of the status update on its potential readers, and pondering, also, its impact on our image. This is solipsistic, yes; but it is also consciously gregarious–or, better, consciously non-misanthropic.