Clay Allsopp

Growing Old on Facebook

Dec 22, 2012

There's an entire generation where every photo, message, post, idea between adolescence and adulthood is cataloged on Facebook. Just click on the most recent picture and tap your left arrow key to see.

Wrinkles vanish, beards recede, and bodies contract and expand into the past. There's all the embarrassing haircuts, forgotten friends, parties, love, heartbreak, it's all there waiting to be rediscovered. New moments pile up every day, just itching for our future selves to find again.

And more than the photos, there's also the way we talked, the jokes we made, all the effortless things that were once second-nature but now look a bit alien. Things we factually know we said, but for the life of us can't figure out how it came out of our mouths. Maybe for other generations these were glimpsed in diary scraps or old letters, but now it's just...there, on Facebook, digitally frozen in time.

You can message someone you haven't spoken with in years, and yet it visually flows right under some unimaginably unrelated conversation from 2007. And when you realize that exact numerical gap between the years, it stings a little. Reading how you've changed, how they've changed, and thinking about everything that didn't happen in-between.

These experiences and emotions are unprecedented. We're on the precipice of something new and unknown, but undoubtedly permanent, in the human condition. It was never this easy or this obvious to see how we've grown, or how our friends came and went out of our lives. We can reconstruct our past and evolution with such incredible detail, but at the same time there's just a tinge of sadness...

It might not forever be on Facebook or Twitter or whatever else becomes popular, but the progress of the internet will not cease. These pristine reflections of our former selves will live on in the tombs of archived data; they will outlive us.

Me, 2006, via Facebook

Me, 2006, via Facebook
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