Facebook, undisputed king of social media for years, has been more or less the same way for a long time. The ubiquity of smart phones, the Facebook app, and access to 4G or LTE data has coagulated the experience into one that has remained remarkably similar in a fast-paced internet ecosystem.
It didn’t used to be that way. Facebook was originally a social media website for college students, and you had to have a university email ending in .edu to join. After its immense success, Facebook slowly opened its doors more and more, allowing high schoolers to join and even some hip adults.
When I joined Facebook in the summer of 2007, the site had already went through multiple iterations. It had rapidly acquired millions of users by that point. And in 2008, Facebook rolled out a major new redesign. The name ‘New Facebook’ will send shivers down your spine if you were an active user of Facebook at that time. It was a cataclysmic and highly divisive event.
Facebook, like all social media, is a digital scrapbook. Part of its fun is going back and reliving what happened. But unlike scrapbooks, which stay the same once they are completed, Facebook changes, morphs, evolves. None of it is in your control. And as such, the rapid alterations can and do leave behind vestigial pieces–appendixes and wisdom teeth and dude nipples–things that don’t matter now, even if they used to, and things that are forced to the periphery by the forces of Zuckerberg.
It is these pieces that are the true nostalgia of Facebook, ghost town elements that were once something but after countless redesigns barely function if they do at all.
I was looking through my groups, managing notifications on some of the new ones I had joined, when I truly recognized the extent of this. Seven years ago, Facebook essentially eviscerated groups created before 2011, when they mandated that groups be transitioned to the new format. If you didn’t, your poor group wouldn’t continue to function.
But while they didn’t functionally survive, they technically survived. They’re now ghosts. Distributed among the legitimate groups of which I am a member are these ghosts.
I vaguely remember creating a page called “The horn is the best instrument ever” and inviting my horn friends to join. It is entirely empty. I am the admin. No posts survived.
Apparently, my 16-year-old self though joining a page called “Sorry to burst your buble, but it’s ‘Merry Christmas'” was a good idea. I am the admin and only member. Eight posts from 2007 still exist, somehow.
My high school debuted a ‘Health and Wellness’ policy which took away many of the sweets and snacks from the vending machines. Of course there was a group. Four complaints litter the ground of the discussion tab. I am the admin. One other member technically exists, but it looks like he has since deleted his Facebook account.
A few more exist. Some groups from college, with actual members. Some without admins, Facebook pleading with me to become an admin to ‘help the group thrive.’ Some groups which revealed that friends of mine had defriended me for reasons unknown.
I’ve found that there are two types of nostalgia, and while both including pining for something that you can’t have again, the point of view between those types is entirely different. One type is happiness that the event happened. The memories have color, sounds are sharp, and they are almost alive.
But these broken Facebook groups force you to remember memories through the second type of nostalgia. This nostalgia is aware that those moments are dead. You will never experience them again. To remember is your only tool in accessing those moments, and if the tool you use to remember those memories purposefully breaks them, what’s the point?