Entertainment

When Teenage Facebook Becomes Adult Facebook

Hold the fairground mirror of your peers up to your ageing process. You're welcome!
Lauren O'Neill
London, GB
Both images via Pixabay (left / right)

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

Now that we live our lives online, there are loads more ways to remind ourselves that we're constantly screeching ever closer towards death. Timehop shows us all the shit we used to talk when we were young and gorgeous and moronic, and the speed that Twitter and Instagram move at are a handy reminder that time waits for no man, woman or viral dog video.

More than any other platform, though, we have Facebook to thank for showing us that life passes us by exponentially faster the older we get.

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Last Monday, I #logged #on to Facebook, and a cursory scroll through the timeline showed me that at least three people I'm friends with had got married that weekend. They had committed themselves to people they loved for the rest of time, while I was hungover and committing myself to a packet of Linda McCartney sausage rolls. While it wasn't the first time I'd seen someone my age post about their wedding (if you've not been there yet, I'd just like to wish you luck for your impending existential crisis x), it was more the sheer volume of people doing Real Life Shit that made me feel like something important had important: Teenage Facebook had become Adult Facebook.

For lots of millennials in the UK, Facebook is the online space which reminds you about people's birthdays, alerts you about stuff you might want to go to, and functions as a place for you to talk and post about the major events in your life (obviously there are also still the lads who join Simpsons meme pages and enjoy having rows about politics underneath VICE articles). That's what it's there for, in the same way that – generally – Twitter is for jokes and Having Opinions; Instagram is for making everyone think your life is exciting when actually you're destined to spend most of it lying on your sofa watching Gordon Ramsay programmes until you die; and Snapchat or Insta Stories (rarely both) are for flirting, because of their handy DM feature. So it is written.

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It makes sense, then, that the life events shared on Facebook will morph from status updates about A-Level results, to photos of graduations, to wedding anniversaries. In my experience, over a few years in your late teens and early twenties, the two kind of dribble into each other as everyone gets older – and, again, the kid who once ate the eraser off the top of a pencil in primary school becoming a father is a unique and humbling reminder of time's endless march.

Millennials are probably the only generation for whom this phenomenon will be relevant. Mum Facebook is massive, of course, but boomers couldn't access the site growing up. As millennials were the first age group who could, it's more ingrained in our habits – though our ways of using it have changed, with most of us advancing from "Lauren O'Neill Liked the page 'Bus Wankers XD'" to "Anyone know a good moving company? – Lauren O'Neill is looking for recommendations" (I will admit, however, to recently giving "Catholic Memes" a swift and hearty thumbs-up).

It's probably Facebook's deep-rooted presence in our lives that has led to millennials becoming the largest proportion of the site's user-base, while uptake from those younger than us is low: only 7 percent of active Facebook users are aged 13 to 17. And while its way of illustrating our age in a fairground mirror of our peers might be replicated by other platforms used more by younger demographics in the future (maybe in a few years, my counterparts will be writing about how people keep Snapping the births of their kids or whatever), Facebook's specific functions make it a potent vehicle to bring about a crisis of ageing, if you're in the market for one.

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We use Facebook to announce the important stuff in our lives, because being able to do so is literally embedded into the site's fabric in a way that it isn't with anything other platform we use. There's no tool to tell your Instagram followers that you "Got Married" or "Started Working At—Your New Job" – you just have to do your own post about it. In turn, Facebook makes it easier than anything else for us to see people we've known since school collecting the gold rings of life like Sonic the Hedgehog, and if you feel like you're lagging behind a bit, that can be sort of terrifying.

One of the major criticisms of social media is that it puts users in a state of constant FOMO, and the creeping emergence of Adult Facebook in our lives only dials that up further. If I'm not getting married (or even within 500 feet of anything like a relationship), like apparently everyone else on my Newsfeed, am I fundamentally unloveable? If I'm not moving to a different country, am I just a boring, unadventurous shit now? How the fuck are any of you lot buying an actual house? Obviously, the answer to all of those questions is: "Shut up, everyone's different, there is no homogenous way to be a person," but it's still easy to feel swept up in what everyone else is doing, whether you're recently married and secretly envious of school friends who've gone travelling, or on a grad scheme and posting "forever alone" memes while you eat dinner in bed.

Regardless of where we're at, at some point Facebook becomes an endless scroll of people who used to have shit fringes and post statuses about Skins (you included!) growing up and crowdsourcing places to take their kids at the weekend. There's good and bad in that – we stay connected to people we otherwise might not still know, though we also inevitably feel like we're missing out – but, ultimately, it's also the logical conclusion of a medium that has seen us through a lot of our lives.

Feel old yet?

@hiyalauren