People want to share these developments. And their friends and acquaintances don't want to miss out on happy news, or gossip, or vicarious presence at an event, or even mini-scandal or unexpected tragedy. So they keep coming back to Facebook, many times a day, to disseminate news and to receive it, and to decide whether their own life is proceeding at an acceptable pace. But what happens when the pace of "newsworthy" change slows down? When the career is established, the marriage is either stable or long over, the kids are grown, and seeing friends means dinner and a streamed movie rather than late nights drinking with camera phones out? Does Facebook start to feel depressing, like drawing on your dorm room white board during Thanksgiving break, or as if it has lost its purpose, like People magazine after Princess Diana?
In Joan Didion's essay on coming of age in New York City, she wrote:
I remember once, one cold bright December evening in New York, suggesting a friend who complained of having been around too long that he come with me to a party where there would be, I assured him with the bright resourcefulness of twenty-three, "new faces." He laughed literally until he choked, and I had to roll down the taxi window and hit him on the back. "New faces," he said finally, "don't tell me about new faces." It seemed that the last time he had gone to a party where he had been promised "new faces," there had been fifteen people in the room, and he had already slept with five of the women and owed money to all but two of the men. I laughed with him, but the first snow had just begun to fall and the big Christmas trees glittered yellow and white as far as I could see up Park Avenue and I had a new dress and it would be a long while before I would come to understand the particular moral of the story.
Years later, she was still attending the same parties, "all parties, bad parties," and only looking back was she able to appreciate her mistake: "You will have perceived by now that I was not one to profit by the experience of others, that it was a very long time indeed before I stopped believing in new faces and began to understand... that it is distinctly possible to stay too long at the Fair."
Imagine 7 years spent living in a college dorm, or 15 years spent attending the parties you went to in your twenties. Now imagine yourself perusing a Facebook stream daily for a full 25 years.
Doesn't that just feel like too long?
I wonder how many of you will agree. It's impossible to say right now. The popularity of Facebook among older people today doesn't really tell us much. Like everyone already grown up when social media came along, they experienced the addicting novelty of remaking long-lost, far-flung connections while in between tasks at work or waiting for the onions to caramelize. People who grew up with social media all along will experience it differently in middle age.