I don’t mean to overhype this, but frankly I don’t think it would be possible to overhype something as huge and profound as what Facebook introduced yesterday, at least from what I gather reading the reports coming out of F8. Timelines. Open Graph. Apps. Music. Video. Bam! It’s all there and it’s all amazing and huge and life-changing and mind-blowing and nothing — nothing — will ever be the same again. It’s like Mark Zuckerberg is some kind of magic wizard from the future who came out onstage and pulled back a curtain and said, Here it is. Here is the future. I made it for you. I hope you enjoy it.
And now suddenly we are living in that future. That future which only yesterday was the future now today is the present. Just like we mark eras using BC and AD, now we will have BF811 and AF811. Where were you on Sept. 22, 2011, when the world changed? I, unfortunately, was holed up in my grubby little office in a small town in Massachusetts. Nevertheless, I will never forget this day. Never. Ever. How could I? This is the day when Timelines was introduced. Timelines! It is, in a word, profound. Deeply, profoundly profound, in fact. “Facebook Just Schooled the Internet. Again” is how MG Siegler put it on TechCrunch. Which is a pretty amazing feat, coming as it does just a year and a half after “Facebook Just Seized Control of the Internet” as MG Siegler wrote in April 2010. It is pretty amazing, after all, to seize control of the Internet. That was bad-ass enough. But to then school the Internet that you’ve seized control of? Who but Facebook could do that? Good Lord I have to sit down and just think for a minute because my mind is reeling …
Okay. Back now. Mashable too has explained the whole thing in its typical understated fashion, explaining the huge sweeping changes in an article called “Facebook Changes Again” and pointing out that all of its predictions, which were made an entire day before the F8 conference, had come true! Goddamn, do these guys have ESP or something? How else did they know enough to write, a whole day in advance, that citizens of the world should “Prepare Yourselves: Facebook to be Profoundly Changed.” Apparently they’d been invited to see the earth-shattering changes a day early, which enabled them to make a prediction, but nevertheless it is eerie how amazingly accurate their predictions were and how perfect their warnings now look in retrospect.
I for one took to heart the warning from Mashable:
On Thursday, developers will be elated, users will be shellshocked and the competition will look ancient. On Thursday, Facebook will be reborn. Prepare yourselves for the evolution of social networking.
I prepared myself. On Wednesday night I ate a light dinner and went to bed early, in order to get extra sleep for Thursday morning. Nevertheless, 24 hours later, my hands are still shaking. I’m unable to focus. No matter where I am, I am thinking about Facebook and the new, deeper connection that I immediately feel to everyone I know. It’s so deep, so rich and personal and dare I say, intimate, that the effect is almost overwhelming. It’s like Stendhal Syndrome, where you get overwhelmed by looking at a work of art. I am shellshocked. No, even that is too small a word. I sit and gaze upon the Facebook home page and my emotions begin to sweep and swirl. One moment I am elated. Then I’m struck by anxiety and panic, and want to hide under my desk. A minute later I’m sobbing, uncontrollably, at the beauty of what they’ve done. Why, Mark Zuckerberg? Why do you do this to me? To the world? You are not a businessman, not a geek, not an engineer — you are an artist, and your canvas is the human race itself, the collective hive-mind of modernity.
And all of the rest of the world seems shabby and dull and boring and ancient – just as Mashable predicted. Google, poor old Google, looks like ass. My brand-new MacBook Air, which only last week gave me joy unlike anything I’d ever felt in my life, now sits on my desk, just a dead, lifeless hunk of brushed aluminum. Everything, in fact, has lost its color. I go outside and stand in the yard and gaze up at the sky and I say, Why? Why, sky? Why do you look like shit? You look just the same as ever, just blue sky and white clouds. Why can’t you change the way Facebook changes? And my house, and my dog, and wife and kids — blah. Nothing. Nothing! They are all just the same, just old and tired and ancient and boring and completely lacking in profound beauty. So back to Facebook I go and just immerse myself in the magic. Ahhhh. So much better.
And I keep trying to think this all through. What are the implications when I can now listen to the same piece of music with someone else on Facebook? What does it mean when I can watch an episode of Breaking Bad that Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is also watching? How does the human brain begin to rewire itself to accommodate so much change in such a short period of time? Do national borders matter anymore? Can governments still control their citizens? How will science and medicine adapt to accommodate the new reality in which we live? Damn you, Mark Zuckerberg, you brilliant god-man, and at the same time, Thank you. Thank you for not just seeing the future but bringing it to us. My life, at last, has meaning, and I now find new reason to live.