With the launch of the new iPhone 5 today, everyone is in an Apple-induced euphoria, so I figured this might be a good time to talk about personal communication. The iPhone, and cellular phone technology in general, have shaped how we communicate with our friends and family, from the gradual elimination of the land line to the increase in texting as a legitimate form of contact.
But what about Facebook? Yes, I know, we all love to hate the social media giant. Their stock offering was basically a bust. They still don't know how to leverage mobile networks like the iPhone. And it can be annoyingly pervasive in the way it is used and the way the company views privacy. But millions still use it every day and the end result is a complete alteration in the way we handle our most fundamental personal communications.
5. The New Photo Album
It's hard to imagine a medium more dramatically affected by technology than photography. From the proliferation of cameras and specialty apps that turn your phone into a Polaroid, virtually everyone has a picture-taking device and none of them use film. As a result, all those digital images need to go somewhere and many, many of them end up on Facebook. Now, families can almost instantaneously share in the joy of a newborn child and friends can be annoyed by images of diamond engagement rings. And all these images are stored in a virtual photo album that gives friends the chance to relive memories and perverts the opportunity to look at your cleavage.
4. No More Little Black Book
I remember the address book. My parents had one sitting right by the phone in the kitchen. Most of us carried around smaller versions of these for business or personal use. The "little black book" was a staple of pop culture denoting phone numbers of potential and former dates, or, in the case of Heidi Fleiss, famous men who slept with her call girls. Now, phones and computers store all this information, but Facebook is the ultimate repository, especially for friends with whom you might share a casual acquaintance that doesn't rise to the level of phone number. Finding and contacting them is as easy as scrolling through your friends list.
3. Tell Your Story to Everyone at Once
Important announcements like engagements, pregnancies, divorces, deaths and the like have never been shared so quickly or publicly as they are on Facebook. Often, friends wouldn't find out about an engagement of a friend or even a death for days or even weeks after it happened. Sometimes, you had to read the newspaper. Now, it shows up in your timeline. Of course, so do the crazy political rants, the motivational wall posters, the invites to play various online games and the daily minutiae of every person you have ever known.
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2. The Ultimate Events Calendar
Remembering birthdays was once a complex and awkward exercise. Not only did you normally have to know well in advance -- you know, to send a card through the mail -- but, if you missed it because you weren't paying attention to your calendar, the explanations could be uncomfortable. Facebook wisely puts birthday announcements front and center. It even automatically reminds you about upcoming birthdays, so you have no excuse. Then there is event planning. Getting dozens of event invites every week is frustrating, but having one place to share those things with others is priceless.
1. Redefining the Nature of Friendship
Perhaps the most interesting change brought on by Facebook has involved the social part of the social network. For years, people thought it was odd that I had friends I had never met in person (or IRL for your nerds). It was like having a massive network of pen pals (look it up, youngsters) I spoke to through messages online. Facebook has legitimized the idea of virtual friends and is redefining what we think of as friendship. Now, we can talk to people from across the globe as easily as we talk to a next-door neighbor and seek help -- a buddy of mine from Australia, who I have never met, has provided computer and IT support for me on numerous occasions. This is something that has been going on among geeks for many years, but Facebook has made it normal.