12 years ago today, the world was an incredibly different place: Barack Obama was just an Illinois State Senator who had yet to deliver the Democratic National Convention address that made him famous; Shrek 2 was the year's most popular film; and I personally was deeply invested in getting my chunky-highlighted fashion mullet to look just right, so that it complimented my one-strap tank top and weird ruffly mini-skirt (which I was presumably then going to wear to a Franz Ferdinand concert). But one of the biggest differences between life 12 years ago and life today is that Facebook had only just been invented. The social network, then known as "thefacebook," was only available to Harvard undergrads, and featured none of the news, emotionally-loaded "like" buttons, or weird friend requests from some guy who wants you to like his documentary about beard-warmers that are par for the course today.
Sure, Facebook has social media predecessors, like MySpace, Friendster and (god help me) Makeout Club. But Facebook felt different. Free of MySpace's Top 8-related drama and blinding Blingee GIFs, and free of Friendster's...wait, what did we do on Friendster again? Facebook represented a new era in social networking — a cleanly designed, intuitive space where you could easily catch up with friends, get really romantically fixated on someone you knew nothing about, or annoy everyone you knew by changing your preferred language to "Pirate."
However, Facebook is an ever-evolving creature, and it didn't get everything perfect right off the bat. Over the course of the past 12 years, Facebook has shed a number of features, most of them for the best (aren't you relieved that you are no longer asked to buy a gift card to celebrate the birthday of some dude you met at a bar one time?). In celebration of Facebook's anniversary, let's talk about eight things you'll never do on Facebook again — and the special places they occupy in our mental timelines.
1. Write On Someone's Wall
Before the age of Timelines and News Feeds, we just had Walls. Were Facebook Walls all that different from today's Profiles, where anyone can leave you a note? No...and yet, yes, they were.
Why did those time-stamped wall posts — and that other relic of the past, wall-to-wall posts — feel a little more off-the-cuff than commenting on a profile? I can't explain exactly why, but I will admit that I felt comfortable having in-depth public wall conversations about The Hills that I simply would not be happy to post on my Timeline today. The Wall was phased out for the Timeline in December 2011, and publicly BS-ing with your friends was forever changed.
Timehop: "It was so show offy...you'd be publicly inflicting your conversation on all your mutuals. It was basically like peeing on a friend." — Emma
2. Send A Facebook Gift
This goes for both virtual Facebook gifts — a.k.a. those little cartoon sock monkeys and candy canes that you used to be able to send to friends — as well as the actual real-world gifts that came later. Facebook began offering virtual gifts early on in the site's run, in 2008. By 2009, you'd get (debatably annoying) little reminders every time a friend had a birthday — letting you know that Mandy from summer camp (whom you have definitely not spoken to in about five years) will spend her special day catatonically depressed if you don't send her this cartoon drawing of a cake!
In 2010, the virtual gift application closed, and by late 2012, Facebook had swapped it out for actual gifts — so now, you were reminded that if you didn't buy her a $20 gift card on her birthday, Mandy from summer camp would almost certainly spend her entire party crying in her bathroom, as her friends screamed, "Mandy, let us in! What's wrong?! Tell us! We care about you!", to which Mandy would reply, "IT'S NOT ENOUGH!"
In 2014, Facebook got out of the gift business entirely — letting businesses now offer products directly on Facebook instead of acting as a middle man, and forcing Mandy from summer camp to buy her own damned latte instead of mooching off people who, frankly, aren't even positive they attended the same camp as her. Mandy, you damned GRIFTER!
Timehop: "The first year I was dating my boyfriend, Facebook tried to get me to gift him a DIGITAL BONZAI TREE." — Erin
3. Post Extremely Rowdy Party Photos
When Facebook was primarily a way for students to communicate with each other, the site was awash in party photos. What's a beer pong shot or 50 among friends, right? Then, of course, our bosses got on there...and our potential bosses...and our parents, and our parents' bosses, and, if we were very unlucky, our boss' parents. The mid-oughts saw a rush of news stories about recent grads losing out on jobs due to some iffy photos or status updates they had posted. Suddenly, Facebook was no longer a consequence-free environment in which to post pictures of yourself dressed for someone's "Dress Like A Sexy Snack Food" theme party; it was now just an extension of the real world, in which you were expected to behave yourself and not show people photos of the time you dressed as a very sensual pork rind.
Timehop: "You young people have no dignity." — my dad
4. List Bands, Books, And Movies You Liked On Your Profile, Rather Than "Liking" Them
Back when the focus of Facebook was more about individual profiles rather than the News Feed, many of us spent hours fine-tuning our lists of favorite bands, books, and movies, in order to craft the perfect reflection of our unique personalities/ increase our odds of getting laid by someone from our film theory class. What was the best Coen Brothers movie to list to convey that you were pretentious, but in a kind of fun way? How many Jack White side projects was too many Jack White side projects to list as your favorite bands?
But at some point, our highly curated personal lists of favorites were switched out with lists of things whose pages we had "liked" in the past — a cold wake up call for jerks like myself, who wasted entire months of their lives on their favorite movies list, only to see it all supplanted by a list of student films that, for the most part, I had never even seen.
Timehop: I did truly spend hours crafting my profile so that potential suitors would know I contained multitudes (a.k.a. liked Ke$ha but also Bauhaus). So I was aghast to find all my hard work washed away, traded for a list of every band who had ever asked me to "like" their page on Facebook.
5. Poke Someone
When Facebook began, you could barely make it through a day without getting "poked" by friends, enemies, and potential sexual prospects. It was basically the social media equivalent of riding the subway during rush hour.
The "poke" — a function that let you get another user's attention without doing anything so crazy as, I don't know, messaging them or liking their status or something — was somewhere between a joke and a legitimate come on for many users in the first decade of Facebook's existence, but while the feature still exists (though it took me about 15 minutes of concentrated work to find it on my own profile this afternoon), it's no longer a prominent part of Facebook culture.
Timehop: I just discovered, while researching this article, that my boyfriend poked me 57 times in a row in 2010, when we began dating, and I never noticed. So, I'm going to guess that poking stopped being really popular some time around 2010.
6. Play A Simulation Game
OK, maybe you're still playing these. I don't know your life/ relationship to virtual cows. But even if you remain devoted to your virtual Facebook farm, you know that things are not the same as they were in 2009, when a mania for FarmVille and similar simulation games turned Facebook from a place you went to spy on your exes into a place where people from every arena of your life were demanding that you sell them a piglet or plant some corn or something (can you tell I never responded to any of the game invites?). FarmVille and similar games held their spot at the peak of the Facebook app charts for several years, but today, apps like Pinterest and Tinder take the top spots.
Timehop: "My parents were both addicted to FarmVille. They became FB friends with total strangers so that they could be FarmVille friends with them, and would, like, schedule their lives around not killing their crops." — Wendy
7. Refer To Yourself In The Third Person
The original Facebook wall layout encouraged speaking about yourself in the third person with the prompt "[Your name] is...", which naturally lent itself to emo-style musings ("Lori is having a rough time right now," "Dana is waiting for a call that doesn't seem like it's ever going to come," "Mike is locked out of his apartment again, probably because NOBODY UNDERSTANDS HIM, MOM"). The status update prompt dropped the "is" in December 2007.
Timehop: "Edgy AF" — Kathryn, regarding the above status
8. Post A Super-Personal Status Update
There was a time when Facebook felt like a giant slumber party, or at the very least, a giant LiveJournal. When the only other people on it seemed to be friends and peers, it felt OK to post a rant about your most loathsome teacher, your most annoying boss, your weepiest feelings, or your passionate sexual urges regarding various members of My Chemical Romance — because no one who would have a problem with it was going to see it.
But as Facebook stopped just being for students, posting an unfiltered personal rant became less of an everyday occurrence —who needed to run the risk of having your "cool" aunt (who demanded to be your FB friend) telling your parents that you seemed a little "stressed out" recently? And to this day, most of us succeed in keeping our feelings to ourselves on Facebook (except during election season, a Bachelor finale, or immediately after someone has jostled us in line at the coffee place).
Timehop: "Personal statuses were my JAM. Every timehop is an unwanted visit from the ghost of emotions past for me." — Suzanne
Want to hear more about what it's really like to be a woman on the internet? Then listen to Bustle's new podcast The Chat Room:
Images: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, Giphy (6), Facebook