1. The Honesty Box
The Honesty Box used to be an integrated feature of the Facebook interface. Activating your Honesty Box opened up a world of possibilities. It allowed bashful secret admirers to serenade you with romantic love letters. But it also made you susceptible to anonymous harassment from “jealous haters.” In reality, no one loved or loathed you enough to send either. And all you got were faux sex propositions from bored roommates.
Poking was every bit as sketchy as it sounds. And that’s why we loved it. My suitemate freshman year would basically scroll down a list of random girls that fit his (very broad) search criteria, poke them all one by one, and sleep with whomever took the bait. “Poke me like the Dough Boy!” was written as his favorite quotation.
Poking was a useful tool. It was almost like the “Missed Connections” section of Craigslist. Too drunk to get the phone number of that hot guy or girl you danced with for 2 seconds at the 18 and over club around the block from your dorm? As long as you knew their name, you could always look them up on Facebook and poke their brains out.
But nothing was more devastating than an unreciprocated poke. It was rare, because it was understood that reciprocating a poke was sometimes just a courtesy and if the person was truly interested they would have taken it to the next level and sent you a flirty message (i.e. second base). But sometimes you’d poke and the person would straight-up not poke you back. Burn!
Finally, who can forget endless poking battles with friends?
3. Wall-to-Wall Stalking
Once upon a time, Facebook allowed you to not only review the Wall-to-Wall dialogue history between yourself and one of your friends (yawn), but also the correspondence between two people you weren’t even connected with (score!).
This led to late-night wormholes studying the Wall-to-Wall history between the two hot WASPy party girls who lived on the floor above you like a private detective looking for salacious gossip. Unfortunately, those two girls weren’t quite dumb enough to journal public play-by-play accounts of their wild party antics, so you developed conspiracy theories and interpreted “you left your Diet Coke in my room” to be code for “you left an extra 4 grams of cocaine in my room.”
4. Sexual Orientation
When Facebook first started, it was a big deal that profiles enabled you to list your sexual preference. It was almost revolutionary for its time. Many LGBT folks used it as a vehicle to come out. In fact, a lot of people that I knew first found out that I was gay by stumbling on my Facebook profile. Granted I had already come out before registering for a Facebook account. But nobody cared so the news didn’t circulate via word of mouth like the flaming wildfire I had anticipated.
And back in the day, it was customary for everyone to explicitly list the gender(s) they were interested in. Only a handful of gays didn’t deign to list their sexual orientation. Usually, it wasn’t because they were on the down low but rather because they saw it as tacky and they were good looking enough to already be getting action IRL anyway so there was no need to advertise. I called them “fancy gays.”
While Facebook still has this feature, it is underutilized and most people just rely on stereotyping the rest of someone’s Facebook profile to determine their sexual preferences.
5. Free Hate Messages
Never mind anonymous harassment through the Honesty Box, back in the day you used to randomly wake up and log into Facebook to find a note from a stranger in Timbuktu that read “you’re ugly.” You would then rally all your Facebook friends to have your back and the random stranger’s inbox would get barraged with creative counterstrikes like “no, you’re ugly!” Now you have to pay a dollar to send messages to anyone you’re not directly connected with. This has unfortunately virtually eliminated hate messages from random strangers because what used to be a cheap thrill is now, well, a $1 thrill.
6. Grouped By University Network
Facebook used to display a list of all the schools you had friends at and the number of how many in parentheses. Am I the only one that used to judge people based on how many connections they had at Harvard?
7. Writing In Your Interests
Writing in your interests made it easier to set yourself apart because you could advertise your most esoteric hobbies, like “Plotting ways to kill Tara Lapinski.” Now you have to ‘like’ the Facebook pages of your favorite activities, which forces you to maintain a more mainstream identity.
As if Facebook didn’t cater to self-absorption enough, status updates used to always start out with your name plus the verb “is” after it by default. This meant you could not share information without phrasing it in relation to yourself, which was like an awkward grammatical challenge.
During this era, it is not possible that John Doe’s sister, Jane, is about to give birth. But it is possible that John Doe is excited to be an uncle! So after enduring 20 some-odd hours of labor, Jane’s life-changing moment is still about John.
9. Whatever I Can Get & Relationship Statuses
One of the many “Interested In” options we miss is “Whatever I Can Get.” We especially long for this extinct option because it wasn’t as slutty as “Random Play” but also not as prudish as just “Dating.” To top it off, it also had a playful self-depreciative connotation so you could pass it off as a joke when in reality you were actually being dead serious and would literally settle for whatever romantic or sexual propositions that came your way, even from the sketchy stoner on your floor who was everyone’s go-to for getting fake IDs.
Relationship statuses have also been ruined, mostly by people actually getting married for real. Gay bff’s used to have top priority and were always linked in the Relationship Status slot, even if a girl had a living breathing straight long-term serious boyfriend. But as soon as said boyfriend pops the question, the gay bff gets dropped like a bad habit.
Your gay bff will laugh it off to your face and assure you it’s no big deal, but behind your back they’re calling you a “sell out” and planning to throw some major shade at your wedding ceremony by showing up in an all-white dress.
10. The Absence Of Our Moms
Don’t get me wrong. I know plenty of “cool moms” who are about that life and have way more exciting Facebook activity than I do. But in general, these days I often log onto Facebook, see a bunch of links to serious political articles or sophisticated art gallery openings, yawn, and then quickly sign off saying to myself “Insufficient level of ratchetness…”
I blame the moms for this. Before our moms infiltrated Facebook, it was a sacred space with photo album after photo album of keg stands and drunken hookups with strangers that bordered on softcore pornography.
But perhaps I’m scapegoating our poor mothers. Maybe it’s those nosy hiring managers that turned Facebook into The Disney Channel by weeding out job candidates based off innocent documented debauchery. Oh how I miss the days when a majority of Facebook users did even have jobs to worry about.