Death of the private self: how fifteen years of Facebook changed the human condition
In 2004, the social network site was set up to connect people. But now, with lives increasingly played out online, have we forgotten how to be alone?
‘Thefacebook is an online directory that connects people through social networks at colleges. We have opened up Thefacebook for popular consumption at Harvard University. You can use Thefacebook to: search for people at your school; find out who are [sic] in your classes; look up your friends’ friends; see a visualization of your social network.”
On 4 February 2004, this rather clunky announcement launched an invention conceived in the dorm room of a Harvard student called Mark Zuckerberg, and intended to be an improvement on the so-called face books that US universities traditionally used to collect photos and basic information about their students. From the vantage point of 2019, Thefacebook – as it was then known – looks familiar, but also strange. Pages were coloured that now familiar shade of blue, and “friends” were obviously a central element of what was displayed. However, there was little on show from the wider world: the only photos were people’s profile pictures, and there was no ever-changing news feed.