So hey, we’re at like Peak Facebook right now, I guess.
Which is crazy to think about because FB came out like just as I was getting into college.
I remember getting my NYU email at some point over the summer or something after HS graduation.
And you felt super kewl cuz you were one of the first people to be able to use Facebook.
We were definitely the first FB generation.
And so in a lot of ways we are also the most confused generation like.
We’ve been late to every party.
But we were also too early.
Like the 90s was like the final hurrah for the simple life. And it was a great hurrah man. Like, in school, they taught you the American Dream and you believed. IDK, I was totally bought in.
The Berlin wall had just fallen.
The good guys had won.
And the good guys were awesome.
And you just like, couldn’t wait to grow up to be one of the good guys.
But now the American dream is dead.
Now we have peak Trump and peak China.
Because little did we know, we were super late to that party. It was basically last call. Maybe time for one drink.
And yet we were way too early for the party that would come next. Because after the simple life came the technologically complicated life.
With the simple life, stuff was, well, simple. And this is something Vahe was just talking to me about this morning:
“Just wrote a note in my diary contemplating on these things. The gist is that as they say money brings out the colors in people, in other words it enlarges your freedom of choice.. similarly technology and dating apps pretty much do the same.. as the other saying goes, with freedom comes responsibility. We’ve been defined by our limitations and circumstances for ages.. we didn’t really have the burden to make a choice on major things and now suddenly we’ve been given the freedom but we luck the wisdom to make the choices”
With the simple life, we had very limited choices. You could get the Ford Model T in any color. As long as it was in black.
And such is human nature, given only one choice, you’re pretty happy when you make that singular choice. When you only have one choice, you know you made the best choice possible.
(And this is sort of an economics principle, too. I forget the name of it, but basically, if you have too much choice, you actually make a lot less moves. You’re less likely to buy. You freeze. You’re stuck. With too much choice, you make no choice at all.)
That was the simple life, pretty much. You could only watch movies they played at your local theater. You could only listen to songs on the radio. You could only date the girl from you small school.
But we pretty much just missed that party. Like that’s pretty much how you grew up, but it was never enough. Because the next party was about to start. You knew that party was coming. So the party you were at was never going to be good enough.
The next party was the Facebook party. Before you had 15 friends, if you were popular. Now you have 1500.
But we were also too early for that next party because it was just starting.
Because the kids that are growing up these days. They’re the ones that will truly be able to extract the true benefits of these technological advancements. Because the kids these days already know wsup.
We were really the guinea pigs.
We were the newbs waiting in line to use the first iPhone.
Which was kewl, but also super limited.
And we would also be the ones that would bear the brunt of all the downsides that these new technologies would inevitably bring to fore.
We’re still grappling with the consequences of all of that.
We can have everything, but what we’re learning is that we still have nothing.
But anyway, it’s all part of the process.
As Vahe explains:
“What happens is you gain the wisdom to choose the limit, the one that’s right for you, and when you go back you’re happier then before the freedom. If I never had girls and I get married I may have problems later on but if I had an abundance of woman it will be much harder to make a choice, but when I do, I will be more likely to be happy than the guy who didn’t have the options (well unless I get married out of insecurities or whatever)”
Which is also sort of where I find myself in my own life.
I grew up in the suburbs, couldn’t wait to get out. Couldn’t wait to get to the big city and have all the options in the world. Couldn’t wait to log onto Facebook.
And after a dozen or so years in places like NY and SF, I find myself back where I started, back in the suburbs. Back to the simple life.
But this time, it’s different.
This time, I’m OK with it.
Because this time, it was my choice to make.
Anyway, the reason I decided to write today because all the Facebook stuff reminded me of a piece I wrote six years ago.
I remember like, before I wrote this piece, I still didn’t feel like I was a writer or whatever. Like I was just a guy pretending to be a writer.
But after this piece, I sort of felt like a writer. Like, I could tell someone that I was a writer, and I didn’t feel like a total fraud.
(I still need to get that feeling with making videos.)
I remember at the time, I called this piece my magnum opus.
I just had a good feeling about it the entire time I was working on it, which was about a year in total.
And then when it came out, to have those good feelings validated was exactly what I needed at the time, like it was featured on all the kewl tech sites at the time, like The Verge, Gizmodo, Techmeme, BBC, I forget.
I remember interviewing Bram Cohen at the time, the guy who created BitTorrent.
But he basically brings up that very theme about being too early or too late.
Back then, it was still Facebook’s time.
(Incidentally, Bram’s latest project is some crypto thing. Which sort of says it all, no? Another perfect encapsulation of being too late and too early in my own life. I was too late for finance. I joined a bank literally months before the 2008 financial crisis. And I got into bitcoin literally as the first ASIC mining rig was developed.)
This is what I wrote about Facebook at the time:
Since it launched, as Facebook made tweaks to privacy settings – with the presumption that privacy standards were changing – users were largely kept out of the loop, learning of privacy abuses after the fact. They were like the proverbial frog in the pot of water, slowly coming to a boil. The frog jumps out if the heat’s turned up too fast. But if it’s turned up gradually, the frog never notices, and stays in the water until it boils. Except the anecdote is fallacious. Most of the time, the frog notices.
I guess the frog finally noticed.
Anyway, you can check out the full piece here. (Or maybe not, since it’s like 8000+ words. And IDK if longreads are kewl anymore.)
Top photo: Me on Facebook since forever.