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Is Facebook Ephemeral?

Date posted: January 25, 2011

I was in Chicago for my cousin's wedding, and I had the occasion to have a pleasant lunch at the Palace (term used loosely) Grill on Chicago's Westside with an old friend. 

Chicago's Westside neighborhood was once the most dangerous area in Chicago–and that's saying something. Today, while not gentrified, it certainly is a more pleasant place. Time changes things. No one questions whether or not neighborhoods are ephemeral. That's their nature. They change–for better or worse. But what about social networking sites like Facebook? Is Facebook ephemeral? Or is it a permanent community that will span generations–surely evolving–but always there, like the Westside of Chicago, through good times and bad? 

While I'm on Facebook, my lunch companion couldn't understand why anyone would waste their time with it. Is Facebook like the CB Radio craze of the 1970s–a fun way to twist technology into a social networking pretzel? Will we look back in twenty years and laugh at how we all had Facebook pages like CB "handles," or will Facebook have grown into something so powerful that we can't imagine life without it?

In 1990, I remember telling my mom that I thought the Internet would be the most revolutionary communications tool to ever exist. That it would be an essential part of our lives from hence forth. In response, she said she couldn't think of one thing she could do online. Even today, she rarely ventures online, but if you asked, she probably would agree that I was on to something in 1990.

But that doesn't mean everything online has permanence.

And so, I wonder, is Facebook ephemera?