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Remember when you were in college and Facebook was this strange new thing that everybody was talking about? And then somebody would mention it in section, and the grad student TA would be all, “What’s this Facebook thing you kids are talking about?” And then you’d be like, “Don’t you know?”
People don’t have these kinds of conversations anymore, because Facebook is the biggest website on the Internet. (You had a nice run, Google.) On Thursday, Mark Zuckerberg announced in a rare Note on his profile page that his social network had finally hit the incomprehensible one billion user mark. (One billion! ) Attached to the bottom of the note — which is kinda weird and includes the churchy-sounding phrase "Today, we honor this tradition " — there’s a little video. It’s Facebook’s first ever ad, one that probably cost about a million dollars to make and it finally answers that nagging question: What is Facebook? Ever seen a chair? Facebook is kind of like a chair.
Try explaining that to your mom. Or that snotty grad student from college who’s probably spending half his day on Facebook now, doing statistical research on the sociological implications of social networking in the 21st-century. The video continues, “Doorbells, airplanes, bridges — These are things people use to get together so they can open up and connect about ideas and music and other things people share.” Still not getting the chair thing. When was the last time you were trying to round up some friends and were like, “Hey friends, come on over. I’ve got chairs.” Then again, who am I to judge? Maybe you do lean on Facebook for support in the way that we do when we sit. Kind of like how some people lean on whiskey.
It’s a weird metaphor, but weirder ones exist. Take this new project out of MIT, the Like-a-Hug coat. It’s a pretty ugly, vest-like thing that provides its own Facebook-powered support. “Like-A-Hug is a wearable social media vest that allows for hugs to be given via Facebook, bringing us closer despite physical distance,” co-creator Melissa Chow explains. “The vest inflates when friends ‘Like’ a photo, video, or status update on the wearer’s wall, thereby allowing us to feel the warmth, encouragement, support, or love that we feel when we receive hugs. Hugs can also be sent back to the original sender by squeezing the vest and deflating it.”
Facebook is like a hug factory? Whatever you say, scientists. I’d trust you over Madison Avenue any day.