It’s a Sad Pseudo-Reality: My Profile Is Me

It’s recently come to my attention that, in the online world, only the fittest survive — meaning the portly wildebeests of the herd (me) will inevitably get trampled by User 12.0 and his gang of network-savvy junkies.

Everyone’s favorite online distraction used to be a simple blue-and-white screen that symbolized the leap to college coolness — or so I thought. But earlier today, I signed onto Facebook to see a jungle of iPhone app-like shrubbery barricading the page’s unfamiliar borders. Whoop-dee-doo, the Facebook team redesigned the site again — fitting almost enough group invites, status updates and fan clubs in one screenshot to make me minimize Firefox in defeat. Now that I think of it, let’s not forget the weekly spam from hacker-happy predators who change our statuses to something like, “Kelsey Marrujo is … Hey friends, check out this sketcharific link!”

This is not what I signed up for. Facebook was just supposed to make me popular with my dorm crowd so I could avoid becoming the girl who eats a Plaza burrito by herself. But what snuck up on me — and probably many more naive freshmen of yesteryear — is that online identities became almost vital to our social recognition. (That doesn’t go for our parents’ generation, which should never, ever resort to playing Farmville … OK, Mom?)

As much as I hate to admit it, it’s true. The Internet is making us its bitches. Not only does it possess us to trade valuable homework and outdoorsy recreational time for a few more refreshes of our news feeds (cue Disney villain theme song: “It won’t cost much … just your voice!”). It also traps us in a world that’s kind of real, kind of fake — much like reality TV — forcing us to get to know both the Internet egos of our friends along with their everyday, slightly less glamorous 3-D personalities.

I’ll sacrifice myself for sake of example. When my roommate of three years and I get into one of our quarterly bitchfests, I’m never sure when it’s safe to wave the white flag and crawl back into our room. So what do I do? Sadly enough, I check her Facebook status to see if it has a negative or positive connotation. Something about looking forward to tomorrow? I’m in the clear. Something metaphorical about how she wants to rip up nearby objects? Time to brace myself.

Back in the day of Xanga blogs — don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about — all I had to do was spit some Internet slang (“wtf,” “lol”) and select an emoticon that best illustrated my mood to be a part of the fun.

Now, it’s all about projecting a whole other image onto a tech-hungry crowd that wants to know whether “It’s complicated” between me and Johnny, or if we’ve finally stabilized our relationship.

Fortunately for the world, not everyone has the time and energy to keep pace with every little revolutionary update. I, for one, have yet to succumb to random “Fan Page” invites, even when everyone’s notifications keep popping up to inform me — and the rest of the Facebook population — that my RA from Matthews has encountered a lonely black sheep on his land. Well, good for him. Now he can brag to his virtual neighbors about it, kill one of his virtual livestock animals and have a virtual feast.

We signed up for Facebook to make friends in a new place, but instead of becoming more outwardly social, some of us now rely so heavily on online networking that we’ve become nocturnal hermits.

It’s cool to be a part of the online community, and I have to admit that being able to keep track of people — a Facebook-friendly euphemism for “stalk” — through tagged photos is quite a perk. But Facebook and its sister apps keep adding every possible combination of new feature (think 2011: Facebook’s virtual Taco Tuesday, complete with friends’ avatars in your bar of choice) to keep us hooked. And it’s getting a little too virtual for me. I’m not saying I’m about to forgo my online ego and completely slip off the radar, but maybe I’ll try to skip the login every once in awhile and take up a good noseful of real-live La Jolla fog. Because even the most introverted of UCSD nerds know how to enjoy a good beachside stroll — whether it’s “socially dead” turf or not.