Nine years later, acquisition of said social capital seems to exist for the 18-to-30-something set primarily on a virtual plane.
The question, of course, is: is this a bad thing?
My inner tree-hugging yet Web-savvy hippie used to think no. I marveled over the ability to connect with a diverse array of users from across the globe over common social ground, like the TV we watch or the headlines we had something to say about. But this constant injection of minutia, like what kind of cocktail my college friend is currently sipping or which Buffy the Vampire Slayer character some Facebook quiz has deemed my cousin's personality to parallel, now just seems like too much exposure, too much super-personal-information nonsense.
And yet still we're still buying into it. Perhaps because we genuinely enjoy it, but more likely because it feels our growing need for instant gratification and desire to soothe our rampant insecurities, fostered by our pitiful need to matter.
When you post trivial nonsense about what you're eating or watching, or how you're feeling, after all, and your virtual friends have something to say about it, it indicates that, to them, your life is noteworthy. Or, at least, online-comment worthy. When the constant updates stop, you risk no longer being relevant.
It's messed up — all the more so when you realize that even though you're constantly sending out your own press releases, you're hardly in control of your online MO. Especially now that everyone and their mother, and your co-workers, and your co-workers' mothers have signed on to tag "old school" photos of you, and tweet about the stained yoga pants you accidentally wore, forever undoing that cool-as-can-be persona you've spent so much time building up.
Hell, even my company is working its converged ass off to create a Facebook "identity" and wants me to be its friend. Goodbye, damage control. Somewhere, somehow, the ghost of George Orwell is having a hell of a laugh.
Goddamn it, all I want to do this weekend is get shitfaced and silly with my friends without having to worry about what people at work are going to say. Not because I'll be hanging out with them, but because, inevitably, somebody will post an unflattering picture of me on Facebook, and tag it with my name. Then I've got 'splainin' to do.
And forget about Twitter, the Internet's version of an irritatingly obsessive-compulsive town crier. You don't need to approve the people who "follow" your 140-character musings. So, an innocuous post about, say, weekend plans, can suddenly become fodder for discussion among strangers. It feels a bit like being caught naked in your apartment by a crowd of people who were able to waltz in, unannounced.
See what I mean about ruining my summer? Nobody can do anything without doing online damage control.
And we're just regular people. Be glad you're not a celebrity who has to put up with digital wildfire one hundred fold.
Try as we might, we're now too invested in Facebook and the like to just shut down our computers or, worse, delete our accounts. Were it not for social-networking Web sites, how else would we keep up with who from high school had babies or got fat or married, what events are happening around town, who broke up with whom, and who's going on vacation?