It is well known that anything's coolness level drops in direct proportion to its popularity. It's why New York Times bestsellers are looked down upon while obscure, semireadable tomes are venerated as revolutionary or why whatever restaurant in which you're currently eating is inferior to one that hasn't even been built. Once a movement or activity reaches a certain critical mass, it's given a collective sneer and cast aside for something that's probably not as good.
Nothing is safe from this culling; Facebook is no exception. Change is on the wind, because Facebook has become a cultural phenomenon unlike anything ever seen on the Internet. Its membership could populate an entire country, which means it's now far too popular to be anything but lame. It's already something of a faux pas to talk about it in public, and soon even the knowledge that you have a Facebook account will be your social stature's funeral. The present now will later be past, as Bob Dylan said.
Here's how it will go down. In the next six or eight months, Facebook membership will collapse. Its disenchanted members, still needing an underground trendy social networking website, will search for the most insignificant thing to fill the void. But Facebook's monolithic power has pretty much squashed or prevented all competition. The gregarious elite will be forced to turn to Friendster, which is the only viable inane networking site left on the market (Myspace, although lame, still has something of a strong user base; it will thus not even be an option).
But because things move at lightning speed these days, and because these displaced pilgrims have been so completely assembled under a single organization and are poised to move in record numbers, the massive migration from Facebook to Friendster will cause Friendster to become socially obsolete within an unheard-of eight to 10 weeks, beating the previous industry minimum of three-quarters of a year for societal irrelevance to set in. The switchers will then be stuck in a situation unprecedented to modern society, having rendered their new vogue passAc in less than three months while having sworn off the old one irrevocably. For the first time in history, there will be nowhere to turn.
Several new factions will thus develop. Millions will return to Facebook, convinced that, as it's now publicly reviled and has fewer members, it is somehow a legitimate social tool again. A large group will remain on Friendster, believing that because Facebook's irrelevancy has made it once again popular, Friendster has regained its chic underrated status.
There will be a week or two where it will seem as if things have balanced out. An influx of Facebook members, many of them in the 12- to-13-year-old range whose parents have allowed them to get accounts for the first time, will further establish Facebook as a has-been, once-again, re-has-been (the young crop of newcomers will be of the dim conviction that Facebook is experiencing a resurgence in popularity, unaware that their own enlistment into its ranks is both the reason and the downfall of that very resurgence).
The second downfall of Facebook will cause executives and advertisers to believe that Friendster is poised for a third comeback. Advertising prices will skyrocket on Friendster, and only the most commercially dominant companies such as Target and Wal-Mart will be able to afford banners. This appearance of White America on what was just days before a reinvigorated underground website will bring about the final downfall of Friendster. A wave of suicides will sweep the country, both from the triple-jaundiced Friendster users and the disillusioned neo-Facebook crowd whose only choice now seems to be Myspace, which will have limped along through this crisis by virtue of its own mundane qualities. Needless to say, the fact that Myspace is a quiet but stable presence on the Internet will make it superannuated among these digitally homeless social networkers.
When the dust settles and the bodies are buried, only Myspace will remain. Its users, having convinced themselves that they're unaware of the turmoil that's been going on around them, will become aware all at once that they're the undisputed kings of the social Internet. If we're lucky this will only result in most of them going insane and being committed, but I'm afraid that another wave of hara-kiri is entirely possible. Myspace will finally topple, its advertisers pulling out in waves while its membership numbers drop, having been ousted by its own unwanted and unplanned relevancy.
It will be decided by the survivors of these self-induced purges that simply being on the Internet is modish. Once the Internet, too, has suffered the ignominy of being widely used solely as a convenient means to an end, and the final ranks swallow bleach in their own humiliation, all of cyberspace will perish.
And then? Where will we stand united in hipness? My money is on McDonald's, but let's not count out Kinko's or Pier One. There are some things that cannot be foretold.
Daniel J. Payne is an English major at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Opinions expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Style Weekly.