“Yes, it feels great to plan your life when you believe everything can turn out fine. But what about when you’re shown, again and again, how little control you have over everything? No matter what I do to try to fix my future, it doesn’t work.”
The first time I heard about Facebook was in 2006, the year I graduated from high school and began my freshman year at college. I was in Washington D.C., it was uncomfortably hot, and my friend would not stop talking about how fantastic this website was, how you could connect with all of your friends, share pictures, write on walls, join groups, and create your own profile. Ideal for those of us who were moving from one stage in our lives to another, leaving behind old friends and making new ones. The perfect way to stay in touch and keep tabs on those we’re no longer seeing every day. I made my page to appease her, but ended up just as Facebook-obsessed as she was. And now, nearly six years later, I still have my page, couldn’t quite imagine life without it.
But that is exactly what The Future of Us encourages us to do–imagine life without Facebook. Or, rather, remember it. Plopped into 1996, where Josh and Emma are in their junior and senior years in high school, both are happily ignorant of status updates, pokes, and (blessedly) Farmville, until an America Online CD-ROM arrives in the mail for Josh. When Emma installs it onto her computer, she finds her Facebook page from the future, where she is thirty years old and watching shows she’s never heard of on websites that do not yet exist. Josh, too, discovers his page, and when the initial shock wears away, they must grapple with the reality that each choice they make, present-day, has a tangible and unmistakable bearing on their future.
A blessing or a curse? I couldn’t decide. Oscar Wilde said, “The suspense is terrible–I hope it lasts.” But how about when you’re looking at your life, your future spouse, children, job, and home? Is it better to know ahead of time, and do what you can to try and tailor things to your seventeen-year-old expectations? Or is it preferable to walk blindly into your future, hoping for the best? Obviously, we are all charged with the latter option, and are thus spared the agony of having to make that decision. Josh and Emma, however, are pressed to act or not act based on the new information they find each time they refresh their pages, a source of stress that is only compounded by the strange tension between them, and their slowly fading friendship. Asher and Mackler have presented us with a cautionary tale, but one laced with hope–a reminder of the choice that we have, each and every day, to influence our future selves for the better. If that’s not a story you can ‘like’, I don’t know what is.
Rating: 5/5–For squirmingly uncomfortable moments that perfectly capture teenage drama, and reminiscent nods to the nineties that will leave a goofy grin on your face.
Recommended For: Anyone whose life has been affected in some way by Mark Zuckerberg.
The Future of Us, Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler, Razorbill (Imprint of The Penguin Group), New York, NY, 2011.