Filling In The Blanks: The Completely Unnecessary Facebook Bio Box

Illustration for article titled Filling In The Blanks: The Completely Unnecessary Facebook Bio Box

When you're a kid, you're allowed to change your mind: green can be your favorite color on Wednesday, but it's perfectly acceptable for you to have declared your loyalties to blue by Thursday. In adulthood, however, picking favorites is trickier:

Though picking favorites seems to be a fairly childish endeavor, it is an act that shapes one's identity through a lifetime, giving both friends and strangers and insight into one's tastes and, to a certain extent, personality (or an attempt to appear to have one) via a chosen set of music, clothing, films, etc. But it's not just our public devotion to something that gives others a view into our private lives; it's also our public dismissal of things we used to hold dear. The advent of social networking has made the act of declaring—and then dropping—favorites an incredibly public one: bands you may have claimed undying loyalty to on your Facebook page in 2007 may eventually become an embarrassment of sorts by 2010, and when you make a change to your "likes and interests" it's a quiet way of admitting to everyone on your friends list that you've made a personal change—if even a slight one— in how you view the world in general. There is a strange fluidity of identity that comes along with social networking: we are able to change our favorite things with a click, constantly evolving as the years go by, even if the basic structure of our profile stays the same. And though it may seem as easy as switching from Team Green to Team Blue, it requires an effort that reminds the user of the person they were when they first listed a certain band, or book, or film, and there is a bit of letting go required in dropping old loves and declaring one's devotion to something new. You can change who you are and how you view things, both online and off, but you have to physically erase your past before you can move on.


But the "likes and dislikes" section doesn't seem to phase everyone, it seems: writing for the New York Times, Aimee Lee Ball argues that the most daunting, and perhaps revealing, part of one's Facebook profile is how they choose to fill the "Bio" box, which is simply a blank space, designed to let the user tell their own story however they choose. "There's a big yawning hole in the section labeled Bio," Ball writes, "There's no pull-down menu: the format is fill in the blank, every man for himself."

The Facebook bio, more so than any other section on one's profile, tends to be the bumper sticker of social networking, where people throw out cutesy little one-liners or "inspirational" quotes or, occasionally, reminders that they are ~*A PrInCeSs FoREvEr AkA MrS. CuLLEn*~ or what have you. It's somewhat hilarious, for a site designed to celebrate self-awareness/self-absorption, that so many people have trouble coming up with two lines to describe themselves, due mostly to fears over how others will perceive their own view of their lives. Nobody is going to be totally honest: it's just like listing your favorite things, in that you filter out the embarrassing parts in order to present what you consider to be the best version of yourself.

Maybe the problem is that the Facebook bio is unnecessary: if someone (who is most likely already your friend), is reading through your list of likes, religious views, education and work info, and viewing every picture ever taken of you since birth (you know who you are, picture people), they probably don't need a paragraph summation of all things you. Or maybe the problem is that we're so wrapped up in listing things to speak for us, via our "likes and interests" that we're not really sure how to identify ourselves without referencing the work of someone else. Or maybe we're all just sick of ourselves and tired of having to list our life stories, and everything that fills them, as an online friendship advertisement. The upside is that whatever you leave in the box can always be erased, which is very good news for the 8 million MrS. CuLLenS, who will surely have a new story to tell whenever the next sparkly heartthrob comes along.

So what say you, commenters? Do you have a hard time filling out online bios? Care to share yours?

[Facebook Bios: Truth Or Fiction?


Remedios Varo

Thanks for finally giving me the motivation to change mine. It now reads, 'Do they smoke grass out in space, Bowie, or do they smoke AstroTurf?' Gold star if you know what that's referring to.