A couple weeks ago I made a pilgrimage of sorts.
I went to visit my longtime friend (favorite ex-college roommate) at her workplace - Facebook Headquarters, Menlo Park, the most expensive real estate perhaps in the entire nation.
I primarily went to reconnect with my friend, but part of me was also curious about the world I left behind when I decided to be a stay-at-home mom for the last four years. I always worked in SF, so a foray down to the tech capital would be novel, I thought.
What greeted me was a mishmash of elite college vibes, a lot of money, and a modern art museum.
Across their giant campus were many parking lots (filled to the gills with Maseratis, noticed the mom driving a Hyundai with a GIANT bird dropping on it, ugh) with valet parking and a premiere shuttle service linking each one. On top of each building was a rooftop garden perfectly landscaped to make you feel like you're walking through an Architectural Digest magazine spread, with an outdoor bistro on each, of course.
And parked in front of each building was my favorite feature, a set of shiny, light blue beach cruisers that employees used to bike to and fro on campus.
Inside each building was a giant open office plan and floor-to-ceiling glass walled conference rooms. There would be no jerking off in this place, you could be sure. I commented to my friend how, as a non-assertive introvert, this would be my workplace version of hell.
And hoodies. Lots of hipster hoodies with the white zipper flocking that you could buy for $19.99 at H&M.
My friend took me to eat at their gourmet cafeteria and bid me adieu at the end with snacks from their "snack room" chock full of organic, gluten-free goodness and drinks of every possible variety (it was seriously insane, think 7-11 for millionaires).
All this for what?
To prop up a social media empire.
But what is at the heart of this industry? What product is it selling? What service is it providing?
Connection. Connection? With "friends"?
And yet I couldn't help thinking of the article I read just a few days prior to my visit - about the link between social media use and depression. Not surprisingly, the longer a person is on social media, the more depressed that person gets. And it's CAUSATIVE, not correlative.
And we all know it to be true. Because lies.
Lies of omission.
A million status updates about baby births.
Only a handful about miscarriages.
A million status updates about weddings.
Only one that I've ever seen announcing a divorce.
A million pictures/videos of smiling kids.
None of a MULTI-HOUR meltdown.
A million beautiful vacation shots.
None of mundane office life or shopping at Walmart in elastic gray sweatpants with glasses and greasy hair (shut up, don't judge).
I could go on, but there's no need.
If you're marketing a substance that causes users to get sick, the FDA would pull you off the shelf. Is mental illness not as legitimate as physical harm?
At the very least, FB should come with a warning label: Being on this site for more than 10 minutes a day has been shown to cause mild to severe depression. Use responsibly.
Either way, being on the real FB campus was like being in an uneasy paradise. Like when a movie shows a happy scene with discordant strings in the background (think: Jaws). Something's off...but the grilled portobello mushroom steaks with balsamic dressing is amazing!
And in the end, the scene that stays with me is the wall of Latino and Black laborers in the dish-washing room being handed trays of dirty plates by White and Asian employees. A literal stainless steel half-wall dividing the races clear down the middle.
Now that's keepin' it real.