Study Guide

The Future of Us Facebook

By Asher, Jay and Mackler, Carolyn


Facebook is pretty much the biggest deal of all in The Future of Us. It represents two things: Emma's and Josh's futures, and the ways people communicate. Let's break it down.

Time Machine

In Facebook, Emma and Josh find themselves a portal that takes them fifteen years into the future—through Facebook, they can see ahead and glimpse into their futures. And importantly, thanks to Facebook, Emma and Josh can see their present actions reflected in the future; things change then based on what they do now.

But while we might be thinking that this ability to see the future means that Facebook represents the importance of the future, this is decidedly not the case. For all of the ways in which Emma and Josh are super different from each other (more on this in the "Characters" section), they have one key thing in common: They both need to learn how to check into the present. And what helps them both realize this? In different ways, the answer for each of them is Facebook.

Josh leaps into his future, immediately pursuing Sydney, whom Facebook tells him will be his wife down the road. And Emma begins constantly tinkering with her life, all in the name of getting her Facebook profile to look the way she wants it to.

Josh comes to realize, though, that while he may have thought his future with Sydney represented a dream come true, this actually isn't the case—he's just not that into Sydney once he gets to know her. And Emma ultimately understands that the future is something you build by opening yourself up to the present—the future isn't the point, it's the byproduct of a meaningful life now. As Emma says, "Maybe my future self really did need to focus more on the life around her. Maybe it'll help make things better" (62.11). Which brings us to our second point.

Communication Breakdown

Josh and Emma struggle enough with communication. In his go with the flow approach, Josh is pretty passive when it comes to what he wants, but Emma's even worse, so let's concentrate on her.

In 1996, Emma can't break up with her boyfriend—this is obvious from the first sentence of the book: "I can't break up with Graham today, even though I told my friends I'd do it next time I saw him" (1.1). And this problem doesn't stay in Chapter 1. Nope, Emma doesn't dump Graham until way later in the book.

She also doesn't know how to fix things with Josh, whom she turned down romantically, nor is she capable of picking up the phone and calling her dad to thank him for giving her the computer that's changed her life. At the rate she's going, do you think she needs Facebook to better her communication skills?

Let's jump ahead to the future: Emma's in a marriage she doesn't like and uses Facebook to complain about it. A lot. For example: "Can't even afford a decent therapist" (5.27). Sure, she may have found a way to voice her complaints openly—but is anyone really listening? And if they are, is a status update the same as a conversation with a friend? We're thinking the answer is no on both counts.

Facebook, then, represents communication that comes up short. Future Emma may be airing her dirty laundry for all the world to see, but we never get the sense that she's really doing anything about her life. Add this to the fact that 90s Emma places too much value on the communications she's receiving from her future self via Facebook, prioritizing tweaking her future over investing in her life in the present, and Facebook comes to represent a sort of miscommunication. Words are being shared, but their value is being misconstrued all over the place.

Come Together

With all this said, it's no wonder that when future Emma deletes her Facebook account, things really start falling into place for Emma and Josh in the 90s. Having both realized how much the present matters, Facebook falling away only encourages this investment for each of them. And as they both settle into the here and now, their communication with each other really picks up: Finally, they're ready to acknowledge their feelings for each other, and see where they might take them.

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