All your friends, flames, and enemies are on Facebook. And now, you can buy all of these people presents—gift cards for coffee, cake pops, champagne, and pencils. It'll all ship straight to their door. Why would I want to buy things like this?
Because it's a visible public display of generosity, and it'll make you look awesome.
Facebook invited members of the press to a bubbly and hors d'oeuvres packed gathering at FAO Schwarz to kick off the official launch of Gifts. Maybe it's because it's almost gift-giving time, and our minds naturally drift toward images of grotesquely large teddy bears and nutcrackers. Or maybe it's because FAO Schwarz is a perfect icon of conspicuous consumption, immaculately matching Facebook's new strategy of conspicuous donation. It's brilliant.
The whole process is easy. Go to someone's wall. Now, where before you could only share words and pictures, you can share things. All kinds of things. Things to eat, things to drink, things to hold, things to stare at. Hell man, give your friend a Hulu Plus subscription, the champagne of video streaming. It doesn't matter.
What's in this deal for you—and that's why we're here, after all—is that your gift will be an entirely public affair. That's right: as soon as your credit card transaction goes through, your generosity is plastered across hundreds (thousands?) of news feeds, declaring you—YOU—to be a person who gives gifts. A giver. Irrefutable proof that you think of someone other than yourself. It's a strange doubling-back of Facebook's normal purpose—giving us all a humongous mirror.
And the best part? You can be a cheapskate and still look terrific.
An anecdote: While stomping around Facebook the other night, I found myself on the Timeline of a dear old college friend. I don't see her often. I noticed the new, rosy red Gifts icon. Click. Total impulse.
Facebook suggested I get her a $5 Starbucks gift card. Why the hell not. I picked from a litany of pre-programmed sentiments, deciding on "Just Because." There's also, of course, "Happy Birthday" (you'll stand out in the crowd!), and the ever-useful "Sorry" (perfect for damage control!). But will anything make you look more magnanimous on the Internet than buying a gift—even a cheap-o one—for zero reason? No, nothing will. Just Because. Pick that.
If you're particularly shameless, you can even donate your gift to charity on someone's behalf.
Your gratification will be immediate. It'll pop up on the recipient's wall, for all their friends to see. It'll show up in the feeds even if nobody's looking at their wall. Your gesture will be witnessed. People will Like it. Nobody will know that the entire thing took you maybe two or three minutes—even less time if you have your credit card number memorized.
Nobody will ask if you put a lot of thought into the gift (you didn't) or whether you even customized the card (you needn't). All they'll see is a gift from you, to someone, for no obvious reason. Your esteem will rise, and you won't have to break a sweat, because Facebook has streamlined the entire process of generosity into something rote and clickable.
Flirting used to take effort. Reminiscing used to take effort. Giving people stuff used to take effort. Looking like an all-around decent person used to, too. [Facebook Gifts]
User Manual is Gizmodo's guide to etiquette. It appears as if by magic every Friday.