Ever since its launch way back in 2004, Facebook has been touted as a tool to help you ‘stay connected’ with friends, as well as making new ones. In fact the website itself claims that its mission is to ‘give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected’ . However, I would argue that it often does the exact opposite of this – if anything, it can often disconnect us from the ‘real world’. Equally, it can give us a rather distorted and twisted view of it.
For example several people post status updates that are self-deprecating; a typical ‘woe is me’ declaration clearly intended to bait sympathetic comments from friends in response (‘I’m so useless’, ‘I’m so ugly and no one loves me’ etc.). Even if these are genuine cries for help from people suffering from depression, Facebook is probably not the best channel to seek guidance from! There are also posts similar to these that are vague enough to prompt the ‘What’s wrong’ or ‘Are you ok?’ responses, which the original poster will generally respond with ‘Nothing, don’t worry about it’ or something to that effect – when of course they really mean the opposite and intend it as a cue for the concerned private messages to start flooding in.
Whatever happened to simply calling a close friend when we are feeling down? I feel the ‘Facebook method’ is akin to simply shooting your problems and worries carelessly into a fake, virtual world where the responses will not necessarily be sincere. Of course, a real friend would simply call you or get in touch upon seeing such a post, but why not reach out to them first instead?
Facebook can also fuel a lot of passive-aggressiveness between so-called ‘friends’. All too often I see posts that are clearly about one person in particular, the words dripping with venom and resentment. But are these people named specifically? Of course not. But you can bet any money that it will be someone on their friends list that they have fallen out with for one reason or another. And this will no doubt elicit a similar response from said ‘friend’, again no names being mentioned, but those who know both parties will smile to themselves knowingly and sit back and watch the drama (popcorn is optional). And so it will go on and on. Could these issues not be worked out by simply sitting down together and talking things out, instead of childishly lashing out at each other over cyberspace? Of course they could. But it seems people would rather use Facebook as a ‘shield’ of sorts so they do not have to deal with these problems directly. It has become a playground for childish passive-aggressiveness for people probably too scared to actually say these things to the person’s face.
Facebook can also potentially deal a massive blow to someone’s self-esteem. It can be all too easy to scroll through your news feed, looking at the ‘wild’ parties and nights out that your friends appear to be having – possibly causing resentment because you weren’t invited, or that you’re just sitting at home all alone looking at their great time. You may also have friends who go on holidays a lot, and post several photos of their great adventures (particularly annoying if they post the dreaded ‘holiday feet’ pictures); again, this may cause you to feel inferior as you toil away at your samey everyday life. If you are going through a dry spell socially or financially, looking through your Facebook will surely only deepen your malaise. There is also an interesting study conducted by a researcher from the University of Bergen in Norway in 2012, ‘The Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale’, which yielded some intriguing results. It was found that ‘…people who are anxious and socially insecure use Facebook more than those with lower scores [on the addiction scale] probably because those who are anxious find it easier to communicate via social media than face-to-face.’ It is quite alarming to think that Facebook could be seen by some as a ‘quick fix’ for social anxiety, or fuel an over-reliance on internet friendships where the only communication is by text on a screen. Addiction to social media in general could be indicative of deeper problems in someone’s life.
Facebook can potentially be a tool of self-destruction as well – it lets us see things that we wish we hadn’t. For example, it is incredibly easy to look up any ex-partners and see what they are up to – of course this is far from being a good idea, but the temptation to do so may prove too much, especially if the break-up is recent. Particularly painful if they have found someone else. Facebook makes it all too easy to find out this information – it is something that we weren’t able to do once upon a time (and our mental health was probably better for it).
The thing is, this idea of your friends having a better time than you is probably in most cases an illusion – you are just seeing the ‘highlights’, or ‘best bits’ if you will. They will still bear the same stresses and problems of modern life that you do – and as mentioned before, these often rear their ugly head on Facebook too on occasion. But the ‘best bits’ generally dominate your news feed. In a sense, with your Facebook profile you are basically portraying your ‘ideal’ self. We all do it – we only put our best photos of up, or we tinker with them in Photoshop to an inch of their life. It is perhaps not the most accurate representation of what someone’s life is really like. The fact that most probably spend more time crafting this idealised version of ourselves rather than using the messaging function to keep in touch shows that Facebook doesn’t exactly do much to enhance social interaction. If anything it is crafting a shrine to yourself where the amount of friends is simply a number to boast about on your profile page.
We also apparently find it all too tempting to sit there and peruse our Facebook on our smart phones – even if we are already supposedly out with a friend and ‘socialising’! Even if one does include a friend in this activity, it will generally be to point and laugh at another ‘friend’s’ post and badmouth them behind their back. Because of these reasons I would argue that Facebook strays extremely far from its intended mission statement; thereby diminishing social interaction rather than enhancing it; though this may be more to do with those who use it rather than the site itself.
What are your thoughts on this? Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments 🙂
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