For the last few years I’ve been strongly fighting peer pressure to join Facebook.
From its introduction to the mainstream about 5 years ago I’ve had my suspicions about this website but I hadn’t really got a good enough argument, except that I had a feeling that there was something wrong about it.
But eventually, 4 months ago, I gave in, with the reason that my assumptions about it all were based on theory not experience, just like those who criticise books they’ve never read. So I swallowed my pride and took the plunge and set up a Facebook account, albeit in disguise as a bag of rice with a false name.
Privacy is an issue for me so I ignored all the sections available to input my interests and hobbies and ignored the random requests for friendships from friends of friends. Then I had to write my first status update.
What would I write? It had to be something ‘cool’. Something witty that would ingratiate me to my new public.
Unfortunately I did not record this audacious moment, but I do remember getting enthusiastic enough to post about 4 or 5 things in succession, unaware of the unsaid etiquette of not posting more than one or two things within a few hours of each other. Eventually realising this rule I rationed my posts, saving interesting videos for the next day if I’d already just posted something.
One of the things I came to notice about Facebook is the amount of information that is presented for ingesting. I ended my Facebook life with a modest 14 friends, which meant I wasn’t inundated with too much information – in fact I was left a little hungry at times – however, I can imagine for someone who has 200 friends, or for one of my ‘friends’ who had 2000 friends, the amount of information one is presented with, each day, must be astounding. The question is what happens when we are confronted with such an information glut?
What I found was that information lost its depth. Something was posted, watched, maybe commented on then it was quickly lost as the next mouthful of information was thrust in my direction. I quickly concluded that Facebook is not the best place to inform anyone of anything meaningful. It’s a good place to share cute kittens and weird fat men dancing to techno. Anything deeper is often taken equally as superficially as the kittens and fat men because it all merges into one constant stream.
Another affect I found that Facebook had on me was changing the way I thought.
I found myself thinking a lot about Facebook, even when I wasn’t on it. What was I going to write next? How would I write it? Who would be impressed and how could I impress the most people? From this I’ve discovered that I do not have the personality for using Facebook in a casual way.
Some people can use Facebook in a casual, light way, but I currently possess an extremely fragile ego that needs tons and tons of recognition and acceptance from my fellow man for me to feel good about myself. And I crave attention. This of course is an unhealthy way to exist and the task that is at hand for me is to break this habit and feel happy enough in myself to not need this esteem. Facebook, however, is like nicotine. But it’s not like a strong B&H, it’s more like a silk cut ultra, and I found myself going back and back for more to get the hit I wanted and knew I could get if I just said or did the right thing. In fact I did get a good hit at one point by posting an animation I made. And just to get every last ounce of juice I could from the praise I received I went back several times to look over the comments that people had left.
Facebook is bad news if you need the esteem of other people to feel good about yourself – which, it seems, could be nearly everyone in western civilisation.
Facebook is also a con. It is not a social networking site, not anymore anyway. Facebook wants to know what’s on your mind so that they can advertise that very thing back to you.
It’s a ‘focus group’ on a phenomenal scale. Like vampires, the marketers feed off our updates and shares so they can better understand what it will take to manipulate us into buying things we don’t need. There is a way you can turn the adverts off but sometimes the pages won’t work properly.
In fact unless you do everything Facebook says they will make it very difficult for you to use it. One of my friends had the experience of his interface changing to Timeline without his permission. There was nothing he could do, it seems, except submit to this new way of using the network. In another anecdotal incident a change in group settings ‘dictated’ (their word) that the user perform a labour intensive task that didn’t have to be done before. This is internet dictatorship.
Even in my own experience as I deactivated my account they wouldn’t let me go without telling them why I wanted to leave. And when you do want to leave Facebook uses guilt to try and keep you hooked, showing picture of friends that will ‘miss you’. How absurd and creepy! The fact that my account is never deleted, and I can always reactivate it just by logging back in, should send huge alarm bells off to us all about a more sinister intent of Facebook.
I’ll be strong enough to resist reactivation I hope because I believe that Facebook is an unwholesome way to communicate and is detrimental to the way we interpret reality and connect with each other. It encourages superficiality, narcissism, self-obsession, snooping, judging, takes up huge amounts of time and dramatically increases time spent on the internet, and it give the impression that you are staying in contact with friends, but because of this illusion I found that I actually communicated with them less, opting instead for sharing status updates that revolved around me.
Of course, just like any drug, it has its upsides and there are useful functions, but we survived for millions of years without it and its overall effect, in my opinion is a detrimental one.
We need to deeply consider the effects of this new way of communicating. It certainly makes things easier but is that always a good thing? And what will the consequences for our relationships be if we continue to use this very superficial way of connecting with others?
Thank you for reading.
P.S. Pass this on the old fashioned way if you found it interesting.