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The Inadequacy of the Social Network

Facebook addiction by gladiator656

Facebook addiction by gladiator656

So, I just did something drastic.

I downloaded the SelfControl app on my Mac to help me wean off Facebook — up until 5 pm anyway. I did this so that I can focus more on my work, writing and all the other things I tend to ignore when I’m mindlessly clicking through Facebook accounts.

But that’s not the only reason.

I read a recent study about how teenagers actually hate facebook, but can’t seem to quit it. The majority cited the following reasons: “an increasing adult presence, high-pressure or otherwise negative social interactions (‘drama’), or feeling overwhelmed by others who share too much.”

This morning, a friend of mine messaged me urgently: “I discovered something creepy on Facebook”.

She then panicked and told me how Facebook settings allow you to see who people stalk, ie. whose accounts you are always lingering on, interacting with, or searching for. Facebook does this by logging your searches: if you look at your timeline settings,  the very bottom of your left column is a “search history”. This means Facebook has been logging all your searches — yes, even your ex’s profile, that guy you did a one-night stand with, and that hot professor you secretly have the itchies for.

Photo from Tech N Techie

Photo from Tech N Techie

She misunderstood the implication of this search thing, however, and thought that every time she visited someone’s page, the people they stalk are the first ones on their friend list. Immediately, I panicked — because this means that every time someone visits my profile, they can see who I stalk frequently.

Of course this is not the case — this will violate one of Facebook’s privacy rules after all, which prevents us from seeing who views our profile the most (isn’t that the single, most eternal essential question?). Instead, every time you visit someone’s page, you see who YOU stalk the most, meaning each page is personalized according to your most frequent searches.

But this is besides the point.

My friend thought that her boyfriend searched for these “hot” girls frequently, since they kept popping up on his friends list. Of course, the case really was that it was my friend stalking these girls. And this brought out her self-esteem issues, feelings of inadequacy and incompetency that is mainly the reason why I detest Facebook in the first place.

It’s that filtered version of people’s lives that Facebook advocates. Instead of the face-to-face conversation we used to have with friends to catch up on their lives, we get Facebook statuses, whose truth we can only suffice from periods, commas and capitalizations.

At least with face-to-face conversations, we can trace their hesitations within the words they aren’t saying — we get that from tone and body language. We have these factors that help us to interpret meaning, which essentially is what connects human beings to each other. Arguably, Facebook does the opposite thing — all of a sudden, we are getting a barrage of information that has been filtered down to create a caricature of the person someone wants us to see — a controlled personality, to cut it short. This prevents us from deducing our own conclusions about another person’s character, because we are so influenced by what they write and what pictures they choose for us to see.

And then there’s that extraordinary amount of social pressure for something so intangible. For example: a friend recently posted about a significant event in her life. Within an hour, she got 27 likes. She didn’t get one from me — not because I didn’t want to give her one, but because I had already congratulated her in real life and it seemed redundant to click “Like” on Facebook to show my support (which, by the way, is literally an action that requires the least amount of effort to show your support). Immediately, I got a text from another friend asking why I didn’t “Like” her status — was I jealous of her achievement? Did I not see her status?

HOLD ON —

when did clicking “Like” on Facebook, something SO elusive, amount to such priority, meaning and pressure?! Why did we allow that to happen?!

And not only that — an extensive amount of friends on Facebook means we get an extensive amount of information about people’s lives. And while this is a good thing for let’s say, marketing and/or exposure, this also reduces the meaning of these events — they become disposable — only relevant until the next big status update.

And this upsets me because our lives are slowly becoming fragmentized — instead of seeing our lives in one, continuous flow, where our past correlates with the present and creates possibilities for the future, we are suddenly fractioned into status updates: Today, Ellise graduated. Tomorrow, Ellise will get a job. And if I don’t update my status, or try to de-active Facebook, the status in everyone’s mind would be: Today, Ellise went full-fledged emo.

The fact that I haven’t even de-activated my account says a lot about the social pressure Facebook has on us — I hate it, but I can’t quit it. Seeing microscopic versions of my friends’ lives have become such a daily routine that I’ve stopped realizing how reductive and limiting it is. I cringe to myself every time I see a picture and realize how awesome it would be as a Facebook profile picture — because it’s a selfie I happen to look good in, as if this angle is enough to show others who I am.

I don’t want this to be the case! I want you to know that I am mad in more ways than one, have insecurities sharpened to the point of  insanity, but that I can be kind and endearing when the time calls for it. I am loyal and overbearing, creative and delusional. I want to encourage people to get to know each other beyond their Facebook profiles and sit down for a cup of tea from 4 pm to 1 in the morning and talk about everything and anything, from the kind of person you want to become, to the fears that keep you up at night.

Facebook has become a cliquey high school entourage gone international — people are reduced to either being a Facebook friend or not.

Expand your horizon, explore your world. I think people will surprise you — you just have to let them.

And don’t get me started on Twitter.

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13 thoughts on “The Inadequacy of the Social Network

  1. “Facebook has become a cliquey high school entourage gone international” – brilliant. I stay off of it most of the time myself, but I’m keeping my account alive (for now) because of the connections. Isn’t it odd how it’s easier to post a message in Facebook in order to reach a fringe relationship rather than to just call, text, or email?

    • Yes, it is. It’s slowly creeped into our daily lives until we can’t seem to live without it — invitations have become “Facebook invites”. If you don’t check Facebook, you’ll miss an event / party that your friends created. It’s oddly overpowering.

  2. Kenneth says:

    As someone who refused to create a Facebook account until only half a year ago, mainly because it was nigh impossible to keep up with friends and acquaintances the traditional way, I find that many people seem to have no problems keeping to themselves in cyberspace.

    Rather, it’s a circle of few, thriving on the opportunity to literally throw things into people’s faces and encourage new social norms. A loud, steady minority, so to speak.

    Although I can really only speak for my own country in this regard…

    • Hi Kenneth,

      Sorry if I didn’t make my point clear — I didn’t mean to bring down the people who “overshare”, this is a complaint that teenagers have against Facebook, but not my main argument.

      I meant to point out the fact that Facebook is slowly changing the way our society views the social norm: instead of face-to-face conversations, we get status updates, and we are slowly assuming this is enough to decipher what’s going on with their lives, when the truth is, each status update is “filtered down / edited” to give us only the best parts of people’s lives, which can have a jarring effect on how we view success and happiness in our own lives. For example, I am personally getting a lot of baby pictures and engagement pictures since my friends are now of that age — that constant reminder makes me wonder if I am supposed to be coming up with those pictures of myself, to reinforce the image that I am a normal, happy, twentysomething year old girl, which induces feelings of pressure, insecurities and inadequacy.

      Which makes me wonder if children, who were born into the world of Facebook, would ever realize the limiting implications of Facebook as one of their major social outlets — but that’s a whole other blog post.

      Apologies for the rant, but I do love discussion!! 😀

      Lots of love.

      • Kenneth says:

        Hi Ellise,

        no aplogies, rant and discussion are kind of what made me comment in the first place.

        I did get your point – it’s just that, in my experience, there seems to be a lot of illusiveness when it comes to the issue of social norms being imprinted on us through media. One is too easily led to believe those things, in my opinion.

        For example, how many of your friends are really sharing their engagement on Facebook? Think percentages. Is it not just maybe a few every now and then, perhaps the ones being a little on the “oversharing” side of the spectrum anyway?

        If two or three people shared their upcoming wedding, or something similar, on Facebook in a short period of time, most people would probably conclude that doing so is the new way to go about it, since “everyone” is doing it. What I’m trying to say is, that we’re so used to listening to who is shouting the loudest, we forget that their ways of living are no more significant than those of the silent. And if you check closely, there’s a lot of silent folk.

        I can relate to questioning oneself in the face of how things appear, though.

        The thought of children growing up with social media as the “normal” means of human bonding and looking-glass to see other peoples lives is a sickening one.

        Sorry if I’m not making perfect sense, my writing is a mess.

      • Hi Kenneth,

        Your writing’s not a mess at all — in fact, it makes perfect sense to me. And now that you’ve expanded on your point, I now understand what you mean. You’re right — there are a lot of people who “overshare” and we tend to listen to them and make assumptions from those statuses, and ignore the silent ones. I just assumed that if you don’t post “engaged” as your Facebook relationship status, then you couldn’t be engaged — which is funny because I’m in a relationship and yet I don’t have that noted on my Facebook relationship status as well.

        I do like your writing very much and am so happy you took the time to discuss my post with me. xoxo

  3. NS says:

    You did complete justice to this crazy, creepy blue world we can’t seem to get out of :S….I agree 100%. I hate it too. But for now, the deactivate button just seems to be on another galaxy.

    • It is, isn’t it?! I read this article about how we should keep track of the hours we spend on Facebook to make us realize how much time we spend on it. I have a friend who does 10 push-ups everytime she checks Facebook too .. but I doubt if I can do that.

  4. ChaotusInternum says:

    “Tomorrow, Ellise will get a job. And if I don’t update my status, or try to de-active Facebook, the status in everyone’s mind would be: Today, Ellise went full-fledged emo.”- I agree whole heartedly. Every time I deactivate, my friends tend to think I’m slipped into depression or something akin to it.

    I also found the stalking bit even more creepier. I’ve had my suspicions regarding the people who keep popping up in suggestions especially since I’ve never looked them up or even knew about their existence. It’s disconcerting , to say the least.

    A week ago, I’ve rid myself of the facebook hassle. Hopefully permanent deletion does not equate to deactivation. I’d be more than happy to be free from the headaches of a social networking site.

  5. My life has improved since I created a huge banner at the top of my Facebook page saying ‘Important? Call me in the real world’. I have no intention of going back because I think it’s history. The problem is that at the moment you need to be on it, even if you don’t use it. I’m freelance, and you almost don’t exist if you’re not on it. Reading updates off people I haven’t seen in 3 years though, like ‘finished at gym, on way back home now’ and also getting an email to this effect finally got to me though. One of the last things I wrote on it was ‘just had a yoghurt’, I got half a dozen ‘likes’. It’s WAY too uncool for teenagers now, as your gran is likely to be on it. Working in advertising I see the true nature of it every day. It’s a marketing tool. if you like ‘VW’ they’ll point the promotions for the new Golf at you.

    It’s basically a massive data capturing device, horrible. I think the next trend will be to talk to people in the flesh and not be tracked for socialising.

  6. A really honest and eye-opening post. I have not reached the “I hate Facebook but I can’t quit” stage yet but I do realize that I use it too much and then there are the friends that post WAY too much about their daily lives and that gets under my skin. A book that I read recently that entertained and enlightened me about our international Facebook addiction is by author Gemini Adams entitled, “The Facebook Diet” (http://www.unplugseries.com/). The book really looks at how good, bad, healthy, connecting, isolating and addictive Facebook is! The book features 50 very funny cartoons that begin with “You know you’re a Facebook addict when….” The latter part of the book offers tips on detoxing yourself from this addiction.
    This book is definitely a must-read, lighter look into the very real issue of social media addiction and will be a great gift for all the internet addicts out there with a message to stop, get away from that gadget, and interact with a real someone!The author suggests unplugging once in a while (that’s why this book is part ONE of the Unplug Series) – it’s a wonderful world out there, you know. Just lean down, grab the plug and pull. It’s easy. ~ Enjoy!

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