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.
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.