Facebook has come a long way since its humble beginning in the dorm room of Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg. Originally intended to be an online place for university students to meet other university students, it now connects people from every imaginable place in the world (with an Internet connection). People can not only hold conversations but share pictures and videos and even “Like” somebody else’s post. Recently, people do not have to simply “Like” a post, but they can now react with angry face, a sad face, a laughing face, or with a heart. Interacting with other people through a smartphone or a computer just became a little more human. Despite its usefulness for marketing, catching up with long-lost friends and family, and spreading useful information, it can be a social trap.
Although this dead horse has been beaten many times, it continues to be a problem. How often is it that you see on the train to work, at work, while driving, at your sister’s school play, or during class, a multitude of people totally absorbed in the world of their phones? Or tablets? What are these people staring at? Many times, the answer is their Facebook page. Although I am not a watcher of AMC’s The Walking Dead, I think I get the general idea. Earth has been conquered by zombies who wander everywhere and a ragtag band of survivors must ward them off or else become zombies themselves. A horrible existence. Although most will not be willing to admit it, there is not always a significant difference between our world and that world. Take a moment to observe the world around you next time you’re in public. Scary, I know.
Why is it so easy for people to dedicate so much of their lives to Facebook? The reason is simple. It is addictive. Even occasional Facebook users experience a small thrill of joy when somebody likes one of their posts or when a new “friend” is made. The same even happens when he or she likes somebody else’s post. Facebook addicts are neurologically no different than crystal meth addicts. After a FB addict receives their first “Like,” a bit of dopamine is released, just like when somebody tries meth for the first time. Over time, the person develops a “need” for more to experience the feeling of the first high again. Thus, they will feel the urge to post every thought that runs through their head every day or every experience that they have to Facebook to receive feedback. Sometimes the question “If it wasn’t posted to Facebook, did it really happen?” is very legitimate. Gradually, the person’s self-esteem becomes reliant on other people’s reactions to what they post. They choose to outsource their happiness and their opinion of themselves to the public, and sometimes it doesn’t go well. Their cool picture of the rare sunset or their witty post didn’t draw as many likes as they thought. Pathetic as it may sound, there are people out there whose day will be ruined if they receive only 5 Likes on a picture instead of the usual 75. Tragically, people have committed suicide because of the similar issues.
Facebook cheapens the meaning of friendship. Although conversations do occur on the site, they still are not face-to-face interactions. Immediate reactions are not revealed and body language plays no role. In the electronic world, there is no need for real social skills. Meet a friend for breakfast? Nah, I’d rather like the picture of the huge stack of pancakes they posted on Facebook. Take my dog for a walk? I think I’ll just post 34 adorable pictures of him on my Facebook page. You see? Facebook has a habit of turning us into asocial slobs. Instead of getting to know somebody personally, it becomes a habit for most people to judge a person based on their FB profile. We, living, dynamic, breathing humans, were not designed for this.
Furthermore, the number of “Friends” on Facebook has become something to brag about. I have heard the average user has between 300 and 400. How many of your Facebook friends would you be willing to meet with for dinner or for a cup of coffee? For a cup of tea? Humans are not capable of maintaining close, quality relationships with more than 20 people at most. For what reason do you accept or send out friend requests? Is it to add just one more to your list and make yourself appear more popular, or do you genuinely want to have a relationship with that person?
So, you’re a Facebook addict? Not to discourage you, but, like a recovering drug addict, you are fighting an uphill battle. The deeper you sink into the pit of addiction, whether it be to heroin, Facebook, or crack cocaine, the more difficult it is for you to climb out to freedom. Quitting cold turkey is not the optimal route to go. Instead, try to cut back every day or every week on your Facebook usage by just a few minutes. If you stick to it, you will see results.
Ultimately, everything comes down to one question: How do you value your time? Are you really better off spending 2 or 3 (or more?) hours a day on Facebook? Why not try submitting your lengthy opinion to a blog website or trying to sell those super cool photos you took of the sunrise or sunset to a photographer? And those sexy pics of you in the bikini? Why not send them to a modeling agency? You just may be “discovered.” Crazier things have happened. Actually, if you want to keep uploading all this junk to Facebook, go ahead. There is nothing I can do to prevent that. I just want you to think a little bit before you do so.
Before you post, you should also ask yourself how your post would benefit those who follow you. Do you enjoy following people who post about every moment of their day from walking their dog to pooping? I hope not. That’s what Twitter is for. Do you really care what kind of burger your friend ate tonight or how delicious it was? Maybe you do, who am I to judge after all. But, I would hope you do others the courtesy and think before you post. If you need more motivation, employers more times than not check the Facebook accounts of current and potential employees. Those pictures of you drunk as f*** at that frat party in college may not bode well for you in your professional life.
In reality, Facebook can be a very useful tool for spreading news or for businesses to attract customers. That, however, is another topic. As stated, Facebook can be a trap, even to those with healthy self-esteem and good intentions, so use at your own risk.