Facebook is a great thing. And like all great things, it's truly horrible. I enjoy posting silliness just as much as the next guy, but Facebook has a habit of encouraging what in real-life society would considered a faux-pas, at best, and sometimes gross narcissism at its worst. Facebook gives a megaphone to every single person with a computer and an internet connection. There's a reason, I think, that in past times only a few voices were heard and that may have something to do with the fact that only a few were worth hearing. People love attention, they love being 'social' as marketers have insisted we call it. Upon some further examination a lot of these behaviours don't appear very social at all. They take some of the facets of social interaction, but leave out the important costs and requirements.
1. Validation For Nothing
In a conversation with a human person in real life, for example, you can't prattle on about yourself for hours without asking anything about the other person. Well, you can, but there are very few people who will stand for that. You may not get a second date. On Facebook (Or Twitter, or Pintrest or whatever is in vogue right now - I know saying 'In Vogue' is not in vogue, by the way) there is no such restriction. You can post all the gym pics you like. You can talk about your diet or whatever dumb political or religious views you have and as a result you get likes, because most of your dumb friends are just like you. Facebook (and Google and whole bunch of other companies) are becoming increasingly good at predicting what it is you want to see and showing you exactly that - and nothing else.
It's easy to encourage this kind of bad behaviour because there is no negative feedback to these people - there's no one with the balls to say to someone's face 'hey buddy, tone it down a bit.' They might get de-friended! All you get are the people that enjoy this one particular thing and if you're broadcasting yourself to several hundred people at a time, there are bound to be people that agree with whatever inane bullshit you're saying. You can post almost anything and some idiot will agree with it. Shit, Hitler had a girlfriend.
2. Image Crafting
By posting whatever it is you think that people want to hear or see from you, you are deliberately crafting a particular image of yourself. This, in itself, isn't a horribly bad thing - but when you consider the long term implications of this you realise it encourages some bad behaviour. You're only going to post the very best of the things that happen to you. Nobody, bar some comedians, are going to be putting negative images and perspectives about themselves into the world. This has a more cumulative and diffused effect than the previous post point as it mainly affects other people.
People see everyone around them is doing planks whilst eating organic kale and quinoa salad with their gorgeous partner at the coolest music festival in town and they think 'jeez my life is shit, I'm going to go eat four pizzas'. Sure, you might be having an amazing time everywhere you go, but wouldn't be a tad more honest (and realistic) to throw in something about your day that isn't amazing? Something that doesn't bore people or infuriate them? Maybe just sharing an article, or something interesting or funny. What people unwittingly do when they image craft is that they're creating a culture of perfection. They're using Facebook as a way of performing their identity.
The sad part is as soon as someone puts something real on Facebook (something that isn't a list of cats arseholes or whatever) they get slammed down. They're bringing down the mood - as though life should be one big party all the time. As though the unsubscribe button wasn't a thing. Which it is. I've checked. Thoroughly. Image crafting is bad for the crafter as well as the person being marketed to.
Kind of a related point to needless image crafting - but aren't we sort of breeding a whole bunch of little narcissists with Facebook and Instagram? At what point did we all decide that taking pictures of ourselves making duck faces and putting it on the internet for anyone to see was an acceptable pastime? Could you imagine someone from the 1900's getting pictures of themselves done and blown up onto billboards so people could... like them? It all seems so odd. I know I must read like an old man, I just don't understand why that's relevant. What is the point of that? Doesn't it just breed a culture of people who are obsessed with themselves and how much everyone loves them? Measuring your self worth in terms of social engagement probably isn't the healthiest way to build a sense of self. I imagine.
It seems like a scene from Dante's inferno - everyone too busy broadcasting themselves to listen to anyone else for a second.
4. Fake Relationship Maintenence
Relationships that should've died long ago are being preserved by the magic that is Facebook. Time was you could abjectly forget someone and not have to be subjected to their lunacy on a regular basis. You only have to see those people that you actually see. But now everyone has 500 friends they actually feel like they have 500 friends! Everyone becomes the same. There are no circles of friends, no priorities. Everyone has this mill of rotating acquaintance relationships which we're all forced to treat equally.
There's no room for actual conversation because I'm already caught up on all the small-talk. I know you graduated your science degree because I saw it. I saw you have a new girlfriend and you met her at Uni and she's a waitress. I know you started a new job. There's no small talk left. Oh well, I'm sure the Facebook algorithm will show me something that happens in your life once it deems it of appropriate importance.
5. Another Way To Crash Your Car
Apparently 21% of us use social media whilst driving - as though podcasts, music, a freeway and a family member's life in your hands as you drive a two tonne piece of rolling metal down the street wasn't enough stimulus for your dumb ass.
6. Relative Anonymity Never Made People Better
That's... that's pretty much it. People are horrible.
7. Cry for Help
'Man that was horrible. Never doing that again.' Something which begs people to get involved. I get it, people need sympathy and occasionally, to know that people love them. It's fine. Just do it in private. Not everything has to be a big show. You're having a hard day? That sucks, lets talk about it over a coffee. What real consolation are you going to get from someone saying 'Hope ur okay babes xoxox'. Really, I'm asking. It seems like people are using social media as an emotional crutch, and sustained usage of any crutch leads to stunted development.
I want to finish this off by saying I enjoy Facebook. It's delivered a lot of great things into my life. Things I definitely would not have had if all I had was a rotary phone and my dick in my hands. I guess what I'm saying is; I'm afraid. This is unlike any era in human history preceding us and for once we have no map with which to guide ourselves. We were largely alone. It's scary, and I guess I just want people to transcend their instincts and use this remarkable gift of technology for better, not worse. I believe they can.
I hope I'm right.
To get my own meaningless narcissism direct to your device follow me on twitter @JorgeTsipos and listen to my free, weekly podcast Unnatural Selection.