Through my relationship with Facebook, the site acted as a passive watcher, aside from the regular reminders of ironic “pokes” or suggestions to “be the first to like this page.” It was witness to my superior two-line status updates, my “liking” of important pages concerning hugging or peppermint tea, and the creation of an alter-ego, consuming minutes from almost every waking hour.
But during our last few moments together, it was far from silent; Facebook kicked and weeped, asking “are you sure?” reminiscing about our history that will be deleted forever, and trying to entice me with pictures of “friends” that would “miss me” if I left.
Let’s dismiss the arguments that everyone has already heard about social networking sites, but ignores: they’re time-wasters filled with dull, lifeless information. I imagine that many people don’t let the sites consume their lives, and have enough self-control to not wade through the ab pictures, “spiritual” status updates, and ironically-capitalized comments. They get in, find kernels of vital social data (or at least birthday dates), and get out. Maybe you are such a spiritually enlightened, well-rounded person. You still support an egotistical, antisocial society.
Take Facebook’s “Like” system for instance. “Liking” asks users to measure their personal wealth by the quantity of approvals accorded a given posting. This discourages clever observations or significant events in real life, which rarely receive such instant audience approval and gratification, in favour of posts designed for mass appeal.
Rather than signifying a mutual interest between two people, “Liking” enforces popularity and, by extension, an egotistical attitude. Pictures and clever comments are not appreciated for their own merits, but as a means to the popular end.
Facebook users are even given a physical means to track their ego — timelines. This too becomes more than it seems: beyond a personal scrapbook, timelines are a public display of one’s life.
Yet, in spite of promoting faux-popularity, the site encourages antisocial behaviour. The most obvious example of this is the network of user postings and profiles. The ease with which one can scour personal information from others’ profiles means that Facebook users need never ask anyone direct questions about themselves. This is stalker-esque and, despite being termed “creeping,” it is the purpose of the network.
By foregoing personal questions and conversations, people miss opportunities to develop the trust required for such sharing. They share only what they are comfortable sharing with their wide list of acquaintances — who Facebook, of course, lovingly dubs as “friends.” Disclosure, a vital aspect of social behaviour, is lost.
Maybe it takes an extreme case to make such negative conclusions about the site. Maybe some personality types work with Facebook, and some just don’t. But those who remain on the site are fostering an egotistical, anti-social, arguably stalkerish and generally weird social environment, even if they personally steer clear of those traits. These traits will only continue to develop with prolonged use of the site.
No one can avoid it or discourage it except for those who belong to the online society. If that’s you, it’s time to call it off, to end your dependence on Facebook, and to talk to friends (and acquaintances) in real life.