My sister is in a relationship. And it’s complicated. How do I know this? How else would I know? I saw it on Facebook. We have this kind of unspoken agreement. If I change my relationship status on Facebook, don’t ask me about it.
I also saw on Facebook that my friend who lives 3,000 miles away got a new puppy. When she was telling me about him chasing his own tail, I enthusiastically exclaimed, “Oh yeah, that was so cute! I saw the video on Facebook!” She was like, “Oh cool, you saw it,” but that led to kind of a weird awkward silence as she tried to think of something to tell me that I didn’t already know and as I tried to think of a question to ask that I didn’t already know the answer to. Finally I opted for just changing the subject and telling her about a car show I attended. Her reply? “Yeah, I saw the pics on Facebook.” Cue second awkward silence. I tried to rescue the conversation by asking how things were going with her boyfriend. “It’s complicated,” she answered. “Oh, right.” was all I could say.
While sometimes Facebook can seem like an awesome tool to keep me in touch with all my friends who live far away, sometimes it can also seem like it’s pushing me further away from them. Gone are the good old days when calling someone to catch up meant actually catching up on events that were going on in their lives, events that I would know nothing about until I actually picked up the phone and had a conversation with them. Gone are the days of hearing the joy in their voices as they relive the events in their minds, taking me through each detail as if I’m there with them too. Now their lives are being updated in real time, online, and if I want to know what’s going on with them, all I need to do is log on. It’s great to be able to see all the pictures and videos, but sometimes I wonder at what cost? Are we losing an essential part of friendship and the bonding that comes with that? Is something that we refer to as a “social” network eliminating the need to actually socialize?
Are we also losing perspective? Are we getting a one-sided overly optimistic portrayal of everyone’s lives? In this article (http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/03/14/how-social-media-affects-our-self-perception/) at Psych Central, Kelly Sunstrum talks about the pressure to portray the best image of ourselves on social media. It seems to me that with this constant pressure to portray perfection there is an underlying danger of people seeing those “perfect lives” online and feeling like no one can relate to their sadness or pain. People end up feeling like everyone else is obviously just having way too much fun to be able to understand what they are going through. So in this case, “social” media seems to actually disconnect people from the social connections and relationships they may have once turned to in times of trouble.
Social media can be antisocial in other ways too. I’m sure you’ve been out to dinner with your friends, or at a bar, or the beach, and while you’re interested in the actual activity you are doing and interested in having a lively and interactive discussion with your friends, half of them have their noses buried in their phones so they can be the first ones to post about their activity on Facebook. Or maybe you’ve even been the one with your nose buried in your phone instead of interacting with your friends. Seems pretty antisocial to me.
When I decided to take a break from Facebook, something interesting happened. I found myself actually paying attention to things I was doing. I was no longer worried about how to get the perfect picture that would look great on Facebook or whether or not I should check in at places. I was there, I was talking to my friends, I was enjoying what I was doing. I was actually present. This is a small thing that I used to take for granted, but somehow I had lost it along the way.
As others started to hear about my break from Facebook, they began to come forward with their own admissions of just feeling tired of Facebook, or even sometimes feeling bad because of it. I was fascinated and decided to find out more. That’s when I found out that according to The Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, Facebook usage is actually linked to depression. Their article here (http://guilfordjournals.com/doi/abs/10.1521/jscp.2014.33.8.701) states that “…studies provide evidence that people feel depressed after spending a great deal of time on Facebook because they feel badly when comparing themselves to others.” It seems that yet another downfall of using Facebook is that when people go online and compare their mediocre and mundane lives to the highlight reels of the lives of others, they start to feel depressed, angry and jealous. They start to feel bad and wonder why their own lives are not as fascinating and exciting as the lives of others.
I’m not sure if this depression should be blamed on Facebook, because getting depressed at the happiness of your “friends” seems a bit like the behavior of a person who is already exhibiting some antisocial tendencies. However, no one can argue that the existence of Facebook isn’t helping the situation. If someone is feeling somewhat antisocial or suffering from depression, it seems that Facebook may be the last thing they need.
What about me? How do I personally feel about Facebook? I do enjoy the idea of keeping all of my friends in one place. I no longer have to keep track of address books because everyone is on Facebook. I’ve reconnected with old friends and wouldn’t have found them were it not for Facebook. But, yes, I do get tired of seeing what everyone is eating for breakfast and I want to have old-fashioned conversations with my friends.
So….In short, well, it’s complicated.