I took a summer vacation from social media this past month. Meaning, I deactivated both Facebook and Twitter. I know, it’s shocking that people do that even when they’re not dead. Contrary to what many of us think when someone does this, I did not turn into a sociopath, a recluse, or even a hipster. I did normal things just like everybody else. I even watched Netflix.
It was funny, when it would come up that I deactivated my account, people would often say something like, “Oh yeah I’m trying to use it less” or “I only use it to keep in touch with (insert relative here)”, as if they had to defend the fact that they have an account. It wasn’t like I was trying to make a statement. But these responses made me wonder if perhaps there is something deeper to this whole social-networking-can-be-a-problem thing.
Another strange thing observed is that the week I deactivated my accounts, I proceeded to have the most active social life I’d had all year.
So, as I return to under the ole banner of blue and white, I have decided that I now WILL make a statement. There’s five things I’ve been able to pinpoint about social networking, specifically Facebook (since I’m not as avid a Twitter user, I can’t say it has affected me in the same way), that I think can be harmful to us without us consciously realizing it. You may think I’m being extreme, and for some, this will be a little overdramatic. But to others, this might be just what you need to hear.
So, ready or not, here they come…
1. The Newsfeed
Ever thought about the fact that the newsfeed tells you what to care about? Gone are the days when you actually have to go and THINK about someone. Facebook does it for you. This is pretty much a lose-lose situation, because on the one hand, most things on the feed have no actual significance whatsoever, but on the other hand, if you’re not posting or getting tagged in stuff, it’s likely that none of your facebooking friends will actually will think about you, because they’re too lazy to type the first four letters of your name into the search bar.
Like, what if you have a friend who is going through some deep stuff? Maybe they’re thinking suicidal thoughts or something? If they don’t post about it for all the world to see, your mind may be quickly diverted from any meaningful thinking, and instead, engross itself in the 50 new manicure pictures from that random girl that you don’t actually know but hey – don’t those fingernails look dandy?
2. Friend requests
It was cute back in the day. Now it’s often just a weird way to feel electronically gratified by another person’s desire for your “friendship”. Look, if we’re kids on the playground saying to one another “let’s be friends”, then after that we’re supposed to actually BE FRIENDS. Like, hang out, play checkers, etc. Who (other than Jesus) has time for 1000+ friends? If the mark of one’s “friendship” is two clicks of a mouse, this seems a little shallow. At the very least, call it something like followers or connections, because what we’ve often ended up doing is putting the cart before the horse by “friending” someone in the hopes that we will someday, in the future, become actual friends. It’s more accurately termed “an invitation to mutual stalking”, in which you are rewarded by allowing all the world to see exactly how many you’ve managed to rack up over the years.
3. The Like Button
You have to admit, when this thing was first introduced, your heart dropped a little, didn’t it? Did anyone go – “FINALLY! I WAS SO TIRED OF WRITING AND/OR VERBALLY SHARING MY SUPPORT FOR PEOPLE! NOW I HAVE A LITTLE BUTTON THAT WILL ENCOMPASS ALL OF MY OPINIONS AND EMOTIONS REGARDING EVERY STATUS OR PAGE I WILL EVER SEE!”? Cuz that’s basically what it’s turned into.
The other problem is that the like button has become the most tangible way to gage one’s popularity…ever. Now it’s next to impossible to post anything without having to ask that foreboding question of whether the Next Great Status Update will be a “hit” or a “flop”. Play on, status DJs…
But as the old adage goes, if a status gets posted and nobody “likes” it, is it still true?
(By the way, there are now people in third-world countries hired to simply “like” pages thousands of times. Still think truth follows crowds?)
4. “Read by”
This one isn’t as bad, but I still prefer email to facebook messaging. Sometimes I feel like if people know I’ve read their message and I don’t reply immediately, they think I either A) don’t care about them, or B) am composing the Iliad in response.
I talked about this a lot in an article a few months ago (read it here), so actually…just go read that article.
So you might be thinking, “Nathan wants everyone to deactivate their accounts and become tree-huggers”. Not necessarily. Part of the problem is that there are still many good things that come out of facebook, and, used right, it can be pretty legit.
But I think Facebook has become for many people (especially younger ones) a jealousy-inducing machine. It’s become an RPG video game where you struggle to upgrade and show your stuff; where you are free to find out just exactly how many things you’re missing out on and how lame your life is, or else give your friends the opportunity to feel that way about themselves. It’s allowed you to connect with more people but diminished your ability and desire to make it personal.
We need to love the one in front of us. If social networking takes away from that, we need to reassess what we’re doing with it. I know for me, there’s certain things I’m going to be cutting out of my social media diet for good (I hesitate to tell you those things though because I don’t think a hard and fast rule is necessary).
Just remember that social networking is a map, not a reality. So let’s keep it simple and actually be social in our network…I think that’s a “like”able idea.
(And if you’re wondering, you may “like” this article. Just don’t judge how true it is based on how many people clicked on that little blue button) 😉