Friday, July 19, 2024

The down side of Facebook

In my nearly five years on Facebook, I have found it priceless, but not essentially as a social network. Like many people I have spoken to, here are the reasons why if I left Facebook today, I would probably not miss it.

For starters, I know of nothing else that is as much a thief of time as Facebook. We all know people who swear by Facebook ÔÇô they start and end their day on Facebook, visiting it needlessly throughout the day.

Facebook addicts will tell you that logging on becomes a reflex action. Tell tale signs of Facebook addicts are unmistakable. They are up at hours when only burglars, wizards and witches should be awake to check their Facebook. Their mobile phones are ever beeping, alerting them of new comments from their over 800 ‘friends’.

I enjoyed unearthing ‘lost’ friends from years ago. It was thrilling. Within a year, I had unearthed pals from primary school, high school, and college. Even old flames.
But the allure quickly died down.

After the initial excitement of ‘rediscovering’ each other, you realize you have little in common. Life has changed you; you have nothing more to share and discuss. So I found myself with a whole glossary of strangers who were ‘friends’. I longed for the pre-Facebook days in which people naturally flowed in and disappeared out of my life.

We call Facebook a social network. But what is social about a site that leaves many addicts feeling empty and unhappy?

A recent research done with more than 200,000 Facebookers shows that not only were many struggling with addiction, Facebook was not producing the ‘high’ that comes with other addictions like alcohol, or drugs, or work, or sex.

There was a common theme in their unhappiness. Facebook did not bring them the satisfaction of other forms of social networking ÔÇô like inclusion and a sense of community. For most of those surveyed, a visit to Facebook frequently left them with negative feelings of jealousy, exclusion and stress.

It’s easy to understand why. A friend’s change of status from ‘single’ to ‘in a relationship’ had a huge effect on those still single or in a bad relationship. Similarly, despite the number of ‘likes’, pictures of friends on vacations or updates of travel and better jobs were not always received positively.

Then there were feelings of exclusion and disappointment for others in the survey when they didn’t generate as much comments on their postings and pictures as their other ‘friends’.

More than anything else, it’s the many meaningless statuses that make me want to tear my hair out when I log onto Facebook.

“Just chilling friends at News Caf├®”, or “Enjoying a lazy morning in bed”. Truth is, such postings reveal a lot about you and often attract more eye-rolling than responses.

Ever wondered why many successful people, even if on Facebook, do not post such airhead statuses? ┬áDo you know anyone who meets people on the streets or calls friends to merely announce “I’m just lying in bed”? If you do, let me know so I take them to my shrink. Many people have been turned off Facebook because of such meaninglessness. I suspect that many Facebookers are people dealing with some form of emptiness.

Moreover, most discussions on walls are about massaging egos, images and perceptions. Behind the walls, in the in-boxes, is where the genuine conversations happen privately one-on-one. When you plan a trip to Paris on the Facebook ‘wall’ is it really about the trip or merely an ego trip to show how well you are doing?
Then there are the pictures. There something altogether archaic and primitive about posting pictures of yourself eating. Surely not all pictures taken are to be posted with abandon on Facebook.

“There is something faux pas, un-sexy about pictures on Facebook of excessive cleavages, micro minis, pouty lips ÔÇô they have a feel of people trying too hard,” says Kgomotso Selaledi, 35, an executive assistant to the chief executive of a private sector firm.

The endless cryptic messages are annoying: ‘ten days to go…’, ‘the countdown begins…’ Even more frustrating are the many abbreviations, LOL, OMG! YOLO!!! FMAG! BBT.

Selaledi says she only has 63 Facebook friends, all people she has actually met. One of her joys is rejecting friendship requests. “How can you be my friend online if you are not one offline?” she asks.

Makes sense to me. At my phase of life, I have little need for making friends, and more for establishing contacts. So I will look through my 327 ‘friends’ and see who to unfriend.


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