Friday, January 1, 2010

Facebook: A poison pill for humanity?

The werewolf was extremely late to the Facebook party. It was avoided like a raunchy STD for years. During the late fall of 2008, he finally succumbed and registered an account. This was primarily done in an attempt to monitor a series of mildly debaucherous photos from my business school days that I had no idea were out there. Figuring that sunlight was the best disinfectant, I took ownership of everything and enjoy a reasonably thorough Facebook page complete with several embarrassing tagged photos, stupid personal quotes, et al. I also enjoy how easy Facebook makes it to stay in touch with and keep informal tabs on a variety of acquaintances, do the gentlemanly thing and wish everyone a happy birthday, and waste time playing lame games like Prolific and Lexulous. All-in-all, Facebook has been a net value add in the werewolf's life.

He has also began to wonder if Facebook is somehow twisting and perverting how humans relate to one another, how they manage their personal relationships, and how they define themselves. Maybe this is just the downside of living in an age with hyper-communication readily accessible. Call me old-fashioned, but some things people post as their facebook status are down right inappropriate and creepy, especially as it relates to their significant others.

One girl I know from business school frequently laments about wanting to "punch her boyfriend in face." Okay, a little reverse Ike Turner action is such a charming notion. However, I was struck by my cousin's quick secession of posts about her recent break-up with her boyfriend of a few months. I dined with her family on Boxing Day, and she was totally zoned out and visibly depressed because because her boyfriend hadn't responded to her text from an hour ago. (Are we conditioning our youth to get validation from text messages?) The Facebook fiasco started with"heartbroken ='(...i dont feel welcome anymore, baby what happened please tell me cause one second it was perfect now your halfway out the door...forever and always ='(" Let's qualify the fact that she is a decent girl, who comes from a somewhat sheltered, uptight Catholic household, and her life seems to revolve around her Facebook account from what I can gather. Also, the boy in question lived a few towns away and went to a different high school. That's all I care to know. However, her status update quickly generated about forty comments, including a dialog aimed at the boy and her friends, some tame highlights include:

"i just want him back ='(

"Yeah i hope so i love him soo much i didnt want to lose him and it was really unexpected i just want him to figure things out and talk to me"

"='( i was supposed to be with him tonight ='("

"yeah i havent really eaten or slept since tuesday ='("

Is it a shameless attention grab? Is it the only way she knows how to communicate? Is it a show for her friends? I can't say.

We get it, your heart hurts. Listen, life sucks at times and break-ups are part of growing up. The excessive sharing of personal information, the hyper dependence on feedback, and the endless pathetic cries for attention do not strike me as healthy. It seems like Facebook has allowed us to create a small echo-chamber where we can wallow in self-pity and wretched misery, instead of bucking up and dealing with the interpersonal relationships that are part of this bizarre experiment called life. This isn't meant as a jab at my cousin, and she, like me, remains anonymous. Sadly, she is just one of many on Facebook whom represent this observed trend.

Has Facebook created a forum where we think we can escape the downs that life frequently inflicts on us? Has it given us an artificial bubble where we can try and paint the image we want of ourselves to those whom are listed as "friends," without having to invest in the face time, and bond building that makes being human so enjoyable. I am beginning to wonder if our youth are striving to meet some sort of Facebook generated standard, instead of making Facebook work for them as a simple social networking platform.

I grew up when there was no Facebook. If I liked a girl, I chased after her, called her, and arranged for face time to see if things worked out. I would invest in how I nurtured the relationship and be honest in how I expressed myself. The risk associated with all of that made it both fun and human.

It seems like the new manner of procuring contact information or "expressing interest" is attempting to "friend" someone on Facebook. It may also be the new way of breaking up with someone or telling them to pound sand. That's just alien to me, and seems dangerous in terms of expectations management, and investing in the actual pursuit of getting to know someone, and yourself.

I am not sure if I have articulated it properly, but I am beginning to think that Facebook is generating various negative externalities in terms of establishing the meaning of relationships and valuing how we express ourselves to one another. It doesn't sit easy with me. But then again, I was born a century too late.


  1. I agree - Facebook is supposed to help us maintain our social networks, but recently I have been seeing more and more personal information to which the world should not be privy.

  2. A thought provoking post and I couldn't agree more. I reluctantly joined Facebook recently myself and share many of your concerns. I have also noticed that some of my friends attach so much status to such sites. Alas, some truly never make it out of high school.