Suzanne Camfield’s article last week about the Facebook, or her lack thereof was thought provoking. As I switch on my computer I have one sole purpose in mind: essay writing but I have a powerful, almost primal urge to check my Facebook. Just to see if I have any comments, it will only take two minutes, I double promise! An hour later I wake up from my Facebook induced coma and it’s time to go to the bar to be real-life social. Logging onto Facebook it is a feeling similar to the one you get when you enter a supermarket and immediately turn into a trolley wielding zombie, mindlessly wandering the aisles searching out your shopping list. It’s so easy to get sucked into Facebook… pictures of nights you attended, nights you didn’t attend, events you may attend in the future. If your social life got scaled down without any of the fun live-action bits this would be it! All in one handy and addictive website.
Suzanne is right when she says the “old friends” that added her when she first started her page were people she only spoke to less than a dozen times. I “boast” 491 Facebook friends, however I have less than thirty contacts on my phone, I certainly haven’t actually seen many of these people face to face for years. Zuckerberg probably meant the term “Friend” ironically. They could be more aptly re-named “people you used to be acquaintances with, current acquaintances, current good friends and people you may have met at a party or talked to once during freshers”.
In the advert for the new Windows 7 phone it shows people fervently Facebook-surfing (or maybe texting) while ignore the real day-to-day activities that are going on around them. They are on roller coasters, scuba diving, performing brain surgery etc etc all glued to their phones. This is a lame advert, obviously, but not too far from the truth. Oprah’s “No Phone Zone” campaign is gathering speed in the USA, trying to deter people from texting and driving. She gets high profile celebrities on her show to pledge to make their cars a no phone zone. Still people are dying from crashes while they are texting, Facebooking and driving, and probably walking into walls and maybe trees as well. Facebook causes physical pain and even death!
What is the addiction? Social connection has become increasingly important, yes. Facebook has become such a fundamental tool in our everyday lives for networking and meeting people. There is a section on Facebook featuring success stories and the amount of people who have found lost relatives, found their spouses, found a job… the list goes on. For every positive side of Facebook, however, there is a darker side. There have been studies that show it fuels depression by showing you the parties you haven’t been invited to, the ex-girlfriend that is seeing another guy. Within teenage girls it causes anxiety as they have an excess of technological tools to discuss the same problems and social issues over and over again. This means they get stuck in a rut and thus feelings of anxiety and depression are increased.
What has to be remembered when experiencing this “Facebook Depression” is that Facebook profiles are heavily constructed. The pictures you see are carefully selected and maybe un-tagged in the case of unflattering ones. Comments are going to be nice, they are coming only from your friends and no matter how many times you have bitched about your best friends new haircut behind their back it is unlikely you are going to comment this on their display picture. Facebook presents an image of someone’s lifestyle that they want to give you; there is no way of knowing how accurate it is.
This is all really depressing. Facebook is an amazing social tool, built for university students. When used this way it is a brilliant asset to our lives but for everyone who has been out with friends who have been too busy updating a Facebook status to chat (my phone cost £8 and doesn’t even have a selection of ring tones), or maybe browsing through pictures of a party you were too ill to attend and felt a little down you are not alone. Facebook depression does exist. A life without Facebook is hard though, as Suzanne has shown us. I hadn’t thought about how many club nights and societies use Facebook as a sole method of communication. So therefore, I understand I am a Facebook addict and that it has many negative attributes but am not prepared to go cold turkey. I understand this subservient attitude is what allows the small minority of powers to rule our daily lives and I am aware that maybe I should be doing more to resist this. Like an abusive relationship, I just love Facebook, even though it is slowly but surely sucking my soul away from me.