Lately, I’ve noticed articles surfacing in regards to the potentially negative effects that heavy Facebook usage can have on someone. These articles inspired me to reflect on my own usage of the popular website.
The articles basically say that it is unhealthy to frequently (consciously or not) be comparing ourselves and our lives to those of others. That’s what they perceive is happening as we scroll through our feeds.
Apparently it can have negative effects on one’s self-esteem as we are usually only privy to the good news that people tend to share. Be it the wild party nights, new baby, job promotions, trips aboard etc. We allegedly analyze and internalize those status updates as a true reflection of how great their lives are, and thus how mundane our own are. After all, we’re staring at a screen hitting the “Like” button on posts about icewater, while college buddy Mike is traversing across France (that’s made up, kinda… no, it’s not at all).
If I may be so bold, I suspect that whether or not the above is true, would have to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and not such a blanket statement. I think the possibility of negative effects on the user would depend on their mental state, self-confidence, self-worth, and a myriad of other facets.
Those who know me personally, (or have me on Facebook) know of my “on again / off again” relationship that I have with it.
Usually 2 or 3 times per year, I get a weird feeling about ‘Blue Magic’ and deactivate my account only to return weeks or months later looking for a ‘fix’ of some sort. See how I compared Facebook to the heroin brand from the film ‘American Gangster’?
That was on purpose.
Certainly, I am far from what is considered a “heavy-user”, I don’t even have the app on my phone. At times, I do tend to use Facebook in bursts (my recent wedding) and certainly consider myself a contributor over a consumer. I use the actual site so infrequent, that my updates usually come via my Twitter account, and I will only login on occasion to check a message, or “Like” a comment someone has left for me.
Interesting conversations and debates are often spurred when the topic of social media usage arises – how, why, and how frequently we use it. Each user is unique in their participation, but there are, in my opinion, 3 stylist’s chairs in the gossip salon that is Facebook.
1. The user that is there only because a haircut is in dire need: Everyone has a Facebook account, I may as well get one.
2. The haircut booked every 3 weeks to the day: I’m on Facebook multiple hours per day.
3. Lastly, the 5-8 week haircut: I’ll check it when I have nothing better to do, even then, I might not.
I find it very interesting to observe people’s usage habits. I don’t know if it has to do with my age, sex, or what, but it’s fascinating to me the vast demographic of group 2. Men and women from all generations seem to really resonate with it. The phenonmenon that Facebook has become is incredible. It’s greatest success is without a doubt the ability to keep in contact with far away friends and family, the chance to spread good news to a large amount of people rapidly, or like my benefit, as an avenue for self-promotion.
While I understand and benefit from the positives, each and every year (since whenever Facebook beat out Friendster and MySpace as THE place to be online), I have been planning my next downtime. Enevitably for one reason or another, I feel the need to unplug and disconnect myself from the site. Admittedly, I haven’t spent a great deal of energy analyzing the exact reason why, I just go with my gut feeling that I’m better off without it for a while.
If I had to take a guess at just what my driving force to detach might be, I think it’d have something to do with my desire to leave the past in the past.
Yes, past experiences have helped mold me to the man I am today, but in life, I’ve always been a huge adovcate of never looking back. For me, looking in the past does nothing but keep you from moving forward. It was what it was, it’s gone and won’t return, so why revisit it? I’ve long removed the rearview mirror from my life. What’s in front of me is my road to happiness and contentment. My past was just the map that got me here.
Facebook acts as a time capsule and thus is littered with aspects of your past. After my divorce, going through and “cleaning house” on Facebook was brutally difficult. Something I wish I didn’t have to do. Removing the pictures, posts, tags, and events were all hard in their own way to deal with, but it was mutual friends that proved the most painful.
I know many people that have a rule that if they won’t say “hi” to someone on the street, then they don’t have them Facebook. I think that’s good rule that works for many people but it’s a bit tricky. I’d say hi to my ex-wife if I saw her on the street, but should she be on my Facebook?
My mutual friends from my past relationship are wonderful people whom I still care about. I would gladly say hello to them without a second thought, but where do they fit in my life today and where I am at? We still interact occasionally, and many have sent very kind words of support to me during my ongoing recovery. I have them on Facebook because I still enjoy seeing them grow and evolve, yet they are a link to my past that no longer holds any regard in my life. It’s an internal issue that I’ve been dealing with for years. One that wouldn’t exist if I were not on Facebook.
I have a bunch of friends on there, and I know for a fact I likely don’t converse with 80% of them. I don’t know why, I just don’t. I don’t have anyone on there that I’ve had a falling out with (that I know of) but over the years as the number of friends grew, my relationships did not. Now being that I don’t interact with the majority of my ‘friends’, why do I still have them on there?
That answer is easy, but hard to say : I’m afraid to “unfriend” them. It’s my own ego. I think they’ll take it personally.
But why is that? They don’t talk to me, I don’t talk with them – and let’s be honest I’m not the centre of their universe, they likely wouldn’t even realize it if I unfriended them. They probably look at my profile as little as I look at theirs, which is next to never. Unless…
Unless. They. Creep. Me.
Herein lies what I am most uncomfortable with regards to how people use Facebook. I apologize in advance to any I may offend, but (to me) creeping is, well, creepy.
You never talk to me, yet you feel the desire to sift through pictures and posts that I have published. I mean, go ahead and do so. I am not embarrassed or ashamed of anything on there, I’m just confused as to why you care to do so? You won’t drop me a note to say hi, yet you know where I went last weekend and what I had for breakfast on Tuesday?!
That’s weird. In the real world that’s called stalking, not creeping.
I always ask “creepers” if they perform the same exercise on LinkedIn and they always reply, “No!” When I prompt them as to why, the answer 100% of the time is “Because they’ll know I looked at their profile!”
This makes zero sense to me.
It makes it sound as though there is some dark agenda as to why you want to lurk anonymously around in someone’s digital life. If you feel awkward about them knowing you are looking at their profile, then why are you doing it? Do you hope they’re doing worse then they were when you knew them more closely? That’s not cool. If you’re hoping to see them thriving and doing well, then why not drop them a line with well wishes?
Perhaps I’m missing the appeal because I leave my past alone and don’t bother waking old ghosts, but Facebook has given everyone the opportunity and choice to be voyeurs. To peek into the window of people’s lives unknowingly. That just doesn’t seem healthy to me. Voyeurs typically derive pleasure from gaining access to the forbidden, and Facebook creepers must thrive on that, or else they’d be creeping on LinkedIn profiles as well.
The creepers consistent line of defence is always “If you don’t want people to look, you shouldn’t put it up there!” Now hang on a minute, should I then not have windows on my home? “You can lockdown your profile so only your friends can see it!” So keep my window blinds shut all day too? I’m not arguing that Facebook doesn’t have the features to keep out unwanted eyes, I’m questioning why those unwanted eyes are coming in the first place. I didn’t realize that the terms and conditions of Facebook were an information free-for-all.
If I have offended, again, I am sorry. I mean no disrespect, I’m just confused. If I were to look at someone’s profile it would be because I have a genuine interest in them, and therefore it wouldn’t matter if they knew.
But I digress, this post isn’t meant to be about anything more than an announcement.
As many of you know, I have been taking steps to radically simplify my life as of late. Aiming for a less consumer-driven, stress-free, and more fulfilling life. This is but another experiment in my journey.
I will be going off Facebook again (not that you really care one way or the other haha). I’m undertaking a 3-month hiatus to see if it changes anything for me, better or worse.
Will I miss it and feel out of the loop?
Will I end up hanging out with people more often face to face to interact with them (I hope so!)?
The major benefit that I am most anxious for, is trying to recapture what life before Facebook was like, because I honestly can’t recall.
So for my friends and family, until January, 2015, you can find me on Twitter @bryanmccloskey as I still have that little blue bird vice, or email firstname.lastname@example.org if ya wanna comment or chat (or hang out!) as I won’t see the Facebook feedback for quite some time.