I vividly remember the day I went to facebook's log-in screen for the first time. I had a myspace account, but all of the cool kids were switching over to facebook and closing down their myspace. Always the conformist, I followed suit. I recall being mildly annoyed with the format, but I thought it was neat that I could see a continual feed of everyone's statuses. I had no idea then how much of my time would be wasted on that site, nor how much grief would come from it, or I may have never signed up.
I propose that, regardless of Zuckerberg's original intentions for the site, facebook has indeed become the murderer of love. Okay, so maybe that's a tad dramatic, but it sounded good when Kate Hudson said it in How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days. The following are a few reasons why I believe facebook (and to be fair, other social media, too) is degrading the human experience:
1. The original purpose has been lost.
Facebook is supposed to be for finding and staying connected in a meaningful way with friends...? Yes..? Okay, let me play out this scenario for you and see if it rings true: You're at the mall shopping and run into an old friend you haven't seen in ages. It's like no time has passed, and you are excited to reconnect with this person. So you go find them on facebook, spend five minutes creeping on their page looking at photos of their life and reading random statuses from the past few weeks to get a feel for what they're up to nowadays. Then, you move on. And probably only communicate with that person again when they post a funny status or a pretty picture, and even then the extent of your reaching out to them is a "like." You likely never go out of your way to message, text, or call them. You likely never send them a card in the mail (yes, people still do that!) or meet them for lunch. All of the sudden, a periodic trivial glance into their life at a very superficial level is enough for you. Which leads to point number two...
2. Perpetual Superficiality.
All you know of anyone on facebook is what they're willing to share. And a lot of the time, it's not total truth. Rarely does anyone get into discussions of much depth, and when they do, the conversations typically get really vicious because so many people are emboldened by being hidden behind the anonymity of a computer screen. As a result, all you get from a huge percentage of your friends is the clean vanilla version of themselves. Or, you get their false persona.
3. False Personas
We all have a false persona on facebook. There's something about putting something down in type for everyone to read that encourages one to edit their life a tad. You know, so you sound a little less neurotic, a lot less at fault, a little more awesome, a lot more put together and interesting. And then your ego is stroked when people validate your awesomeness with a cute little emoticon or a "like." So you keep on putting out the version of you that is more presentable, more edited, instead of the big ol' goober that you really are (I can't just be speaking for myself here...). After a while, such affirmation of your rad-factor becomes addicting, and you find yourself checking in on facebook every time a notification pops up on your phone or toolbar. And before you know it, you're spending countless hours of your life with total strangers, face buried deep in your cell phone or monitor, instead of actually engaging with the people right in front of you, who apparently like the real you, flaws and all. Not cool.
My last point is a really big word for everything is out of whack. Because so many facebook users are on a ridiculous quest to rack up as many "friends" as humanly possible, a lot of us hide certain people from our news feed so we don't have to see what their cat ate for lunch or hear about their toddlers bowel movements anymore. But those persons hidden from our feeds can still see our posts unless we've hand chosen them not to have that visibility, and in most cases, we don't bother to go that extra step. Don't forget the possibility that you are the one hidden from someone's feed...you knew that all of those candy crush updates would eventually catch up with you someday...so now you have access to someone's life that doesn't want you in theirs. I daresay that now we all know what it's like to be a celebrity. There are people out there in the world that you wouldn't recognize if they were standing right in front of you at the grocery store, but they know what the inside of your home looks like, what your dog's name is, what you ate for dinner last night, and your opinion on just about every trivial thing that's popped up in your feed. Or, even scarier, maybe YOU are the creep that knows too much about some poor unsuspecting soul. Which leads me to a really great question my hubby asked: "Why on earth would you keep someone as a friend on facebook if you have to change the settings to keep that person from seeing your posts or pictures, or to keep you from seeing theirs?" Dwell on that for a minute, then let me wrap this puppy up.
Am I making a generality and saying that facebook is altogether evil and we should all grab our torches and pitchforks? No. Am I suggesting that everyone who is on facebook is mindless and, having been hypnotized by its gyrations, cannot break away to feed their children or do a load of laundry? Of course not. All I'm saying is that substituting the pathetically shallow experience on facebook for the immensely enriching engagement of a face-to-face human is a heart-breaking reality that more and more people are choosing. The human race is forgetting how to interact with one another in a meaningful way. Everywhere you go, the masses have their gazes fixed on a screen while a flesh-and-blood person is within arm's reach, being completely ignored. And it's becoming completely acceptable. And that, my friends, is appalling.
So, what are we going to do about it? God created us for relationships. Real relationships. So put down the phone if there is another person with you, and set limits on your computer screen-time. All by yourself..? Now you can pick up the phone...to call someone and have one of those conversation thingies you've heard your grandma talk about. Or better yet, make plans for a lunch date and find out what someone's voice and hand gestures are like when they're super excited to tell you about something really cool in their life. It'll be hard at first, but the reward will outweigh any risk, I promise. Because your real friend list will gain a few tally marks...ones that aren't a click away from nonexistence.