Wednesday, October 17, 2012

(A)social networking as a tool for validating your life.



We all need validation sometimes.  Some of us more than others.  Today, more than ever, we feel that, paradoxically, we need to be both the same and different as the rest of society.  We are told to conform but be unique.  We are taught that we need to fit in to be successful, but also that the successful are those who went out and did something different.  We are told that we need to dress a certain way, following the trends of fashion as they change in a random and arbitrary manner.  We are bred to think that the ultimate life is a life where we live in a suburb in a large house with two to three kids, a car for each spouse, and a career.  We are gauged by how much money we earn.  We are told that it is bad to earn too much, but you will not be happy unless you break another arbitrary amount.  We often do not know exactly what these amounts are or what society wants from us, but we have vague impressions. 

As a result of this confusion that we live with, we often feel perplexed and unsure of ourselves.  As we get older and find that our lives are not in conformity with this ideal, or with how we imagined ourselves as turning out, we start to feel anxiety and perhaps even anger.  We look at other people in society, and those who we were close to at one time.  Did our classmates make it?  Did our cousins and friends make it?  Am I ahead of them?  And one way in which we gauge our competition is through (a)social networking.

It is easy to feel that your life does not hold up against your peers when you log onto sites such as Facebook.  You are immediately thrust into a fantasy world where pictures of imaginary lives bombard you.  You are thrown into a world where people are competing with each other constantly, trying to maintain one's own self image and self-esteem.  It's a contest in self-validation that every poor soul who is a prisoner on Facebook is deeply involved in.

It's hard to see it when you are busy living it.  But when you step away from the site and consider it with an open mind, you will start to understand that Facebook was indeed a place that confirmed many of our self-created fears about our lives and what we were "supposed" to obtain.

Facebook is a smorgasbord of competition without purpose.  We are taught that there are always people in society who will "make it" and others who will not "make it."  But we are not told exactly what "making it" is.  Therefore, as a result, we go with our own vague impressions of what "making it" is.  We post pictures of us "making it," whatever that means.  These are pictures of the events we take in, our possessions (homes, cars, spouses, children, pets), our likes, our wants, our lifestyles, and anything that we do that is above the norm.

Being proud of one's accomplishments is not a bad thing.  Bragging about them incessantly over the internet is.  Facebook bragging quickly becomes something of an obsession.  I have known people who have bought new pets, later to be neglected, for reason to show off on (a)social networking sites.  People will show off anything they can when the obsession reaches critical levels.  Pictures of clothing, food, children's clothing, etc. are things that I have seen posted.  Is such behavior normal?  I don't particularly like to use the term normal, as humanity is varied in many ways, and it is the irregularities that make people wonderful (Facebook helps destroy these irregularities).  The better question is, "would the individual, if I went to their house, show me a full spread of their new clothing, or the food that they cooked last night?"  Before Facebook I never received an e-mail from a person showing me the contents of their plate.  I was never sent a picture of a meal from a restaurant by any of my friends.  Yet now, on Facebook, such behavior is commonplace.  I had a multitude of friends who would take a picture of their food and show it off.  I was one of those people.

Eventually, I stepped back and realized that there was something seriously wrong with this activity.  I was spending a lot of time, my life, involved in this activity.  I was spending my life merely validating myself as a human.  I should not have to validate myself over the computer.  I should not, as a human, have to validate myself to anyone.  I am my own person.  What I want out of life is personal to me.  I should not feel compelled to search for some vague idea that society seems to instill in me.  Yet, when I was on Facebook I noticed that I was not the only person searching for this life.  Virtually everyone I knew had these wants and desires that they searched for, and pretended to have achieved, but were, in reality, not moving toward them.  Their lives, in the end, were at a standstill, as if they were trapped in one time period.  And that time period was the moment they let Facebook control their lives. 

I recently downloaded a new alarm clock program for the iPad.  It got favorable reviews, and I wake up early for school.  I was horrified to find out that the alarm clock had an option to wake you up and have you logged in to both Facebook and Twitter so that you could start your day with your Facebook and Twitter feeds.  There is a problem when a person becomes so obsessed with (a)social networking that they have to have these sites be the first thing that they see every day.  Is it that important to feel liked and accepted to others?   

Are you really willing to trade your life for (a)social networking? 

It is truly sad to see people wasting what could be called "the best years of their lives" on these sites.  How many people die every year driving while trying to check their status updates on these sites?  How many people would forgo time with their families to use (a)social networking sites?  I am always amazed to see people, every day, in class using Facebook instead of listening to the lectures that they are paying (or will be paying) thousands of dollars to attend.  What is the price of being obsessed to these sites?  What are we, as a society, paying, in sum, for people to completely live their lives addicted to (a)social networking?  Many laugh at such a message, saying that such sites are harmless, but when they become such an obsession with not just people in this country, but around the world, there is an epidemic.  When people have to see Facebook first thing when they awaken, when they drive, when they are in class, and lastly, right before they go to bed, there is a problem.  When a person virtually lives their life, wasting years, on (a)social networking, you have to kind of wonder, what is the point of life.  You have to ask, "what good comes out of these sites?"  In the end, I have never been able to find much that these sites give back to the world.

What has Facebook given you?  What have you achieved since signing up from Facebook?  Have you left, later to find out that your life has progressed since leaving Facebook behind?  Has Facebook interfered with your life goals?  Has it made you feel happier with your life?  Would you go back to a world without (a)social networking?   

17 comments:

  1. A perfect essay! I've often searched myself, & done some writing in my journals about why I joined FB in the first place? Even though I tried really hard to not let FB define me as a human being the more time that I passed on that site the more reliant I became on it for my so called "street cred".I honestly do not think too many people have pondered what kind of psychological damage FB has the potential to cause.I'm 51 years old and being amongst those I knew in the past, (classmates, etc.) was actually stirring up the same kind of insecurity issues I thought I'd conquered over the years.Life isn't easy here, my 24 year old son has severe Autism & Epilepsy, but despite the tough stuff I can actually say I'm happy & content, & my life certainly has purpose! :) But FB really didn't add anything positive to my days.I'm glad I'm gone from there.

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  2. I joined facebook at the urging of my friends during a very emotionally and economically difficult time in 2007. Watching people graduate, get married, celebrate holidays with their families made me feel very insecure and worthless. Instead of doing something to make me feel better, I would sit there for hours looking at people's pictures with tears in my eyes.

    Over the past five years many things happened than made me question the whole purpose of facebook. The final straw came this past summer while I was taking a public speaking class. On the last day a classmate stood up and said: "Now that we're all good friends, let make it official and add each other on facebook." His words repeated in my mind all week long until I realized that it was time for me to leave.

    Two months later I can honestly say that I feel happy not being on there. My thoughts and photographs are for me only, and I don't give a you know what as to what anyone had for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

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    1. It is a strange feeling to take photographs at first after using Facebook. Instead of taking them for the rest of the world to see, I now realize that they are for my wife and I to look back on in the future and remember our lives. Maybe we will share them with others when we meet in person and can talk about the events together. There is no need to have thousands of photos on Facebook of every event in one's life.

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  3. I think the most important thing to do is to find your version
    of happiness.Sometimes that means breaking away from what the
    rest of the crowd is doing in order to find what is the most
    important to you.I know from experience comparing what's going
    on in my life to what others are doing is never a good thing.
    "Success" will have a different meaning to everyone, right now
    it's making the most of every day and finding little stuff that
    makes me happy, like making things out of colored paper bits! :)

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    1. I agree. Sometimes the thing that makes a person the most happy is doing something different than others do. Just because many people do something does not mean that it's the right thing to do. However, there are some that think that they can not be happy if they deviate from the norm.

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  4. Thank you! This is a very well written essay. I had joined FB back in 2007 just to follow other classmates on homework assignments, test, etc. As the years passed I became annoyed with the pointless chattering and tasteless jokes. Then the people who brag--it just felt like a waste of my time. I actually felt bad about myself every time I looked at FB. I've tried deactivating a few times but friends think I've "left" them. I am going on less and less. Okay maybe a Happy bday or Merry Christmas every once and a while. Over all, to NOT be on there is healthier for me.

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    1. I will say that I read my fare share of tasteless jokes and outright racist comments that made me become quite fed up with the site. I always wanted to say something, but at the same time, I wondered if calling a person out on Facebook in front of everyone else was the right thing to do. Instead of annoying myself with it, I decided to end it altogether.

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  5. I think this world has gone mad with Facebook!
    My future sister-in-law posted a video of her boyfriend (my BIL) proposing to her . Now, is it not horrendously tacky and a cry for attention ? I thought a marriage proposal was something sacred, private and in between two people in love... I guess I was wrong. Now it's more about "look at me people on Facebook. I made it!" Yuck!

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    1. It is becoming more common to share every detail of one's life over the internet. I wonder when people will finally get enough of putting their lives on a stage for the world to see.

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  6. Thank you for this essay. I find it funny that there is an option to share this on various social networking sites.

    Anyway, I have been off FB for over a year and a half, and I most recently quit a few dating sites, etc. The realizations that I've been having since I quit have been about validation and "presentation of self." I spent a lot of time on these sites trying to present myself as cute, unique, creative, or cool. I would look at pictures of others and immediately feel the insecurity, and then try to emulate those things that made others appear cute, creative, etc. Through presentation, I got validation. But the flip-side to that was, when I didn't get the validation I was looking for, I took it very personal, and I felt let down, stupid, and rejected.

    Since getting FB out of my life, I can't say that I feel a huge difference, but it has forced me to learn new ways of communicating, and it has also allowed me to see the ways in which I substitute one addiction for another. I don't think that it's always the case that FB and other sites are the cause of the need for validation, etc. But I do think that they work in tandem, each perpetuating the other.

    Thank you again! I just wanted to share my experience.

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    1. Great reply. I have exactly the same view of dating sites - it used to be such a thrill to browse through other people's profiles and feel either threatened or dismissive of them.

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  7. Fb gave me nothing. I achieved nothing with fb. It was like highschool all over again and that's something I never want to go back to. I guess I was looking for validation, but I didn't get any. I'm keeping in mind this sense of privacy. It's a nice feeling really, kind of warm and protective. Fb interfered with my time. Things I needed to do went by the wayside. I lost interest in the things in my life, even tho they are mundane things they are my life. I found myself wanting to be like the people on fb. I'm too old for that nonsense and it startled me that I could be so affected by a site. One problem I had was this. I don't watch tv. I think it's the root of many problems. On fb I found myself wanting to consume. So, I did. I bought something that, looking back, I didn't really want. Now, I feel like a brainwashed idiot. The problem is this. Those people on fb watch tv. They are all different combos of tv channels. It's almost the same as watching tv. I'm still freeing my mind up from the illness that fb gave me. I caught a bad bug and I'm still shaking it off.

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  8. Well...I can't say I don't agree with the gist of the article...but I think you're forgetting that facebook is just a tool. It's a technology that you may or may not use to communicate with others and if you choose to engage with it in a destructive way, it is sure to consume you or disgust you. The nature of social networks - facebook ot twitter - promotes narcissistic behavior (hell, even this comment of mine is narcissistic as I am trying to prove something to you x ) and can increase one's feelings of loneliness and inadequacy but it is also a very convenient communication platform. It is a tool. Tools are'n t created to have reign over us, we need to learn how to use them.

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  9. Very good article and very good site. I believe you are doing a great service to humankind, spreading the truth about what facebook really is. The fact is that none of the facebook addicted will read it, obviously because they are addicted. One thing is for sure, you motivated me to delete my account. Yes, i deleted it and I'm proud to say that I have never looked back. When I was on facebook I used to feel depressed and constantly judged. and I was also constantly comparing myself to others, as you say in your article. I felt stressed and overwhelmed by all the useless informations that site spitted to me every day. So to sum up, deleting facebook is one of the best thing I have ever done in my entire life. But I have a question for you, do you think that facebook is actually here to stay, or that people will slowly realize what a great waste of time it is, making it disappear in, let's say, 2 or 3 years?

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    1. I think Facebook will be around for more than a couple of years, but I feel that it's popularity is already starting to wane. I talk to more people now than ever who do not seem interested in the site at all or who are not on it. That's a good sign I think.

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    2. I used to think that too, but numbers say otherwise. Appearently, facebook users are growing in number and the process doesn't look like it's going to stop. I believe that for every user that deletes his account there are two new users creating a profile on fb. Moreover, when I tell someone that I decided to quit facebook, they always say that I'm right, that I did the right thing and that they too are really fed up with facebook and would really quit it. But they don't! So you see, I believe that we are just a minority.

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  10. I am curious to know if Facebook has seen a big jump in profile deletions post-election.

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