Thursday, March 28, 2013

Do you have an incessant urge to check up on the lives of others?

One of Facebook's draws is that it allows you to be a real life spy.  Once you sign up and collect some friends, you can constantly follow their lives at the push of a button.  The more people you know and find, the more time you can spend tracking their every movement.  Of course, such tracking comes at a cost. 

Every human is bound by the constraints of time.  Using any resource requires skill, and with practice, many get better at it.  Time is just another resource, one that requires some thought in order to use wisely.  Facebook costs people a great amount of time.  Almost every person has some kind of goal they are going after in life.  Many have dreams of doing something with their lives.  Something that is seen as special or that makes them more unique.  However, with Facebook, a person can, for a while, feel unique or different.  However, saying something on a computer does not mean that something is necessarily true.  And people tend to exaggerate on the internet.  Why?  It is very hard to prove something is not necessarily 100% true when you are not anywhere near that person.

But there is another sinister factor that lies deep within the underbelly of Facebook.  People oftentimes feel an incessant urge to check up on the lives of other people.  We like to know how we are doing.  However, Facebook is a poor method for gauging one's successes in life.  By using Facebook, we sell ourselves short by comparing ourselves with mere fiction.  Yet, we feel that we just have to see what our friends, our siblings, and our parents are doing in life.  Perhaps we can prove that something someone said about us in the past is wrong.  Maybe you did get into that school everyone said you would never get into.  And now is your chance to brag! 

Such bragging comes at a cost, and it's a cost that every Facebook member shares in.  We feel like trash when we log out.  We feel that our lives are somewhat of a failure.  If one of our hundreds of friends does something that we wish we did, it is easily to feel down in the dumps.  And with hundreds of friends the chances of one living an envious life is high.  Even if they are not truly living an envious life.  The truth is, nobody seems to want to say anything negative about themselves or their perfect lives on Facebook.  Lives that are full of vacations, achievements, and endless good choices.  We see our lives as being both good and bad, but few people would share the bad on Facebook.  When we compare our lives, the good, and the bad, with what we see on the internet, we invariably feel that we have somehow failed.

I have known people that refuse to leave Facebook because they have a need to check up on the lives of others.  They do not realize that by giving rid of the urge to follow people that are no longer a part of their life that they could accomplish their goals.  Many of these people are depressed and angry with how their lives have turned out.  Many are constantly envious of what they see on the internet.  Yet, they refuse to step back and take the reins on their own life.  They feel that Facebook really is giving them something in life.  They feel that being on Facebook makes them a better person.  But, science has been uncovering the fact for a while now that Facebook is full of negative attributes that affect people for the worse.  There is, in sum, very little one gets out of Facebook.  In the end, there is heartache as a result of using Facebook.  Whether it's the envy you feel when logging off, that wondering if you said something wrong or something that is somehow offensive to another, being exposed to negativity and angry political discourse, feeling ignored, or having spent hundreds of hours maintaining a profile and scouring for likes, Facebook makes one's quality of life go down.  As a rational human being, would you choose to be involved with something that reduces your quality of life and how you feel?  I know I will not.  Yet society and Facebook's investors, who represent multiple companies and news agencies want you on Facebook.  Facebook, for many, is a way to advertise.  Advertisers can tell a lot about you based on what you like.  A lot more about you than you want to share. 

For example, a recent article, entitled "Is a Facebook 'like' too much information" stated:
"Researchers got more than 58,000 volunteers who use Facebook to take a psychological and intelligence test and share all their profile information and likes. Then they ran some complicated algorithms and checked how likes correlated with what they knew about users (from their profiles, pictures, the tests, etc.)."
While such testing is in the early stages, the reality is that people share way too much information on the internet.  Recently, while talking to a family member, I was told that many people she knew do not want to get a passport because they believe the government can track such things.  Yet, these same people all have cell phones and Facebook accounts.  Even conspiracy theorists can't stay away from the site!

Is the want to check up on the lives of everyone you know or once knew worth the cost?  We oftentimes do not think about what something will cost us when we do it.  Sometimes something seems harmless, but over time it can do great damage to our lives.  Facebook use does cause damage in people's lives.  It's not just a harmless pastime, and society is starting to realize that.  But, is it too late?  Are people too addicted to the site?  Are you?  

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