Last night as my wife was on the phone, her mother explained, on the verge of tears, how her daughter had chewed her out for not traveling sixty miles for a birthday party that was announced a day earlier only via Facebook. She tried to explain to her daughter that both her and her husband were sick and could not make the long journey on such short notice. Furthermore, this particular party was being held a month after the actual birthday. And with all of fury the daughter could muster, she straight up told her mother that "if [she had] tried to understand why they were sick every single time they were sick, she would have the Guinness Book of World Records for compassion."
My wife explained to her somewhat distraught mother that Facebook has changed how people act socially. She explained that on the internet there is no seeing the other person's face, no hearing the other person's voice. Instead, one sends out a message to a picture and has nothing to hold them back from being as mean and bitter as they can possibly be. Tact is not an ordinary tool that is used when on the internet, sadly. Instead, people spout off anything that comes to mind, some of which are hateful and spiteful words. Words that people would rarely use in the real world to those who they profess to love. In short, Facebook makes people anti-social.
But, Facebook is not the real world. Facebook is fantasy.
Like many, my wife's sister has lost much of her social skills as a result of her time on Facebook. People need face to face interaction with other people to grow socially. Those who live their lives via Facebook regress to a point where the entire world is confusing and perplexing. My wife's sister lives her entire life via Facebook. Sadly, even though she is both physically and financially capable, she rarely leaves her home. Her world exists through a screen. She uses Facebook as a medium to brag about her life and how she perceives it to be. She bullies those who do not agree with her. She does not pick up the phone to call her parents nor does she e-mail. And when she wants to invite someone to one of her nine children's birthday parties, she does it entirely via Facebook.
Yet, before Facebook she was not always this way. In fact, she used to plan gatherings with her parents and family and spend much time with them. As they are getting older, she would drive herself and her children to their house and spend an evening or weekend with them. She was very much a part of the family and considered herself a family centric individual. Then Facebook arrived. At this point she began to withdraw. She realized that the new world of Facebook was now to become her home. Instead of visiting family in person, she would post on their Facebook profile wall. Instead of having her grandchildren visit she would post pictures of them getting older. And like a hoarder, she would collect the hundreds of likes that came as a result of these pictures. Each like gave her something. Perhaps it was some positive reinforcement, maybe it improved her sometimes weak self-esteem. It also, however, gave her the assurance that she no longer had to leave the house. The fantasy world of Facebook had become more enticing than the real world that existed outside. The real world, to her, was now dying.
As time passed, my wife's sister began to grow angry at the world that existed off her computer. She began to hate this terrifying and confusing world. So, she would withdraw either onto her phone or her laptop. Instead of talking to others when they visited, she would stare at the screen, waiting for a text message or search for a picture to post onto Facebook. There would be no communication for those who did not join her on Facebook. If you were not on Facebook, she did not exist. You did not exist. And that is how it has been for a while now.
There are hundreds of such stories out there. True tales of people who withdraw from the modern world, instead opting to live the remainder of their lives on Facebook. Facebook gives some people more than they believe they can get out of the real world. Where else can you say something and have hundreds of people like it in minutes? Where else can you make what you feel to be a lackluster life seem like a dream? The real world is hard. Facebook is easy.
Yet, life is meant to be shared in person with others. Yet more and more people are sharing their lives only through a computer screen or cellular phone. Instead of spending time with their families and loved ones, people instead would rather gather likes on a computer screen. Instead of spending time with parents and family members that will one day no longer be around, people would rather brag and talk trash on the internet. What will it take to change this? What will it take to make people step back and realize what is important in life? For those who say that Facebook is a harmless tool, they do not understand the deeper psychological aspects that users of the site experience. Many say that it will not happen to them, but as I sit in a classroom full of people who are obsessed with Facebook and not interested in listening to a lecture or watching a public speaker, I can not help but wonder if this is not happening to most of Facebook's users. When I see people walk around with their eyes glued to their phone instead of enjoying the world around them, I can't help but wonder if we have stepped backwards as a species. When I see people justify their use and their obsession to an (a)social media website, I can not help but wonder if they are trying to tell themselves once again that they are not addicted.
The reality is that if you are using the website to the detriment of any other aspect of your life, and you see no problem with it, you are addicted. If you are letting your family life, your relationships, your professional life, or your dreams pass you by while you use Facebook, you need to reconsider your priorities.
The internet is not the real world. Facebook is not the real world. Those who live their lives through these mediums miss out on an amazing life and an amazing experience. Those who live through a computer screen or a cellular phone are truly hurting themselves. There is a problem with such a life, and those who do not