Thursday, April 2, 2015

Cultural Shift Due to Social Media and the Dark Aspects of Facebook

The following is a guest post by Jessie Elliott.  I had the pleasure of knowing her when I was younger and she just happened to tell me that she wrote this paper for college.  She has been kind enough to share this powerful and thought provoking work on this site.  



Our culture today has changed drastically from the world we knew a few years ago.  Social networking sites, such as Facebook, have altered how we live our day to day lives.  Most communication with your friends and family can now be done via Facebook from the comfort of your own couch. Our society is becoming increasingly narcissistic due to social media sites such as Facebook.

The mass success of Facebook is a result of people’s obsession with their own lives. There are many people who feed off of the attention of others so much that they crave it. These are the people who use Facebook as a personal diary, purging every mundane life event, dying for their friends to like their statuses and comment about them. Facebook is comparable to the experiment done in 1901 by Ivan Pavlov involving classical conditioning and his famous dog. The dog responded to the sound of a bell ringing by salivating, because he knew that he was going to be receiving food soon. The bright red notifications that appear against the cool, calming blue of the profile screen are similar to the food rewards. They shout out, “Someone cares enough about you to ‘Like’ your status or comment on it, you are a worthy person!” Some people live their lives waiting for these notifications to pop up and boost their self-esteem. It makes them feel like the popular kid in high school again. 

According to Pearse (2012), “People who score highly on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory questionnaire had more friends on Facebook, tagged themselves more often and updated their newfeeds more regularly. The research comes amid increasing evidence that young people are becoming increasingly narcissistic, and obsessed with self-image and shallow friendships” (p. 1).

After a while, the positive response is expected every time these people post something on Facebook, and when they don’t get it, they feel actual rejection. They start to think that every boring, unimportant event in their lives needs to be broadcast publicly so it can be commented upon. They will start to post vague status updates that indicate they are having a terrible day or are feeling down, prodding their friends to ask them what is wrong or why they are sad. Most of the time the cause of their inner torment is never revealed, but they have successfully recruited a large number of their friends to join their little pity party and give them the attention that they have been craving.

There are also those who love drama, and enjoy having the opportunity to fight publicly due to the attention it calls to them. I have recently witnessed several Facebook fights among my friends. One fight in particular lasted an entire day and involved several girls from a few circles of friends. Some of the nasty comments went as far as to reveal that one of the girls had suffered a miscarriage a few years ago. The commenter was taunting the poor girl with it. The following quote is what was written on her Facebook page:
“Well I guess I wouldn't know how to spell "miscarriage" because I have never had one. What was it like knowing you "HAD YOUR LITTLE DAUGHTER OR BOY INSIDE YOU, LIVING AND ROLLING AROUND INSIDE MAMA AND YOU LOST IT!" Knowing you may never have another chance again. F*** THAT SUCKS! I bet you think about it every day of your life. Wondering what you could have done to save it or maybe if you would have had that baby, you might still be in that relationship”. 

My mind is blown that a subject like that was used to hurt another person during a public fight on Facebook. It shows how self-absorbed people are, they don’t realize how hurtful this kind of comment can be, and only care that they can one-up the other person to make them feel bad. 

Bragging on Facebook is another prominent form of narcissism. I’ve had several friends who have posted upwards of 300 engagement and wedding photos on their Facebook page. After they get married, they have a precious child and post another 300 photos chronicling the pregnancy, baby shower and birth. While parents, close friends and family might love seeing this excessive amount of photos, others view that person as incredibly self-absorbed. 

Facebook is a great public forum for people who are rich and want everyone else to know it. Pictures of expensive vacations, fancy cars and beautiful homes grace their profile, making their average middle to lower class friends feel the sting of their empty pocketbooks. These wealthy people most likely know that their egocentric posts make their destitute friends feel bad. They do it anyway because it feeds their arrogant, narcissistic side, and boosts their already dangerously high self-esteem. 

Facebook profiles are an example of self-promotion at its best. People get an entire webpage devoted to their own life, and depending on the privacy settings they choose, everyone can see it. It’s an electronic way for them to scream out, “Hey everyone, look at me!” It has never been so easy to quench our society’s thirst for attention from others. A Facebook profile can be manipulated so someone can appear to the public however they want to be seen. They can post as much or as little as they please on their profile, and everyone is forced to read it. They also receive responses to what they post, so they falsely believe that all of their friends truly care about it. 

Facebook can have many detrimental effects on a person’s life. Procrastination is a huge problem. Spending time on Facebook takes away precious time that should be spent working, studying, or paying attention to children. Work productivity is down across the nation due to the availability of the internet and websites, such as Facebook, at work. Employers end up wasting millions of dollars on wages because of this problem. School work suffers because of Facebook as well. All college campuses have internet access available to students, so students can bring their laptops to class and surf the web instead of taking notes or paying attention to the lecture. When the student is at home doing homework, it may take them longer, or they may not get their homework done at all because they are spending too much time on Facebook. This is an example of how people get addicted to Facebook because it offers them the reward of feeding their self-importance. 


Giving up passions to be online

According to Officer (2012), “An unrelated report by the Boston Consulting Group found that people would give up just about anything to be online. 77% would nix chocolate, 73% liquor, 21% would quit sex, and 7% would even stop showering just for that special connection” (p. 2).

Minor positive aspects of Facebook come with a dark side

Despite all of the negative aspects of Facebook, it also provides several positive advantages. Facebook is so easy and convenient that it offers a great opportunity for businesses looking for a free way to advertise. Almost everyone is on Facebook, so reaching a large customer base is made simple by creating a profile for your business. It is also an effective tool in sharing pictures, news, and life events with close friends and family. It can be used to open up communication with others that you normally would have lost touch withover time.

Easy access to past and current friends can often be a positive feature of Facebook. We can now keep in touch with others without the hassle of catching them on the phone or driving across the country to talk to them. Although it’s a great way to keep from losing touch with your loved ones, there is a dark side to this ease of communication. I have friends who have had relationships with their loved ones destroyed because of Facebook. My best friend’s mom reconnected with one of her old flames online and ended up divorcing her husband to be with her ex-boyfriend. Situations like this hurt your family and cause resentment. 

Conclusion

Facebook is changing the face of our country’s culture. Our society is becoming increasingly narcissistic because self-promotion has become so accessible. While Facebook has a few positive aspects, the negative seem to outweigh them. It is causing procrastination, egocentrism, resentment, and annoyance with others. None of this is beneficial to our culture, and hopefully won’t be the downfall of our society.

Please feel free to share your comments on this work.  How has Facebook impacted your life?  Also, if you have a guest post that you would like to submit, please e-mail me at fbdetox@gmail.com

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