Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Problems With Social Media

During my sophomore year of college, we got Facebook.  It was 2005.  The way it used to look is a little blurry, but I remember some things: how the wall was just a gray space and a person usually "signed" their name on it so you knew who wrote what, how we could list which dorm we were in, et cetera.  At the time, Facebook was for college kids only.  People joined groups and posted photos, but there was no Mini-Feed.  Overall, Facebook was simple and easy, and everyone loved it.

Jump to the present: when's the last time you heard someone say that they loved Facebook?  If you're a Facebook veteran like me, it's probably been at least five years.  If you've only been on Facebook since they made it available to everyone, maybe you said you loved it at first, but what about now?  Personally, I've gone from loving to liking to loathing.  But why? 

1. People use Facebook as a shoulder to cry whine on.  How often do you see people complain on Facebook?  All. Day. Long. They're pissed because someone cut them off in traffic.  They're pissed because it's Senior Discount Day at the grocery store.  They're pissed because their flight is delayed. 

2. People use Facebook as a platform to criticize others. Namely, their friends.  Are you a hardcore Republican/Democrat/Baptist/Athiest/Conservative/Liberal/WHATEVER?  Let me post this article about such-and-such which criticizes you and your beliefs and makes whatever I believe look awesome.  Recently, both Louisville and Kentucky were in the NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four.  The Louisville vs. Kentucky rivalry is pretty bitter, and I was/am disgusted by all of the fightin' words I saw on Facebook.  Most of the negativity was coming from Louisville fans, and I am not just saying that being a Kentucky fan.  Even after Kentucky beat Louisville, even after Kentucky beat Kansas to become the National Champions, Louisville fans were still saying terrible things.  I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to jump all over those people, but I refrained (with difficulty).  I did not want to fight hate with hate, and I decided that it was easiest to stay positive and just not even acknowledge the fact that people are so bitter towards Kentucky.  The fact that a person puts so much time and energy into hating a basketball team is pathetic.  My tip to them: GET A LIFE.

3. Viewing Facebook all the time can be a source of FOMO: Fear of Missing Out.  A friend of mine wrote this article about how Facebook can make us feel inadequate.  She says: "Every weekend the Instagram photos, Facebook status updates and flurry of tweets pour in – and yet again, most people seem to be doing something more interesting than I am. My friend, C.L., posted photos of her[self] and her friends gallivanting through South American wine country at the same time I was reheating my pita pocket grilled cheese for a House Hunters marathon. Don’t get me wrong – I love sandwiches, and I love HGTV, but seeing Mendoza through an artsy camera lens makes my Saturday afternoon look like a scene out of a retirement home." I think Facebook has made us more competitive in that we need to look like we lead the most interesting life as possible.  I am as guilty as anybody: if I'm traveling, I'll let you know.  If I run an awesome time in a race, I'll post it.  If I just cooked a delicious dish, I'll share a picture of it.  Facebook has made us put more pressure on ourselves to be the most fun, the most interesting, the most adventurous, etc.

4. Facebook forces us to seek constant validation.  We post things on Facebook not necessarily because we just want to share them.  We post them because we want people to comment on them and "like" them, because then, that is proof that people "like" us.  Facebook has made us needy.  We need constant validation that we are important.  By getting comments and "likes" on our posts, that means that we matter.  And if we don't get comments and "likes" we are disappointed.  We are putting ourselves out there, risking the chance of being disappointed if no one "likes" the bowl of spaghetti picture we just posted.  It's silly really, who cares about a bowl of spaghetti?

Prior to Facebook and other social media outlets, media was a one-way street.  We were exposed to advertising, but we didn't respond directly to the advertiser or company really.  Now it's a two-way street: we are all advertising ourselves and setting ourselves up for feedback.  But it seems as if the self-advertising continues to go too far.  A lot of people are not responsible in their social media usage.  Let's call it Social Media Responsibility.  People get emotional, and then act on those emotions, resulting in a Mini Feed full of negativity.  If people took five minutes to just calm down or distract themselves from whatever pissed them off, they could potentially save themselves from regretting something down the road.  Keep in mind that you are influencing people's opinions of you too!  If you post nothing but complaints, then do I want to hang out with you?  Not really.  Facebook comment fights? You never know who will see those.  The person you diss today could be the person leading your job interview tomorrow.

Facebook is following in line with everything else consumer-related.  We want our feedback and we want it now.  We want that new iPad and we want it now.  We want McDonald's and we want it now.  From the outside looking in, we all look like selfish jerks.  Here we are, on our iPads, focused on typing the most creative status on Facebook while eating our Big Macs.  Is that really how we should embrace the present?  Devouring social media along with our fast food?  What happened to real relationships?  Many times I find myself yearning for the time when we didn't have cell phones.  When we made plans and actually followed through with them.  When we didn't feel like we had to "check in" everywhere we went.  When our lives were somewhat mysterious because we didn't have to share every moment on the internet. 

To me, embracing Social Media Responsibility is about keeping content positive, but also having a sense of what is appropriate and what is not.  SMR is about controlling your emotions, and realizing that you really may offend someone by what you say.  SMR is also about realizing that your life is so much more than your Facebook profile, or your friend's Facebook profile.  Would you dare to tear your eyes away from your phone every once in a while?  Would you dare to engage in a (gasp) face-to-face conversation with the stranger next to you?  It's a big world out there; I dare you to "check in" to reality. 

1 comment:

  1. This post came at a really good time for me. I have been having some mixed feelings about Facebook for the last week or so, unfortunately it was sort of spurred on by the whole UK/U of L thing. Let's just say I look at A LOT of people differently now. I even had a friend (in real life who I see often) delete me as a friend because apparently he didn't like the fact that I did not want him trashing fans of the opposing team on my page (and called him out on it). Great writing and great insight, I may have to quote you on some of this :)