Facebook’s an odd cookie, ain’t it?
In the last couple years, Facebook has started living a fairly contradictory existence. It’s largely loathed by the audience it dominates. It’s considered both ephemeral and immortal. Cutting the cord to Facebook makes social maintenance much more of a chore, despite being the first step to a healthy, happy lifestyle ungoverned by social pressures or the fears of missing out.
Facebook has permeated the ethos so much that we’re surprised when someone says they don’t have an account — this surprise is mostly directed outward rather than a quick “huh” thought. On my patented Surprise Scale™, this sits approximately two notches below the surprise felt when a magician reveals he’s been your father the whole time.
We’re surprised and sometimes disappointed when a person hasn’t willfully logged all their information, experiences, and activities into an online database for others to evaluate on their own time. That’s nothing new — we’ve probably run through that realization before and rationalized uploading every detail of our lives with “well, the information that’s up there isn’t important anyways,” which is fine if that’s what you’re into.
What I’m really trying to get at is when this virtual entity bleeds out into our lives beyond that whole “voyeurism” thing. Let me give you an example: The other day I overheard a conversation about “likes”. Not a discussion on the concept of likes, but the mere quantity of likes someone received on a comment. The worst part? This was discussed in a non-ironic fashion. Eight likes was the apparent topic of the moment. I only remember that because that’s the last thing I heard before my vision went dark and I woke up in a pool of my own sick.
It was surprising, if not infuriating, that this exchange lasted more than two seconds because it was ultimately meaningless.
I’m not here to tell you how to live. This is America, after all. You can keep discussing the pointless minutia of likes on a comment, boiling down social interactions to mere numbers and figures, button presses and page refreshes, but that doesn’t mean you should. I can fart on a plane, too, but I don’t for the sake of human decency.
Having a serious conversation with another functioning human brain about likes, comments, going “Facebook official” or anything of the ilk, cheapens our existence wholesale. Social interaction is supposed to carry some kind emotional value. Without any substance to back your words, why should you even waste humanity’s time airing them?
If I write a joke on someone’s wall, the intended effect should be to receive laughter on the opposite end. Everything else is just gravy on the side, so long as it stays in the digital realm. Taking those extraneous interactions into real face-to-face communication is not only a symptom of Facebook overuse, it’s a not so subtle hint of where this generation’s technology-inclined (or technology-dominated, I should say) youth is headed.
Think about how awkward it is for someone to say “Hey, I saw you got five likes on your status,” in a completely serious manner. Did you feel that? That cold shiver fluttering down your spine? That subtle tension in your stomach? That knee-jerk “flight” response? If yes, carry on, you’re still human.
If, however, your ears perk up at the mention of a tag, status, or poke, kindly reassess your values.
I like Facebook just about as much as I hate it, which is to say a lot. Yet I fear that through its prolonged use, we’ll fall into the trap of distilling the majority of our substantive interactions into the online arena, leaving the rest — the real — to fade away behind poorly framed pictures of food.