The Facebook Experiment

Love it or hate it, there are many benefits to social media.  Facebook and Twitter have helped me connect with old friends and cousins, and with a host of otherwise unreachable donors for my American Cancer Society efforts.  They've allowed me to share workout details with friends who track my training.  They've helped me share news, photos, plans and song lyrics, and they've brought me much amusement.

And they've also brought me a lot of pain.

For one, Facebook has assisted me in uncovering painful deceptions by friends and lovers alike.  (Granted, I would have figured those things out eventually anyway.)  Just today, I found out friends of mine are moving.  They never even bothered to tell me, but they shared it with dozens of random strangers.

And, for another, Facebook feeds my own personal insecurities.

I'm not alone in saying this.  This is is just one summary of recent research suggesting that overuse of the internet, in particular social networking sites, increases depression risk.  I can't tell you exactly why - that has yet to be studied - but I *can* tell you how it affects me.

There are a couple of things.  First, it seems somewhat disingenuous and shallow.  Really, do you need THAT MUCH attention that it's no longer enough to just chat with friends on the phone or even AIM or Google chat?  Are we such a narcissistic society that we now feel the need to reach out and share with every person in our life that we're coughing up a lung, Baby X just pooped, or our man is a jackass in hopes of being "liked" or "commented"?  I know Facebook helped me reach my friends and family when I needed support with my cancer diagnosis - but let's be honest, not everyone ON Facebook has that intention.   Some people use it as a constant feed for their attention machine.  That I may be perceived as one of those people, frankly, embarrasses me.

Second, constantly reading about what everyone else is doing makes me feel less happy about my own life.  I think, wow, Jill got a new ring or man, I wish I had gone to Sue's party.  Going back to discovering deceptions I mentioned earlier: sometimes, ignorance is bliss.  If I never knew about Tim and Tina's new TV,  I may never question whether my own is too small.  If I never read that Betty was mad, I never would have thought I upset her.

How about this one?  Holy crap, Joe is being such a jerk today!  I need to write an update to get him back!

There's the next negative effect I've noticed Facebook has on me.  Other people's attention whoring has made me more of an attention whore, too.  I hate to admit this - but it's true.  As in the aforementioned example, it is amazing how letting the 100-or-so-word messages of people (some who we only randomly know) irritate us to the point where we need to TAKE ACTION!  I'm ashamed to say that they trigger some little part of my subconscious that says, well, if Suzie Q is getting all that attention for doing X, then I certainly deserve it for doing Y.


You'll pardon this politically incorrect reference, but back in my internet nerd days, when I posted a lot (and moderated) on forums, we often used the expression, "arguing on the internet is like competing in the Special Olympics.  Even if you win, you're still retarded."

Comparing/bragging/complaining about our lives on the internet is like that, too.

So, I logged out of Facebook today.  I took the shortcut off my phone.  I stopped status updates and check-ins.  I'm not saying I won't ever go back, but it definitely needs to be a much smaller part of my life.

At least until I learn that I don't need to seek a "like" or "comment" in my non-Facebook life to feel good about myself.

PS - I'm not linking this post directly to FB, either.  If you aren't reading my blog without me publicizing myself like a pseudo- or psycho-celebrity, you probably don't need/want to be.

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