Does Facebook Change People?

Sometimes I think Facebook is ok – it lets people keep in touch, and find each other through connections.

Other times I think its a bad thing – especially when I notice the affect is has on people (also myself, from time to time).

1) It boosts peoples tendency towards self-obsession and attention seeking. The little dopamine flourishes that one receives on getting a comment or some feedback becomes addictive, leading to more outlandish or attention seeking statuses (e.g. “OMG can’t believe what just happened!”). It all seems to point towards a “me me me!” mentality rather than an interest in other people, or having some empathy.

2) The addiction to using it, posting and getting attention, changes people automatic responses and thoughts about things in terms of Facebook. So if they see something out and about, the first thought is to report to Facebook about it, or upload a photo there and then. Status updates get mentally drafted over and over in the mind until the opportunity to post.

3) It gives a false sense of knowing someone. Statuses and what people say they’re up to doesn’t really reflect who they are or whats really happening in their lives. Its the most superficial surface-skim of a persons life. Yet, we get fooled into thinking “oh, they’re ok” and then maybe not feel as encouraged to actually talk to them or find out how they really are, as we would have been pre-Facebook.

4) People create a false impression of their lives (almost like an advert for how “happy” and normal they are), which compared against could make other people feel insecure, anxious or depressed. This is is a real thing, there are plenty of stories like this one.

5) The public nature of comment threads leads to a strange opened out self-consciousness – you’re no longer talking to an individual based on your unique relationship to them. Suddenly people you don’t even know are commenting on something you wrote, who may misunderstand. Its like someone overhearing in a pub and butting in – or speaking with a megaphone in a public place when you’re trying to have a conversation. I’ve noticed in a few friends a kind of dumbed down generic “safe” way of talking develops, which doesn’t really reflect the true personality. This can’t be good for that sense of self-expression.

The annoyance isn’t confined to your own relationship to Facebook – its the fact that everyone else is becoming superficial and self-centered because of it too!

Facebook is a kind of hypnosis all of its own – delivering suggestions about who your friends are, how they see you, how your life is and how it should be, over and over each time you log on to see “what’s goin’ on”. All these suggestions get absorbed and end up shaping your perception of reality – you think you know your friends but you don’t. You think you’re keeping in touch, but you’re not. You might think your life isn’t living up to other people’s – but you don’t know, and it doesn’t matter, and it shouldn’t matter.

I occasionally deactivate my Facebook profile for a couple of months or so, just to remind myself of how it feels to live without it. I like the fresh feeling of wanting to get in touch with people, to have conversations. I suddenly visualise my friends as they are again, not as their Facebook profiles are.

What do you think about it? Have you noticed how people have been influenced in strange, little ways by Facebook?

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  • I read an article this week linking number of Facebook friends and frequency of profile updates to ‘Socially Disruptive Narcissism’. It stopped short of saying that FB creates narcissists, more that it provides an outlet for them.

    I have a couple of FB friends who think it important that I am aware (along with 400+ others) of every passing thought or feeling – how tired they are, that they’re a bit unwell, that they’ve got to go to work or that they’ve had breakfast (pictures included) and one who tells me when she’s going to bed. It’s almost as though if there isn’t a record of it, it hasn’t happened.

    Narcissism maybe, but is it ‘socially disruptive’?

    I think that there’s a bit of a mixed desire – people want community/to belong/to be known, but perhaps don’t want the messiness that comes with truly connecting to someone else. We can drop a comment to show we’ve noticed, or to reassure ourselves that we are popular and loved – words are easy – but this can keep us distant from the day to day reality of actually being involved in a person’s life. Hmm, actually, maybe that does disrupt society – there’s a lot more communication happening, but people are more disconnected from each other than ever before.

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