is facebook monopolising our private lives?
Since being created back in 2004, Facebook has risen to internet stardom. Gone are the days of clandestine, handwritten journals. Today, whether you have 20 or 2000 people on your friends list, the world is privy to intimate confessions, images of last weekend’s embarrassing alcohol binge or simply a continual banter about how bad our day was.
How did Facebook become grounds for airing dirty laundry and is it encroaching on our private lives?
It seems we spend more time complaining online than we do actually socialising with our friends and according to writer Bryony Gordon, Facebook is not a social network but instead “an outlet for all manner of pent-up aggression.” Gordon humorously states that if it were not for such sites, he may have become a “complete sociopath” due to being unable to express himself in any other way. Though his stories of Twitter banality and women who spend “every waking hour suffering from throat infections and posting pictures of cats” (source) hint toward a comic relief, does Gordon have a point? Has Facebook become our online psychiatrist?
It was only the other day I logged online to find a plethora of self flagellating statuses that once upon a time may have only been voiced in the company of close friends or family. According to social media expert Don Crowther, one of the initial signs that Facebook is ‘ruining your life’ is when you have found yourself ‘revealing something deeply personal on Facebook that you’ve regretted later.’(source) Other signs include the online announcement of ‘important change’ in your life before notifying those closest around you, ignoring your partner/child/parent’s needs for Facebook and so on and so forth. But do these signs really indicate danger?
According to an article entitled ‘Why Facebook is bad for relationships’ Social networking can have an especially dangerous impact on our love lives. A study which was conducted by the department of Psychology through the Canadian University of Guelph, affirms that Facebook has the potential to ‘expose more people to triggers of jealousy’ due to the ‘continuous flow of information about what we do.’ (source) This may be especially true for couples who flirt with their online contacts, resulting in their partner’s distrust and insecurity. In the real world, where words are met with intonation and genuine facial expression, flirtation can seem harmless but as Facebook is both faceless and soundless, it would be easy to misconstrue everything we see and inevitably feel as though we are sharing our partner with a virtual harem of women/men.
Columnist, Elizabeth Bernstein claims that even though the internet has brought people closer together, social networking has changed the way we converse or rather the way in which we are ‘not saying much that’s interesting.’ Bernstein warns that we must change our own ‘conduct’ in order to ‘improve our interactions’ beginning with examining our own behaviour and online etiquette and proofreading our statuses before we choose to burden others. (source)
Blogger CJ Levinson poses a valuable question which although it does not entirely relate to Facebook, inspects the way we interact. Levinson says ‘It’s not just the way we use technology, though, but the way people obsess over it. Have you noticed how people can’t live without their mobile phones? If they’re not talking then they’re checking for a message that wasn’t there two minutes ago.’ (source)
So can these issues be avoided if we maintained a more exclusive social circle online or at the very least, privatised half of the thoughts we choose to unleash on public forums everyday? It is sometimes easier to demonise the internet than it is to inspect our own behaviour and perhaps the solution lies in simply redirecting our focus. Switching off our iPads, iPods and laptops for a certain amount of time each day to recuperate our thoughts and emotions and spend our time in another productive manner that doesn’t involve “inboxing people” or poking attractive strangers.
It has become a lost art to connect with those around us through the intimacy of physical communication. Instead, some of us rely on the ambiguity of Facebook statuses like ‘Fuck you feelings, fuck you world. Sad Smiley Face’ to dictate our emotional support groups. All the while, amplifying our thoughts and emotions and cluttering our news feeds with melodramatic accounts of our lives, fishing for sympathy or compassion or a virtual shoulder to cry on. All of this accomplished in a five minute time frame, sitting on an uncomfortable desk chair, acquiring square eyes and sobbing into a box of barbeque flavoured shapes. What ever happened to sharing our problems with a friend, over a coffee on a Sunday afternoon or rather… lying across a chaise lounge and investing in a therapist? Oh right, that costs money. Facebook does not. Yet.
Most of us of course are not deprived of a solid friendship, a strong support system or productive ways of spending our time, we just happen to get lost in the vacuum of bits and bytes on occasion. So perhaps it is time to connect in one of the most human ways possible. Face to face.
As to whether Facebook is responsible for monopolising our private lives?
Only if we let it.
By Sophia Anna