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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Facebook fallacies: reevaluating social networking

Published: April 20, 2012
Section: Opinions

Ever since Facebook began to gain popularity, people have worried about what it meant for our social interactions. As technology advances, so do the complaints that our humanity’s social skills are deteriorating and that technology is to blame. Almost everyone relies on Facebook for one reason or another. If you are an international student or you study abroad, Facebook serves as your connection back home and helps to preserve friendships that otherwise could have been lost. It can also help with re-entry back into your college or home environment where you haven’t missed out on as much because you have been able to keep up with your friends’ lives while you branched out in another country. Today, where connections mean everything, the occasional Facebook stalking of a former classmate or business associate isn’t necessarily a bad thing when they might be able to help you out later or vise versa.

If used for these purposes, Facebook can enhance friendships and have a purposeful role in your life. All too often, however, we are content to let our “friends” number add up as we stare at the growing number with poorly disguised pride and admiration.

There is an increasing amount of pressure that accompanies shallow friendships that Facebook perpetuates. These meaningless relationships that we keep around simply to stalk college activities and latest dating drama only proves that Facebook gives the facade of intimacy while actually creating distance between friends. Facebook enables self-aggrandizement in the sense that we constantly feel pressured to demonstrate to all of our friends how happy we are and how wonderful our lives are.

Facebook puts us in the horrible position of needing to proclaim our own successes. We are entering the era of a new kind of peer pressure, where we are constantly doubting our own happiness and feel compelled to exaggerate our own satisfaction with our lives for the sake of keeping up with the virtual Jones. When we scroll through our news feeds and see all the happy smiley faces of our “friends” at a party, red solo cups in hand, we start to worry that maybe we need to look as happy too.

Furthermore, Facebook can impede us, prevent us from letting go of friendships that were only temporary and prohibit us from fully immersing ourselves in our college experience. Because of Facebook and other forms of social media the college experience has transformed. Cellphone in hand, we are more worried with checking in with our old friend’s experiences, that we miss the possibilities right in front of us. We are trapped in an endless circle of faking our own happiness so that we feel equal with our friends who are engaging in the same kind of opaque behavior.

Facebook also sets up judgments that ultimately fail. Everyone Facebook stalks their future roommate only upon meeting them to say, “you are nothing like I thought you would be based on your Facebook.” Profiles pictures and quirky About Me sections give false first impressions that we end up having to rectify after meeting the person whom we stalked in person. We become consumed with tweaking our profiles until it projects the perfect image of ourselves. These inaccurate projections further the problem because we become entangled in our own convoluted web of lies and are unable to escape from our impulse to overstate our satisfaction.

I’m not advocating for turning off your Facebook accounts and stepping away from social media entirely. I am, however, suggesting that we all take a closer look at what role Facebook plays in our lives. Is it merely a tool through which we stalk our former high school friends or is it how we get in touch easily with our best friend who lives 1,000 miles away? If Facebook’s purpose is to advertise how fabulous your life is then maybe it’s time for some self-reflection to question the impulses that drives you to publicize your happiness.