As you guys have noticed, I am taking a break from Facebook. As I’ve mentioned in posts before (Come Just as You Are & Suitable Helper), I’ve been reading this awesome book by Jesse Rice The Church of Facebook: How the Hyperconnected Are Redefining Community and it has totally challenged the way that I interact on Facebook.
Consider how you act on Facebook. Have you ever wrote a status, read it and then deleted it because you thought it would cause an uproar. Have you ever uploaded a picture because you thought it improved what people thought of you? Have you ever deleted a picture because you didn’t want people to see how you looked in that picture? Have you joined a group because it is the “cool thing” to do?
Listen to this story, from Christine Rosen, author of Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism:
I know a young woman—attractive, intelligent, and well-spoken—who, like many other people in their twenties, joined Facebook as a college student when it launched. When she and her boyfriend got engaged, they both updated their relationship status to “Engaged” on their profiles and friends posted congratulatory messages on her Wall.But then they broke off the engagement. And a funny thing happened. Although she had already told a few friends and family members that the relationship was over, her ex decided to make it official in a very twenty-first century way: he changed his status on his profile from “Engaged” to “Single.” Facebook immediately sent out a feed to every one of their mutual “friends” announcing the news, “Mr. X and Ms. Y are no longer in a relationship,” complete with an icon of a broken heart. When I asked the young woman how she felt about this, she said that although she assumed her friends and acquaintances would eventually hear the news, there was something disconcerting about the fact that everyone found out about it instantaneously; and since the message came from Facebook, rather than in a face-to-face exchange initiated by her, it was devoid of context—save for a helpful notation of the time and that tacky little heart.
While this example is out of the norm, it does illustrate the denial of responsibility that occurs on Facebook. So often, we post status updates, links and personal information regardless of who it might offend. We make private meetings public by writing on people’s walls, regardless of who may feel left out. We tag photos of ourselves with friends because we look real good in them (regardless of how our friends look). We are overly cynical, sarcastic, and even downright mean to another friend, determined to express whatever angst is going on inside us at the moment, unworried by the pain that it may cause someone else.
In this way, Facebook pushes our “monarchy” button and makes us feel entitaled to do and say whatever we feel like in that particular moment. And why not? We are rewarded for such behavior. Rosenberg, when discusssing this type of communication, calls it “life-alienating” and for good reason. When we deny our responsibility for our words and actions (regardless of if you do this subconsciously or you realize what you’re doing) we effectively depersonalize our friends, dismissing their thoughts and feelings as less important than our own.
And of course, we are diminished in the process.
Have you considered a break from Facebook?