As one of my Facebook contacts pointed out last night, her wall “is often filled with substantial posts, or the opposite, or something in between”. You find all sorts of things on Facebook, that’s a truth I can’t refute.
I had commented quite categorically that “one should not search for substance on Facebook”. In my experience, substantial information is for the most posted as a link on Facebook. So FB becomes a means of distribution, not the source of substance itself.
In general terms, I find the private use of FB mainly turns the platform into a Neverland; a symbol for childhood (or childlessness), immortality and escapism. I would say that the instant recognition of the likes appeals to the child within us, that we seek to immortalize ourselves through the documentation of happy moments or deep thoughts, and that we try to escape reality, boredom or our daily chores by constantly checking what new status updates have come up on our wall.
We post everything on Facebook, what we are proud of, what makes us happy, sad, angry, etc. For the most, we fail to realize that our posts are like a cry into the wind that has very limited relevance to anyone but ourselves. Even when realizing this, we post anyway, because as the ad goes, “we’re worth it”.
Among others, Facebook is the land of make-believe, of self-promotion and self-staging. Danish journalist Heidi Vesterberg has written a good reflection about self-staging on FB. Here is Heidi’s post in Danish
She argues that we have always tried to present our better side, like we do on FB today. And that we still have the ability to see through the falseness of it. I agree that it’s human to present our better side in a social context, but I would argue that the reach of social media is unprecedented and actually changes our social behavior. So that the nature of our interactions, our conversations, our opinions are affected by the media we use. And thereby also their content and substance. We’re all busy checking what we missed out on in the last five minutes. Mass consumerism has taken over our personal relations too.
Don’t get me wrong; I like Facebook as much as I dislike it. It is a useful tool, and not even the reprehensible fact that Facebook experiments with its users without their knowledge or consent has stopped me from having an active profile.
But I do resent the effect that FB has on me. I resent using too much time on irrelevant information from people that I seldomly see or that I see everyday, quick fix articles of the type: “5 reasons why you should quit doing this or that”, and I resent that I keep coming back for more.
So whenever I feel that I’ve had enough of it, I take a break, and deactivate my profile for a while. I can then put my time to better use on other media which I feel is more agreeable. And then there is “downtime”. Time without internet connection. Scary. Might have to do that more?