As a child born in 89, I supposed I am well placed to have a gripe with social media, in this particular article Facebook is the main target. I suppose like many my age, I feel like the transitional generation taught to live in a world where the possibilities of the Internet were not fully know or understood. Tested upon by ideas that have overinflated their value and runaway from the founding principles that spurred their creation.
I remember when Facebook first started to circulate we couldn’t sign up quick enough. The social sharing community started off with fresh-faced eagerness and optimism, we were all giddy with excitement at the possibilities of engagement on such a scale.
It was great as we now had a better platform to communicate beyond Microsoft messenger. We had profiles we could share with our fellows, we could keep in touch with people, we accumulated friends, we posted things that tickled our humour and we could keep up to date with what people were up to. Before long my friends numbered in the hundreds in fact the amount you had became an indicator of popularity.
It felt like Facebook was for us, by us, to share with us. Unbeknown to all, it was the start of the biggest heist in modern history. That’s right the willing submission of us to a company that has evolved into a big, big business. All of us will participants to the first stages of experimentation of what big data can do in certain hands…
Facebook changed, it changed for good, business models started to form out of the mass of information that it was accumulating and processing. Whole businesses have risen and fallen through Facebook; it has opened direct channels between consumers, brands, producers and sellers. Its greatest feature is the ability to give everyone a voice and the space in which to express themselves, the access to people is astounding and I know I have had many a laugh and read many an interesting article all because of FB’s platform.
However after being a user for over decade – yes I am inferring a form of drug dependency relationship here – I am starting to see the darker side that has its roots outside of the FB, in the real world where we all live – every second of it.
The first inklings of these thoughts came when I woke up one morning, before my alarm – a rarity – and the first thing I did was check the notification on my phone. Up pops the FB app, I see the number in the little red box, I click and then proceed to scroll the news feed. The need to know what everyone is up to draws me further and further down the page. I see a post from someone I haven’t seen in ages, next is one from an ex lover, and so forth. Very quickly instead of feeling informed I fell horrible depressed – like my life is bullshit, I work hard and have very little fun and there is everyone else always enjoying himself or herself more than I am!
I had been slapped in the face with the one thing I had always told myself never to fall for – the grass if always greener on the other side – in this case bluer. I was infuriated by my own transition and the way my feelings had been compromised by Facebook’s infinite amount of posts about my ‘friends’ – most of whom I don’t talk to anymore… I should really just delete them but the effort outweighs the urge.
This lead me to think about the other habits Facebook has sprouted – checking it every day at least once a day and for may other a lot more. It has created a place where only fun stuff is allowed, you cant be too serious, you have to perfect the art of taking a photo, cultivate a following of sycophants that bolster your likes on every post. The feeling you get when you post something and no one likes it, which usually turns out to be the important stuff!
I am amazed by the irritation I feel with the overzealous sharing every, little thing! The fishers who write heavily pregnant statuses demanding a bite of recognition and support. The side effects seem to have created a sub-plot whereby people now have two faces their online profile vs. the real life one – which one has more value to us? Which one do we get more satisfaction out of?
This is the real issue I tussling with as I sometimes wonder that I am only as valuable as what my online profile confirms, rather than the actual real life experiences I get from engaging with the society physically around me. Why have I become anti-social in my everyday life? Preferring the gratification of like and shares than face-to-face interaction?
It is important to share the blame here; it is not entirely social medias fault that true social interaction is suffering. The mobile phone has to take some share of responsibility here as where there is 3G there is connectivity! These two feed of each other, creating an incredibly powerful attraction that causes people – the world over – to bow our heads in silence when out with friends, at parties, at dinner and many other social situations you can think of!
We have become far more comfortable being ourselves in front of a computer or phone screen than with actual people. We can’t handle conversations with strangers any more nor do we want to, we get our fill of social needs through FB’s platform! The art of conversation involving the mouth and body is recessing into a phase of awkward teenage angst that puts us off each other with alarming effectiveness.
I am frustrated at myself more than anything because I am the one who has allowed this to happen. Yet at the same time I feel like one of those who have slipped through the net and got caught up in the first wave of what has turned out to be the emergence of a new form of power – the sharing economy.
At the end of the day FB is here to stay, it is the biggest platform of its kind; it is the ultimate social media outlet. There will never be a rise as big as this again in my lifetime: in terms of volume, success and pure dominance. I have been through the stages of love and hate, I have battled with my addictive habits and out the other side I have emerged wondering about technology in general. The conclusion I have drawn in regards to social media is use it but don’t be used by it! Bare that in mind the next time log in to Facebook for your daily fix or to avoid having to talk to someone. And out of a bizarre twist in reality try to imagine for a day what the world would be like without it – you might find the world around still goes on and it can becomes a whole lot more interesting, engaging and rewarding…
Bio: Chris Chilton, born, raised and still living in south London! I am attempting to become a writer, trying follow in my grandfathers, rather large footsteps. At the moment this is more a passion than a way to make any money, but i take solace in the advice given me by said grandfather – a writer needs two jobs! I write mostly short stories and poetry, i have no set theme just write down whatever pops into my mind and jot it down on my computer. Maybe one day it will turn around but I’m not interested in money only leaving this world in a better place than when i found it – which at this modern rate is proving to be rather fanciful, but hey got to give a go!
Synopsis: The piece I have written is about a specific outlet of social media – Facebook. At 25 I am one of the first wave of users who jumped at the chance to sign up to this free service that allowed me to talk and interact with all of my friends. We couldn’t get enough of it, before long it was heavily invested in by everyone; It was referred to constantly, it made and broke reputations and relationships. It then changed from a free beast to a data gathering source that attracted big business and investment on ridiculous levels.
Part of the narrative is my own realisation of what Facebook has done for me, how it has made me feel and the by-product habits it has caused. I am sure i am not the only one to feel this way and i won’t be the last, and what is also interesting is that we were there at the beginning of the sharing economy before it had any real power…