My high school years were not the best. I was the nerd who wasn’t particularly popular and had few friends. I seriously hated most of my class mates who were mean to me and gave me such a hard time. When I left, I did it with joy and never looked back. That was a little over a decade ago. And a little over a decade ago there was also no such thing as facebook – heck there barely was an internet. I started a new life in college, 15,000 miles away and I made friends and picked myself up and barely resembled the self conscious “nerd” I had been labeled in high school.
Looking back, I honestly wonder if I ever could have gotten “over it” and really moved on had there been facebook where I could have just looked up my high school class mates to see what they do (and then inadvertently compare as it is always the case with FB).
Comparing is the worst part about facebook; like it was a contest of who is happier. As if it wasnt hard enough to try to be happy and find peace of mind as it is, now I have to worry about also measuring up to other peoples’ level of happiness. God forbid I am not as happy and successful and in love as XYZ.
I dont think that I would have been able to really “move on” from that hell hole of high school if social media sites had existed. In fact, I feel bad for high schoolers today; their lives must be so impersonal and sterile: sitting in front of computers and smart phones all day, interacting in the virtual world with who knows whom. When I went to high school you only had to endure the teasing and bad treatment while in school. Today, these kids probably have to bear the humiliation, teasing and bullying 24/7 thanks to cyberspace and FB. It is like social media sites are an extension of high school and you are in it all the time. Can people imagine what someone like Dawn Wiener (from Welcome to the Dollhouse) would be going through if FB had existed in 1995 when the movie was made? She would have killed herself sooner than she did.
Social media can be dangerous and detrimental as you get hung up on other people and their lives. Even if they arent being attention whores, it still sucks because you are following/stalking them in their lives and they’ll just one-sidedly report all the happy crap. M
ost people have non existent security settings and I can read their walls and info and see their pics and often I feel like a voyeur, an intruder, like the proverbial fly on the wall. It is amazing how much info you can get out of people without them being aware of it. . There are people on facebook, whom I never met, but whom I have been informally “following” over the years (friends of friends) and about whom I know very intimate personal info because it IS ALL THERE. I never met them and I never will but I know them pretty intimately.
I know, for example, about this one girl who went to class with a friend of mine. I never met her, but she’s one of those people who seem to be constantly blessed with good everything so naturally there is a tendency on my part to want to find out more. So I have been “following” her on “Friendster” first and then FB for the past 7 or so years; occasionally I see her pop up as a friend suggestion and I check out her profile. I know about the guys she’s been dating, the jobs she’s held, when she moved and where to, her trip on a cruise ship to Alaska, how she met her current husband and how he proposed….I know where they held their wedding, went to honeymoon, what their parents are like and where they went on their last trip and i know she was pregnant and had twins. All this about a person I NEVER EVEN MET. That can’t be right. That can’t be healthy.
I shouldn’t be able to discern this much personal info about people I never met or spoken to. And she is juts one example of many. I feel like there is an entire segment of people I “follow” through facebook who dont know me and whom I dont know.
But I also, inadvertently, “follow” (i.e. am forced to by virtue of being friends with them) a lot of people on facebook who I do know and about whom I don’t want to know actually. They are the kind of people who just make you feel bad about yourself because all they do is brag and pose left and right. And that’s where the problem is for me. No matter how good I feel about myself and my accomplishments, it somehow always seems to pale in comparison to some of the people on my friend’s list who seem to have unlimited time and money to go traveling the world.
Yet, I do look and check out their profiles, because the thing with FB is that, very much like a train wreck leaking chlorine gas, you just cant take your eyes off it. It is just too easy and they not only made it easy on purpose but once you are on, it is like you opened Pandora’s box and get sucked into the mess.
And yes, I do see myself – after all these years – looking up those terrible class mates of mine from high school; the ONE thing I was grateful for not being able to do. I had moved on and closed that chapter which facebook is opening for me.
It is easy to say “just delete your account”, but much harder done. And while I do feel that sometimes that I get a lot out of facebook such as events and deals etc. , more often than not it is distracting and impersonal. That is why my primary use of FB these days has been its usage as a platform to spread important news and advocate for causes or post interesting articles on science, astronomy and philosophy. That is the only capacity with which I use FB.
However, the “checking out others” urge doesnt stop and I often find myself sitting there, going through the lives of people who dont know me and who have no clue just how much I know about them, while at the same time feeling bad about myself because Im m not like them I and can’t keep up.
In the world of FB, everyone seems to have unlimited time, money and good times. Looking at some of the status updates I wonder if i am the only person who has to actually work and pay bills. Then the questions and doubts arise and I feel bad about myself. And I dont like to feel bad about myself. Who does?
So in order to do some damage control, I deactivated my huge FB account and opened a new one, inviting a limited number of friends whose lives and status updates I can actually stand. In fact, nearly everyone of my 40 or so FB friends (from 191) is not an attention seeking twerp updating their status left and right and bragging – whether purposely or not. If there is someone who I feel is just getting ridiculous with all their bragging and posing, I hide them from my feed or just go ahead and delete them because the last thing I, or anyone, needs is a fair weather friend you haven’t spoken to in person for years but whose phony life updates are shoved into your face day in and day out.
At the same time I know that the facade you get on facebook is just that: a front to cover up what is mostly a painful existence for a lot. I know someone whose FB pages are decorated with happy faces and pictures of her husband and wonderful baby boy and from her status updates you’d think she is the happiest woman on earth. Talking to her in person, however, I found out that her husband is suicidal/manic depressive and unable to have sex with her, leading her to resort to porn sites and cheating to make up for lack of sex in their lives and that their son has autism.
Suddenly the luster that made them so shiny is dull, grey and opaque, splattered with the kind of ugliness only real life can impose on you; I realized that the pictures on facebook were just hiding the painful truth for my friend, namely that she is profoundly unhappy and unfulfilled and juts putting up with it all. It is like people put on a mask of sanity when on facebook but looking in you realize that this mask is just about to slip.
The bottom line is: facebook sucks. It makes it hard to focus on your life, your path and your goals as you constantly get to compare yourself to others and get hung up on other people and their lives. Yes not everyone is happy and the outward persona they project is not all of them, but you cannot discern that through cyber space so you go by what you see. Imagine if Romeo and Juliet had FB accounts; I don’t think their romance would have played out the way we know it did.
Moving on is one of the best advises I have ever received. “No contact” is a powerful way to direct the focus back onto yourself and away from those toxic relationships. But, there is no way you can really move forward when you have a rear-view mirror attached. Social media sites like facebook stand in stark contrast to the “No contact” rule because you cannot move on since everyone else’s life is being shoved down your face whether you like it or not. F
acebook is like a bad habit, an addiction and as with all addictions, you have to stop all association and come off of it slowly, realizing that knowing everything about everyone is not necessarily a good thing. All it does is make you feel bad about yourself or judge since you don’t know the whole story on the FB version and – as if life wasn’t hard enough as it is – who needs that?