When Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook from within the walls of his Harvard dorm I highly doubt he could ever have fully been aware of the beast he was unleashing on the world. The Oppenheimer of our age, Zuckerberg’s creation has had perilous effects on our day-to-day lives. Unlike Myspace and Bebo, Facebook is a fad that refuses to fade.
This week, a man who had won an $80,000 lawsuit against his former employer was not paid due to an ill-advised post by his daughter. After having won this hefty settlement from the Gulliver Preparatory School for supposed ‘ageism’, his daughter Dana Snay posted, “Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT” thus violating a secrecy clause and essentially voiding her father’s deal.
Whilst I’ve never seen anyone jeopardise vast sums of money personally, or see them start a court case on Facebook, the dangers of the online world become increasingly apparent each day spent in procrastina- tion as exams draw ever closer.
Actual procrastination seems to be big business on Facebook. The sheer volume of incredibly addictive games attached to the site proves this above all. Mostly the province of bored students, competitive geeky twelve year olds and middle-aged mums who probably should know better, these games have proved incredibly lucrative for savvy entrepreneurs. Facebook games aside, the sheer amount of time that can be consumed ‘stalking’ people can reach well into hours, if not days.
More recently, Facebook has been the platform for activist arts students to post edgy, informative articles about all the world’s major crises – a slightly more self-deluding form of procrastination, but procrastination all the same.
I shudder to think how many grades have been missed, social engagements ignored and minds driven slowly insane by the pressure of maintaining a virtual farm under the watchful eye of friends, family, and people you met on holiday that one time. What did people do before Facebook? Probably get a hell of a lot more done.
On a more serious note, Facebook seems to both increase and decrease our sense of self worth. I have too many Facebook friends who, having posed self-consciously in front of an amateur with a posh camera, consider themselves real models.
They continually post pictures of themselves to the point of obsession. This kind of narcissism really can’t be healthy. Self-aggrandizement can function in a more subtle way. People seem to consistently edit their Facebook profiles to create the impression of an idyllic life. Ugly photos are deleted immediately and replaced with those from a luxury holiday in the Bahamas.
Often we decide to live vicariously, and boastfully celebrate the achievements of our friends or relatives, reminding our fellow humans that our life is just that little bit more perfect than their own. This kind of living completely via Facebook does have serious consequences. We do not engage with reality, but rather a virtual platform that distorts it; everything looks better in photographs, people look beautiful on their profiles, we edit our lives to what we would like to see, thereby invalidating the un-editable reality.
We only appreciate experiences when we can ‘check-in’ at an event, and friendships are only useful insofar that they provide us with uproariously funny pictures, flattering comments and sarcastic poke wars.
This pool of self-obsession is of- ten deceptive. Whilst we outwardly appear to be living socially confident lives, Facebook allows profilers to mask their loneliness, a trend many recent comment articles have highlighted.
I believe that Facebook provides us with a bit of a predicament. It presents some serious, and some not so serious, harms to our mental and emotional health, but at the same time has become such an integral part of our daily lives that a world without Facebook seems inconceivable.
This university runs on Facebook; societies, residential halls and academic schools all rely on social media for contacting otherwise distant students – if I didn’t have Facebook I truly wouldn’t know what on earth was going on. It seems to me that if ignored Facebook could prove the end of your social life, and if engaged with fruitfully the same outcome can be easily achieved.