Facebook: Seeking Solidarity in Isolation
The Social Network
We undisputedly live in a world of social networking sites. Perhaps foremost among these is Facebook, which more and more seems to be a public diary for users to disclose every intimate detail of their lives. I have Facebook friends who religiously post pictures of themselves, including everything from their old high school photos to current pics with friends, family, and whoever else they can gather for a photo opportunity.
It’s possible you can tell from my tone right now that I am not a Facebook fan. But the factors that motivate others to get on this site for an average of 1.4 hours per day deserve inspection. What are the traits, for instance, that lead people to divulge so much personal information for all the world to see? And why are the catalogs of photos necessary?
The Average User/Narcissist
In 2011, a study from Melbourne, Australia, found that regular Facebook users have higher levels of family loneliness and tend to be narcissistic, extroverted exhibitionists. Just to clarify, narcissism is a personality disorder in which people have an exaggerated sense of self importance and a deep need for admiration. Exhibitionism, meanwhile, involves exposing oneself to a stranger.
Facebook, according to Australian researchers, “gratifies the narcissistic individual’s need to engage in self-promoting and superficial behavior.” They are quick to note that not all Facebook users possess these traits, although the majority likely do. Non-users, on the other hand, are more likely to be shy and conscientious.
Everybody's Doin' It
While the world’s population is 7 billion, the estimated number of social networking users is 1.2 billion. In the United States, nearly 22 percent of overall time online is spent on social networking sites. More than 50 percent of all Americans used a social networking site in 2011, which is a 10-time increase since 2005. The most active age groups are millenials (18 – 34) followed by teens (12 – 17), GenX (35 – 46) and Baby Boomers (47 – 65).
Users can each have hundreds, if not thousands, of online friends who create a vast and immensely diverse network. But this network, researchers report, is both broader and shallower than friends we have outside of cyberspace. The daily activities of Facebook users are reportedly accessible, but the people themselves live in isolation. Society as a whole is allegedly detached and lonely, thanks largely to the individually confined worlds of 845 million worldwide Facebook users.
What is the impact of this loneliness? A 2013 study from Germany reveals that as many as one in every three people who use social media experience feelings of jealousy and envy after spending time on these sites. In fact, there is a growing correlation between how often one uses social media and major mental health issues. The fact that a significant percentage of people check Facebook even before they get out of bed is an indication of the social anxieties and pressures that have been created by this medium.
The study revealed that significant emotional damage was experienced by users who looked at positive posts and photos of friends who were smiling and looking happy. In some respects, Facebook has become the place for people to flaunt their successes. When reading this information, it’s easy for users to reflect on their own lives and feel depressed.
Similarly, a study published in December 2012 found the more time college students spent on Facebook, the worse they felt about their own lives. Some may argue Facebook is efficient in disbursing virtual empathy since people feel good when a lot of people, for instance, wish them happy birthday. But, the reality is that obtaining “likes” and new “friends” has created a compulsion or addiction.
Several questions to ask yourself if you’re addicted to Facebook include:
1. Have you tried to shut off your Facebook page only to go right back to it?
2. Do you find yourself less productive in your work or studies?
3. Do you use Facebook as an escape for relaxation and pleasure?
4. Do you find yourself constantly checking how many people like your posts?