4.30.2012

Five Way Facebook Is Ruining Your Life



1. Facebook is the graveyard of potential. People post about the idea they have, and get shot down. People post about the thing they want to do, and they get laughed at. People post about the workout they want to try or the job they want to apply for or the skill they want to learn, and they get shit on. So they give up, because it hurts and they're now discouraged.

Or...

People post about the idea they have, and they get lauded, praised and encouraged. People post about the thing they want to do, and they're patted on the back and "Liked." People post about the workout they want to try or the job they want to apply for or the skill they want to learn, and they're inundated with how-to links and information. So they give up, because posting about it and getting the reaction for the idea was just enough satisfaction for the ego that they no longer feel like they need to do the work.


2. Facebook has become your stream of consciousness. When you used to lay in bed while everyone else was asleep (or, if you were alone) and have thoughts about how lonely things were, or how much you hate the current political whatever, or how much you like Nutella, that stuff floated into and then back out of your brain. Now, it's on Facebook, written in ink on the internet permanently for the world to see.

Is this a problem? Yes and no. It's not really the same issue as insulting someone on the internet and not being able to erase it, or hurting your employment potential by posting pictures of yourself naked drinking from a beer bong or whatever. It's a problem in that our thoughts are not our own anymore. There's not much room for contemplation. Expression takes over. Everything has to not only be captured, but shared.

The impulse to let everyone else in the world know what's in your head isn't even about letting everyone else in the world know it, it's just about getting it out there. And that leads to a complete loss of individuality and self-awareness. How can you consider the  nature of yourself when people are commenting on every thought you have?


3. Facebook is the ultimate enabler for the drug of validation... And the cause of the worst withdrawals. This goes hand in hand with Facebook being your stream of consciousness. Every little thing you think is clever or interesting or noteworthy or funny that has come out of your head is now being judged by everyone else in the form of likes. Now, you're getting a real-time running update of your own self-worth based on how large the number is of people who clicked a button as a reaction to what you said.

People's comments drive your feelings of self worth. You're opening yourself up to them in an environment free from actual accountability. And while all the positivity and likes and great comments feel good and aren't in and of themselves harmful, the act of constantly seeking approval definitely is. And it's getting worse. The larger your friend base, the more popular you feel. The more comments and shares and likes your posts get, the smarter and more interesting you feel. Until one day, something doesn't perform the way you thought it would. You get frustrated. You get angry. And then, you start craving that validation. You start feeling the aches and pain and headaches and lethargy that come with depression. Your day is ruined.

Or, just as bad, something you posted gets a ton of reaction. It goes viral. People adore it. You spend your entire day watching as the meter ticks upward and shares and likes flood in. You have now lost an afternoon or a day to staring at your validation meter climbing ever upward. Your day is ruined --although you may not feel like it is at the time. But it is, because you just engaged in the digital equivalent of spending an entire day stoned in an opium den.


4. Facebook feels like work. So much so, that you have substituted actual productivity with it. You share charitable posts about charitable acts and you feel as if you've actually engaged in charity. You share news of atrocities taking place in your town, city, state, country, or the world, and feel like you've actually done something to help. You click "Like" and feel like that tally adds up to something worth a damn. And if you take the "graveyard of potential" issue with this one, you have a two-edged sword of issues.


5. Facebook takes all your time. There's just so much going on at all times, and you have to keep up with it all...

* * * * *

Facebook is all of these things... And yet, it's not evil. It's not even marginally bad. It's just a piece of software. Facebook is no more responsible for your lack of productivity, addiction to validation, loss of motivation or enraged vitriol over current events regarding politics and religion than video games are responsible for violence.


Facebook's not your problem. It's you, baby. It's always been you. 

Thinking Facebook is to blame for someone cheating on their spouse or your miserable mood is the same as thinking that buying the new workout machine or program du jour is what's finally going to get you in shape. It's not. You have the world's greatest piece of exercise equipment right outside your front door. It's the road, and the fact that you aren't walking or running on it every day proves this point.

I'm not saying "Get off of Facebook." I'm saying "You, like everyone else, are a validation junkie, and you need to put that shit in check." Facebook's just one part of your problem. It might be a very good place to start solving it. Just like putting down the bottle is a great place for alcoholics to start.