It’s all rather odd, isn’t it. 10% of the entire Internet userbase are members of Facebook which if you’ve never heard of it basically means that you’ve been in a semi-vegetative state for several years or have recently arrived on an intergalactic shuttle. Its founders and code-scribbling cubiculi have made fortunes out of an evolving psychology which may not be well understood. Facebook is pretty, addictive and compelling. Most of the time; the new user interface notwithstanding. I am amazed to see how vitriolic people have become about what is essentially a software upgrade which, it has to be said, is unashamedly manipulative but people will learn and stick with because the dopamine highs they get outweigh the inconveniences. Microsoft have been doing it for years.
Like all social platforms, Facebook is personal PR where one’s own little light can, for an instant, shine fractionally more brightly. Most of the time, everyone is putting their best foot forward since we don’t much like to read about the trudging humdrummery of people’s vacuous and often quite pitiable lives. Instead, we post pictures showing first class departure lounges in Singapore airport – ‘is that Angelina Jolie in the left hand corner?’, as if by so doing we identify in some meaningless and irrelevant respect with the lives of the rich and famous. I am no exception – and am ashamed to admit that I have posted from exotic places with the unspoken thought that my friends – most of whom I clearly don’t deserve – will somehow not actually experience feelings of envy, rejoicing with me instead over the small privileges which being in such places has afforded me. Many tell me how jealous they are, producing undeserved frissons of pride thus inflating my already overbloated and wobbling ego. I’m appalled with myself sometimes, but take comfort in the notion that most people routinely overestimate the happiness of others and hopefully won’t feel worse about themselves by making irrelevant comparisons between themselves and me.
Current research suggests, apparently, that using Facebook adds stress to users’ lives. Causes of stress include fear of missing important social information – whatever that might mean – ‘have I been invited on Saturday? If not, why not?” fear of offending contacts, discomfort or guilt from rejecting user requests or deleting unwanted contacts or being unfriended or blocked, the displeasure of having friend requests rejected or ignored, the pressure to be entertaining, criticism and intimidation from other Facebook users, and having to use appropriate etiquette for different types of friends *note to self – don’t call the vicar an arse, even if he is one*. It would seem that many people who started using Facebook for positive purposes or with positive expectations have found it has negatively impacted their everyday, ‘actual’ lives. I find it interesting to read that in the UK, up to 33% of divorce petitions cite Facebook as a cause.
Why are we all still here?