'Facebook is taking over people's lives' wrote someone on an article about parents adding their kids on Facebook. Reading this made me laugh, then scoff. 'It's only a social networking site' I naively thought, 'does it really have the power to control people's lives?'.
Then reality hit in the form of a wall-update. "Stevie" had updated their relationship status to, "Stevie is in a relationship and It's complicated".
Stevie needs to learn how to sort through their thoughts without updating their Facebook statuses, I thought.
But this really made me think, maybe our lives really do revolve around social networking. I know, a little late right? Millions have already discovered this. Anyone recall the women who was on Dr. Phil who scheduled her life around her Farmville crops on Facebook? Ironically I organized my chickens by colour and goats by size the other night.
Twitter, Facebook, MySpace -- a personal favourite of mine -- they all control us. How could they not, with Twitter we are taking our everyday thoughts and throwing them out there so people who, if following us, have to read them. Celebrities thoughts and words of wisdom are invaded by millions daily and some even make the news. Facebook itself has become a biography of sorts.
It is said best in the film "He's Just Not That Into You" by Drew Barrymore. "People don't meet organically anymore. If I would like to make myself seem more attractive to the opposite sex I don't go and get a new haircut, I update my profile".
Is this not true? I will confidently say, knowing I am not alone, that I have updated my profile when I am turning over a 'new leaf' and starting 'fresh with life'. It seems every new year I update my profile's likes and dislikes, my favourite film and book lists always change and expand and my music section is always on heavy rotation with being such a music junkie.
In the end I know that doesn't mean a thing and I certainly know that I cannot portray who I am through updating, but it seems that is one of the best ways to showcase who I am. But can I ask this; who gives a damn? If they wanted to know they would ask me, or at least they would have before Facebook emerged. When I need to think of a Christmas gift for someone I don't call and ask someone who may know, I go to Facebook and look through their profile.
Stevie (a fake name to protect their identity but mostly their dignity) is a prime example of someone whose life revolves around Facebook. Remember when your relationship became complicated and you sat down on the couch with some chocolate, a tub of ice cream and a sappy romance? It seems that Facebook updates have taken a pivotal role in this process.What really shocked me was how Stevie's friends flocked to this update with words of comfort.
and the Pièce de résistance
Stevie then is left to explain, but of course they don't, that is far too personal and it is not any of their business. But right about the time Stevie's friend "Buck" is writing "WTF dude message me now", Stevie is changing their profile picture from them and their now ex-significant other to a picture of them... all alone.
But all is not lost... it seems that the next day -- 16 hours later, thank you time stamps -- as I check up on the developments in Stevie's online heartbreak I find that Stevie is now back together with their beloved significant other and their profile is back to the two of them kissing for the camera, puckering up like two fish out of water.
Do we rejoice? Not just yet, it seems it is the month of heart as another friend, let's call them "Helga", is in a crisis of their own. Helga has broken up with their beloved boyfriend, but they two, a day later update their status again to "Helga has updated their relationship status to 'In a relationship...'".
I begin to realize that people don't want to give a damn, but we do. How could we not? We have a constant opening into people's lives, we get to know their every thought and even their every move. I wonder if we shouldn't be threatened by that, but it seems we aren't.
My head was reeling as I began to realize that I too update my Facebook status at an alarming rate, something I attempted to curve months ago. Even though I stick too such status updates such as:>"So much brain freeze and so little brain!"
"Going to file a noise complaint against a very obnoxious cricket tonight...".
I have to ask, is there such a thing as socially-acceptable profile updates and 'taboo' profile updates? Sure those run along the lines of 'funny' but does everyone want to have their main page filled with paethtic one-liners? We've all seen that one status update that makes us ask, 'What is wrong with you?'.
And what about people like Stevie, can these sites become such a significant piece of our lives that everything tends to filter through them first? I find out news on Facebook about family faster than it travels through the line of gossip and with my family that is saying a lot.
Personally I don't watch "As The World Turns", and I therefore don't want my Facebook main-page updates being filled with the drama that should be left behind closed doors: relationship updates, questionable pictures and angry status messages with hidden meanings that are so obvious even I become afraid.
When we go online, do we lose all sense of filter? Now as a person who does not filter much, I can see how it happens but what I don't filter is my views, my beliefs. I can be blunt and people either take it or leave it. But do we really need to read that our friend had the cops called on them this weekend? Or dozens of pictures of someone raising a glass of "water" to the camera? Or worst of all a full album filled with pictures of you and your significant other kissing and gazing longingly into each other's eyes.
Looking through my Facebook friend's list I have people that I have not talked to physically since I graduated high school three years ago and people I haven't even talked to in any form since we were in high school. The one thing they all have in common: I know who they are seeing, who they hang out with, where they go, basically any thought they post simply because of Facebook.
Running into an old friend turns awkward because with a simple visit to their profile I already know about their trip to Hawaii, the family they had in and that them and Johnny celebrated two years together. Remember when you could get lost for hours catching up with someone about their life, now you can do it in the privacy of your own living room in your underwear without even uttering a word to them.
I've never met my "friends" Sandra and Michael in person but I know that she had a horrible flu last week and that Michael had a bug bite that was swelling, leaking puss and itching.
Do I really need to know these things? Is this someone that they would tell someone in person?
Have we actually lost the ability to communicate in person? If not, are we close? iPhones advertise video calls that are so real it is like the person is really there with you in the room and there are apps that you can tag your location in case your friends with the application are close by so you can meet up. Has technology and these social networking sites blurred the social and personal boundaries we have?
I don't need to even ask someone how the movie was they went to see, they update their status and message people through the whole thing, it's a miracle they even knew what it was about.
I can't help but think about the future, it will be filled with further developed technologies, will we even need to leave our homes for anything? We have taken pen-pals to a new, impersonal, extreme. I remember writing to them in elementary school one year, I never stayed in touch but I'm sure if I found their name and them on Facebook I could easily establish who they have become, possibly without even adding them to my account.
You hear stories of people finding their partners cheating, employees being fired for incriminating photos and things they just should not have said: all because these networking sites become more than a way to stay connected. They are a way of being involved, a way of being in every personal aspect of a person's life with their full permission, by the click of a mouse. "Accept Friend Request".
With the innocent click of 'Confirm' we are accepting not only a friend, but an unintentional stalker. I have found, and stopped, myself while bored in class from going idly through friend after friend, friend's of a friend, friends of a friend's friend, simply out of boredom.
You hear of people being stalked online. Houses being broken into because someone felt the need to post (and boast) about going to Hawaii that upcoming weekend, even conveniently giving their flight time out of anger at the impending early morning wake-up. Parents recently admitted to having Facebook to spy on their children, making it a rule that if their child wants Facebook they have to add them.
No wonder people are paranoid.
Truly my favorite thing is when your number of friends mysteriously drops. Sudden panic and fear grips you as you scan though pages of friends looking for a familiar profile picture. All the while thinking, 'Who was it? Don't they like me anymore? Did I do something wrong?'.Fear becomes stronger as you begin from page 1 again and finally realize who is the missing number. 'Should I search them? Maybe they quit Facebook?' you think feeling a little better.
Deciding against, you tell yourself you are overreacting but really you just can't take the possible rejection of being 'un-friended'. They did sit behind you in math for 3 years, you had a special bond...
You begin to check the pages of mutual friends for recent posts but find nothing and in foolish confidence you assume that they simply quit Facebook, you even toy with the idea yourself as you look over your recent actions, deleting your browser history to hide the evidence.
Then you see it. Them. Their picture under, of all places, suggested friends. You click but even their privacy settings deem you unfit. You are an outsider. To think you let them cheat off you in class, well you aren't sure they cheated but they look like the type. You note the mug of beer in their hand, that smug tipsy grin. They even became an alcoholic. Good riddance... Yet your pointer hovers over "Add friend".
"Is it too forward?" a voice asks.
"You already friended them once," says another, "they didn't want you".
You close the window and try not to take it personally.
But don't we? We always seem to notice that one person who seems to have never accepted your friend request but who seem to have no trouble with commenting on mutual friend's pages. You've even commented on the status they do, thinking maybe that notification will trigger their memory to accept you. I currently have three people I have not added to my account, they have been sitting there waiting for me to accept, but I just don't want too.
Tell me which is considered to be more rude: to deny their friend request or to simply never deal with it? Would you rather wait in vein for Jim from work to add you so you can comment on his pictures from Italy or would you rather know that Jim is fine with laughing at your jokes at the water cooler during break, but would rather not 'be-friend' you.
It seems that Facebook and these other sites, if anything, dwindles us back down at times to that kid in the back of the classroom no one sat by because they smelt like gym socks and acne ointment. Our paranoia tends to get us at the best of times, even with your 287 'friends'.
But are all of these people really your friends? I challenge you to check, how many of them do you actually talk too? Do you have people on there that you never converse with but oddly enough know a fair amount about?
I use to bug my mom about having only 16 friends, but now I bite my tongue. How many people would I have if I deleted everyone I don't ever talk too? What makes that thought worse is the fact that if I run into any of these people it is a quick nod in passing and I find myself gripped with fear at the thought of an awkward conversation. I already know everything going on in their lives and I can't even talk to them face to face.
It was a long-winded post I know, but it really got me thinking and to be honest, worrying. How come sites that are suppose to connect us, really seems to only make it harder for us to do so in person?