Text by Dawnavie Dadis
When was the last time you checked your Facebook account?
If you are part of this tech-savvy, image-conscious, selfie generation, then most likely, you have gone on Facebook in the last hour, or are itching to browse through your newsfeed instead of paying attention to a conversation right now.
Like a knee-jerk reaction to every idle circumstance, most of us are forced to browse through our Facebook accounts and delve into our social media environment more often than necessary.
Just like an addiction
But why is Facebook so addictive? A study at Harvard University suggests that our penchant for social media might stem from a psychological desire to talk about ourselves. The researchers found that the part of our brain stimulated by drugs reacts the same way when we are given an opportunity to self-disclose.
Simply put, like true addicts, we get hooked on sharing – and really, is there any better platform for talking about ourselves than social media? It’s fast, free and most important of all, you’ve got a similarly captive audience who are as glued to their phones and gadgets as you are.
A habit of sharing and self-disclosure isn’t bad per se (though there is such a thing as oversharing), but because of this, we’ve unintentionally given Facebook the power to literally affect our moods. The information we share and receive impacts our happiness in ways we don’t even realize.
Creating your self-image
Being on Facebook gives us freedom. It enables the user to create a custom self-image that will either appeal to a huge friend group, or target specific people. Unlike with real-world connections, whoever we are and whatever we do at this point in our lives become largely user-defined.
We choose to highlight the things we want people to know about us and downplay the negative ones through the photos, videos and status messages we post. The groups we belong to, our “likes” and connections are all status symbols that become part of the image we would like to project.
The level of coolness of our profile becomes our ticket to friendships, a way of penetrating the crowd of people we wouldn’t even have the chance of bumping into under normal circumstances.
Facebook – and indeed, all forms of computer-mediated communication – makes the art of conversation so much easier.
Technology gave us the means to edit not only edit ourselves for content and form, but it also makes physical handicaps like stuttering unnoticeable. You can rehearse your dialogues all you want, keeping the conversation interesting, and keeping yourself interesting as well. It provides an opportunity to connect with more people without being overwhelmed by the demands of face-to-face interaction.
Like it or not
But it’s the level of character customization in Facebook that makes us more vulnerable to unwarranted self-consciousness. We become engrossed in comparing ourselves to others. The pressure to keep up with our Facebook friends is fed by our deepest, darkest insecurities.
More than longing for the high social status we portray in our #OOTD posts and Foursquare check-ins, we yearn for the ‘likes,’ ‘shares,’ and comments from our thousands of virtual friends. We tailor our posts based on what is most likely to trigger reactions from our newsfeed audience. We unwittingly become attention-seekers, waiting for each notification to affirm that we belong and are appreciated.
It’s good when we get the attention we think we deserve, but when we don’t, that’s when the problem kicks in. We feel slighted, unattractive, and insignificant. It can destroy self-esteem. Out of over a thousand Facebook friends, how come our posts only get less than a hundred likes?
On Facebook, not liking a post instantly becomes a sign of disapproval. We’re after the numbers. We like being the talk of the town. And when we don’t get that, we try harder and harder, over and over again. We pattern our entire existence, at least on social media, on what seems agreeable to most people. That negatively impacts our self-confidence and sense of self-worth, especially because it implies that we have to change ourselves to the point of becoming somebody else, just to be accepted.
The social experiment
Perhaps what makes the Facebook atmosphere more appalling is that apart from all the things it unintentionally does to its users, there are still a lot of circumstances they deliberately subject their users to.
Early this year, Facebook launched a survey that gauged the reaction of its users to different stimuli. They intentionally placed both negative and positive posts in our newsfeed to test our reactions to them. This enabled them to formulate an algorithm that can determine which posts we would like. They say this creates a better user experience, since you get to see more of what you like and less of what you don’t like.
At first glance, it seems to give you more autonomy when it comes to your account, but take another good look at it and you’ll realize that one thing that drives the entire Facebook machinery: profit.
When you get more of the posts you want to see, you are more likely to linger on Facebook. And the more time you spend on the site, the more you are exposed to its advertisements, and the more disposed you are to click on them, or recall them at the very least.
Like a go-to friend, Facebook has the ability to make or break our day, to heighten or dampen the happiness we feel with every click, like, swipe and share.
Self-control is still the best policy when it comes to social media. Learn how to control what you post and for whom you are exposing your posts. Limit your browsing time. Stop stalking your ex, your archenemy, and your celebrity idol. Verify all information that you come across. Lessen the negativity – hide people from your feed if seeing their posts doesn’t do you any good. The list goes on.
You could create a whole rulebook on Facebook, or you could simply stop obsessing over it and over yourself.
As far as addictions go, Facebook isn’t so bad, but remember to indulge in moderation.
Go offline. Go out. Live the moment (the sharing can come later!).
Philippine Social Media in Numbers
37.6 Million – Internet users
2 Hours, 48 Minutes – Average time spent on mobile internet ever day
4 Hours – Average time spent on social media every day
1 in 3 – Internet users have atleast one social media account
34 Million – Active Facebook users
69 Percent – Urban internet users with Facebook
40 Percent – Urban internet users with Twitter
20 Percent – Urban internet users with Instagram