Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Facebook: A social disease

By Isaac Simon

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(Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian)

(Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian)

I can be found checking Facebook more often than I would like to admit. Like so many other people my age, social media plays a vibrant and important role in my life. As a 19-year-old, I feel an obligation to stay connected, but recently, I’ve felt as though I’ve fallen victim to the least attractive aspects of social media.

I don’t know about you, but I feel a compulsion to check Facebook, and when I do not act on this bizarre sensation, I feel physically uncomfortable. By resisting the urge, I am not missing anything. There is really never anything to check. Facebook can be used in an effort to “check in” with your network, while at the same time forcing you to check out of your surroundings. This is essentially the irony of the social network. It is often used in an effort to get away. I wanted to be social, I would interact with my peers, not chat my “friends” that are online.

Facebook has also changed the way users define the word “friend.” Historically, this term is a noun. But as outlined in the New Oxford American Dictionary, the word has become a verb. The phrase “to friend” is now used frequently, but has little to do with the word’s original meaning.

When a person accepts a friend request, the recipient is no longer just a friend – he or she becomes a fan. This is especially true for people who “follow” their Facebook friends, altering their settings so that they will be notified when those friends post something new.

So instead of talking with these people face-to-face, I, the fan, receive updates on my Facebook friends. While this can be fun, and at certain points amusing, I can’t help but feel jealous. Yes, as weird as it may sound, Facebook provides society with the illusion that people really have their lives together. This makes perfect sense given that life is all about how you package it. However, Facebook can also make an individual feel deeply insecure about who he or she is as a person.

The liberating part of all this is just that: it’s an illusion. It is rarely the case that the person who posts photos has it all together. In fact, an argument could be made for the contrary. These avid Facebook posters could be the ones that don’t have their lives in order. Indeed, the very idea that these people feel the need to post photos points to a deeper insecurity that they have within themselves. After all, most of these images are not uploaded for any meaningful purpose other than to create noise and chatter online.

Posting a photo or video on Facebook is all about the response. How are my fans going to react to this new photo album? How many comments is it going to generate? More importantly though, how many people are going to share my most recent upload?

Now, let me be clear: I love Facebook. For every negative aspect of Facebook there is a purposeful, positive one. Although I rarely post photos, I am not a stranger to posting opinions in an effort to generate a heated discussion. I understand that a certain aspect of it is compelling, but it has created a gap within human conversation.

If you are reading this, you are most likely a college student. There is no mystery when it comes to understanding students’ addiction to the website. Before class, after class and sometimes even during class, fellow classmates are checking in in an effort to check out.

The unfortunate loss in all of this is the systematic destruction of human conversation. If life is based off of two key elements – productivity and our relationships with others – then perhaps we should take a minute to think about the evolution of human interaction. Is it important to look up at someone when everyone has a device to look down at? Does conversing with another person in a face-to-face manner matter anymore? Or should society and all of its members fall in love with this in between phase that has now developed?

These are all questions that I do not have the answers to. What I do know is this: Social media will never replace what it means to live. It is not and never will be an equivalent substitute for “the now.” Individuals can choose to make the conscious decision to condense dialogue into words such as “like,” “you know” and “LOL,” but I will not.

But then again, perhaps I should just give in and upload all of this to my Facebook page, in an effort to further my insecurities all over again.

Isaac Simon is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

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