Not being on Facebook is a torturous ordeal between two choices- one of conformity that leads to social acceptance, and one of an apparent need to stick to your personal code that makes you a consistent human being with an imposing sense of individuality. This is why when the last of my geeky friends called me up in the middle of a Starbucks morning, and said that she was now subscribed to the famous social networking site, my initial reaction was to slip back to introspect how my social life has been so dismal all these years. Ironically, the extra caffeine from my double espresso didn’t kick in as much adrenaline as I needed to last the entire day.
To set the record straight, I am not Facebook-phobic; though I wouldn’t conceal my simmering resentment towards it. I guess the heightened revulsion towards social media is fueled by news on friends maligning each other on Twitter, or wives discovering the guiles of their philandering husbands on Facebook, and school enemies hurling insulting remarks on Plurk. Granted: Facebook has been used as a freeway for really good stuff, but the more one succumbs to the magnetic pull of friend confirmations, the more he is required to cannibalize his own privacy. Or streamline his otherwise boring online presence.
Nowadays, to be able to provide vicarious thrills is enough entertainment for the majority. Whether it’s your relationship status, an angst-y shout-out, or an update about what you wore to your high school soiree, the fact that you broadcast it on Facebook renders any senseless info worthy of some speculation and temporary buzz. I believe that the general assumption about this dispositional mayhem is that any act of calling attention to oneself, however upbeat and garish, is interpreted as the natural tendency to be one with the world. After all, it’s a primal need: Aristotle puts it quite succinctly- ‘man is a political animal.’
We all want to belong to a group, and as much as I hate to admit, we discover a lot of things in ourselves through others. Thus, to its avid users, the addictive nature of Facebook is both cute and philosophical. In fact, the current gauge of one’s social ‘self-actualization’ is when a person successfully asserts a claim of connection between him and thousands of other people, and Facebook provides the adequate leverage for that end. With over a hundred million subscribers, Facebook transforms our communal obligations into an exciting and fun lifestyle. No wonder a lot of FB users are self-proclaimed addicts of the platform.
If you ever run a quick search about Facebook, you will find that the World Wide Web is swamped with trivia that testify to the massive influence of Facebook on almost anybody, and how much of it has already leeched into our lives:
Facebook gets over 134 million unique visitors per month.
On a global scale, 80-90% of all teens and youngsters subscribe to Facebook.
In any given day, Facebook has 500 million active users worldwide (I do not know if these statistics include the office employees who should be working during business hours).
In total, people spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook.
According to Social Peel, 60+% of people online use Facebook to stalk their ex!
Based on Social Maximizer study, 85% of all college students use Facebook and 70% of them log in every day.
Psychologists have introduced a diagnosis known as FAD or Facebook Addiction Disorder. I won’t be amused by this feat: It’s a new kind of addiction.
In my opinion, Facebook is a material symbol occulting an unconscious subtext: It is the inevitable curiosity of people to gawk at the lives of others by evading the conventional requirements of authentic human interaction like talking face-to-face or meeting someone in person. Through the familiar blue and white user interface of Facebook, one can be an anonymous spectator of one entity’s existence. It’s a very loose example of voyeurism: The object may be quite different but the underlying groundwork is as intense as one gets. I had classmates in the university who used Facebook to stalk their crushes, or lambast the cover photos and profile pictures of their adversaries. Facebook, in itself, is a microcosm: A mini multiverse which hosts the people’s inordinate desires and search for companionship.
However true that is, the way I see it, underneath the sober intention of wanting to be friends with others, there hides a dark and insecure emotion that struggles to break free from the imminent threat of existential crisis.
I can’t recount how many times my not being on Facebook has drawn plenty of raised eyebrows from the people I meet who ask for my FB account. Its notorious reputation becomes the ultimate social proof of existence; an evident social formula that conveniently judges your well-being. And because of the irrational fear of being alone, signing up for a FB account becomes a clear statement of mindless accord to the norms that people set as canons of social fitness.
Unfortunately, when I was hired as a Web Content Writer for Cash for Smartphones, one of the job particulars was to ‘establish professional profiles in leading social networking sites i.e. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.’ Despite my firm resolve not to sign up for such services, I knew I couldn’t compromise my performance at work. Last week, I did a little self-hypnosis and bitterly signed up for a Facebook account. Hence, the strong sociopath’s alibi is relinquished.
In retrospect, I would not deny that many times I have seen myself nearly falling prey to the invites of a Facebook registration, even when the coaxing of my peers had already abated. I knew my blatant defiance for social networking sites lay on the stronghold against human beings’ natural inclination for frivolities. Sometimes, I want to plunge deep into the temptation, and for once leave the guilt-trip behind. After all, if many others wanted to be different from the rest, many others still wished they could blend in.
If not for the love of my job, I would have won hands down over the nemesis!