Facebook was created to bring friends, families, childhood playmates, acquaintances, and those within our local communities together. One must wonder with status updates such as, “I made chocolate cupcakes today”, “I am taking my family to Disneyland this summer”, and “I ran fifty miles this week” who it is we are posting for. Facebook, an online social network that was created to connect one another, has become a place for the disconnected.
Facebook, created by Harvard University’s student Mark Zuckerberg, was launched on February 4, 2004. According to Caitlyn McGarry of PC World, “it was a way for college students to seek each other out for friendship, or, you know, whatever” (par.1). Ten years later the mission of Facebook has expanded to connect the world to the internet, with one billion active monthly users one might say Zuckerberg is well on his way.
Statistically speaking one-seventh of the world’s population is connected to the internet through the online social network Facebook, of these users, how many are actually connecting to one another? In order to make a connection, one would need to communicate with those “friends” they have associated themselves with. Does posting the status update, “I made chocolate cupcakes today,” on one’s Facebook wall satisfy the idea of a connection? Most people would not translate that into a conversation or even an update they would be interested in reading, in fact one may even consider it as a selfish boast of themselves, a way of communicating to those reading their news feed, look how wonderful I am this very second. These status updates are not only annoying to read and a waste of our valuable time but they are creating a disconnection amongst the connected.
Instead of having millions of people connecting, conversing and building relationships on this social network, we have millions of people disconnecting, boasting and breaking communication lines on this un-social network. In the paper entitled, Misery Has More Company Than People Think, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Alexhander Jordan shares a series of studies in which examines how college students evaluate their moods. The researchers at Stanford’s Psychology Department found that their subjects consistently underestimated how disappointed others were and would likely end up feeling more miserable as a result. These college students observed, appeared to be feeling particularly inferior about themselves after logging onto their Facebook site and scrolling through their friend’s attractive, filtered, Instagram improved photos, accomplished about me sections, and the boastful “I ran fifty miles this week”, status updates. Jordan was often told by these college students, “they were convinced that everyone was leading a perfect life” (par.32). Though the tendency for people to compare ourselves to others is nothing new, social networking is making this negative practice worse.
The truth is people only post what they believe others want to know. Not very often a status update will include the words, “I hate that I yelled at my children today”, “I failed my English class this semester”, or “I could not pull myself out of bed this week”. The Facebook “Like” button has created a social pressure to post that everything is wonderful in one’s life and the more wonderful it is the more likes one will receive from those they are connected to.
The reality is no one’s life is always wonderful and those who are truly connected off line are often too busy and have no need to share about the cupcakes they made for their family today. These posts of too much information that lead us to blocking a user or even unfriending them may be an act of invalidation to someone who just wants to belong. A study finds that oversharing on the world’s most popular social network is a possible sign of loneliness, these people are disconnected. Yeslam Al-Saggaf and Sharon Nielsen of Charles Sturt University found Facebook users who felt lonely were more likely to post more personal information, as well as their relationship status, favorite things, address, interests and hobbies, than users who felt connected so that similar people or those living nearby could approach them, allowing them to minimize their feeling of isolation (pp. 462-464). The research also states that these over sharers admit to refraining from posting their thoughts, facts and beliefs in regards to subjects such as politics and religion to steer clear from people disliking what they say.
It is impossible to categorize Facebook users into two perfectly separate groups, the connected and the disconnected; however, it is important to be aware of such differences. Rebecca Hiscott of The Huffington Post describes Facebook as a, “double edged social sword, a network that can simultaneously alleviate symptoms of depression and loneliness in some and cause them in others” (par.13). A lesson attained from such information is that not all users are aware or respect their audience they have on Facebook. Instead of being quick to slap the hands of someone who we are uncomfortable with their need to belong, one may need to become a more attuned reader in knowing the post author in avoiding the overlook of the over sharer who might just be reaching out for a human connection. Facebook after all was created to be an online social network that will connect the world to the internet.
Al-Saggaf, Y., & Nielsen, S. (2014). Self-disclosure on Facebook among female users and its relationship to feelings of loneliness. Computers in Human Behavior, 36(2014), 460–468.
Hiscott, Rebecca. “Why Your Empty Facebook Profile Is A Good Sign.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 3 June 2014. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.
Jordan, Alexander H., et al. “Misery Has More Company Than People Think: Underestimating the Prevalence of Others’ Negative Emotions.” (2011).
McGarry, Caitlyn. “Facebook At 10: How The Social Network Grew Up.” PC World 32.3 (2014): 24-28. Academic Search Premier. Web. 25 Feb. 2015.