The distraction network
Social networks have exploded in recent years. They’re a great way to find people you know and stay connected with them. Most have apps that you can download to your phone so you can use them at almost any given time. They allow you to follow your favourite celebrities and hear what they have to say, and the last federal election demonstrated that they are a way to communicate with a target demographic. Nevertheless, not all of the fallout from social networks is benign.
Despite my own frequent use of social networks, they do have many negative effects. In fact, it could be argued that the majority of effects of social networks are detrimental on both an individual and groups of people.
In essence, social networks are simply ways for one to try and prove to the world how funny, happy, and horribly self-centered they are. Why make a Twitter account if you don’t want everyone to follow you and see how goddamn witty you are? Why post pictures to Facebook if you don’t want people to look at you?
Another issue is personal information that’s posted online. I would make a bet that the vast majority of people have far too much personal information on social networks, including their birthdays, current or previous employment information, relationship statuses, education, phone numbers, email addresses, etc.
While simply throwing this kind of personal information on the internet is never really a good idea, another problem can arise when changes are made to these details.
It seems that absolutely nothing can change and go undetected on a site like Facebook. “Hmm, it says here Mike “left” his job. I bet he got fired. I’ll comment and ask him what happened. Oh – Shelly and Jesse broke up! I should text her and find out the details.” Changing personal information such as mentioned above just leads to people poking their nose in places where they don’t belong. Fifteen minutes after I break up with someone, am I really going to want to be dealing with texts as to what happened between us? No, I really don’t – especially when frankly, I don’t give a shit about more than half of the people I have on Facebook and I’d consider even less of the remaining number to be my actual “friends”. I just feel like too much of an ass to decline friend requests.
There seems to be this desire to connect with everyone that you have the slightest knowledge of. I’m friends with people on Facebook that I couldn’t pick out of a police lineup. While being able to stay in touch with everyone from your high school class sounds great, if I really cared about you in all honesty, I’d stay in touch with you in a non-electronic way.
So, with all these seemingly adverse effects, why do people still use online social networks? They make for such perfect distractions. “I’m tired of reading notes. I wonder if Kanye West said anything on Twitter.” Even as I write this article now, every time that damned little bird at the top of my screen turns blue I can’t help but see who just tweeted. Even if I’m not doing anything, I can’t help but see what’s new on Facebook. It’s like I need a distraction from my own life. Ellie posted some new photos? Let’s take a look at them.
Everyone always seems so happy in pictures. No one posts photos from Grandma’s funeral. Go through your Facebook friends’ photos and read the album titles. Are they something along the lines of “New Year’s 2011!” or “Summmmmmer“ or “Jamaicaaa!”? There’s nothing wrong with being happy, but no one is this happy all the time. However, the key part is that when the only photos of you show you happy, it gives this illusion that you are. This illusion can then cause others to, whether consciously or subconsciously, feel that you are happier than they are.
Yet, we just can’t seem to keep our noses out of other people’s shit. It’s fun to look back at the photos from that awesome party last Saturday, but I think we need to make sure there’s a clear and definite line between distraction from homework and obsessing with the lives of 359 people.