Really entirely missing the point of social life

The more I use Facebook, the more miserable I become (and vice versa). I’m not the only one: heavy users in particular are unhappier, lonelier, meaner, and so on.

Why is that? And why, then, do people keep using it?

This comes down to the most subtle and interesting conflict at the heart of Facebook: user versus user. Let me explain, via a little story.

Facebook is really just the digital version of a facebook, a printed book with everyone’s headshot and a brief bio – where they came from, went to school and what their hobbies are – given to students at prestigious colleges and universities.

I went to such a school, and at the beginning of every year, we’d grab the facebook and devour it. Who was that pretty face? Man, look at that dork! Doesn’t that person look like a nobody, a monster, a sycophant? Everyone spent hours with their friends going over it. Why, exactly?

We were too young to know it then, but what we really doing was performing social comparisons. After doing this, we placed everyone on a pecking order based on prejudicial judgments made according to the few superficial attributes that were in the facebook – a face, a smile, a name. But those verdicts made it difficult for us to get to know our peers as people. So. Allow me to ask again: what were we really doing?

Social comparisons are me-versus-you interactions, not me-with-you or me-and-you interactions.

And every kaffeeklatch, bridal shower and drinking party is the same thing. That’s just what human society is, a constant and consistent game of one upmanship. Don’t people know this?

7 comments on “Really entirely missing the point of social life

  1. Although presumably when you do it with a physical book and a group of friends, you are team-building. By sneering at everyone else, you are reinforcing your social support group, your friends.

    You can’t do that on Facebook. Social media is more me against the world. I can look at an ex-girlfriend and think that she has got fat, but who else cares? I could tell her present boyfriend, but there doesn’t seem to be any useful pay off to that.

    Sitting alone in your room b!tching about other people is how the lowest sections of society behave. Better to join a gang and tell those other people from the other side of the road that their mother is so fat she has her own postcode.

  2. Facebook is a problem because people only share the banal or good things that happen, rarely the shit. This means that the insecure think that everyone else is having a good time and they aren’t.

    The response to them is shut down your account and go and get a life.

  3. “This means that the insecure think that everyone else is having a good time”
    – i’d say that the difference is that in the real world social group you don’t usually get the whole network represented at any one time so there’s plenty of scope for gossip and tittletattle on the others. That’s when you get to hear about the crap side though not from the horses mouth very often. I’m sure sophisticated users of facebook manage this but then again all it takes is a screenshot and gossiper is busted.

  4. Blogger Umair Haque (who describes himself as a vampire at Eudomania) may be projecting his own hostility onto others. Facebook has a Like button with five available flavours: like, love, happy, sad and angry. Very seldom do I see negative responses, except of course when my good friend posts a link to a Guardian article.

  5. “I went to such a school, and at the beginning of every year, we’d grab the facebook and devour it.” How fucking pathetic. And girly.

  6. Facebook is like all newish tech. People use it. Some do themselves harm with it. Most people learn how to use it in “moderation”. Some idiot proposes a law to control it for the children. We are in that phase. For most people it will do no harm.

  7. >And every kaffeeklatch, bridal shower and drinking party is the same thing.

    Wouldn’t really agree on the drinking party. Yes, there is some of that that goes on, it’s true up to a point, but also a lot of making friends and bonding (talking mostly about men here. Normal men). You won’t get that on a Guardianista Facebook circle.

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