The inspiration for this article, came from the following video. Shimi Cohen, the maker of the video says:
"We, as human beings, think that through social networks, we’ve somehow become more social creatures. The problem with this theory is, the more we 'connect' online, the less actual human interactions we have, making us actually fairly unsocial."
As an Educational Psychologist, I am pleased that the clip deals with a very important, yet somewhat invisible, issue; the loneliness created by the illusion of social media. Unfortunately, it is a very poorly discussed problem, which is another reason I really liked the video.
This article is only focusing on adults and their use of social media, since there is much more to it when dealing with children and teenagers. The article will focus on some of the negative aspects that lead us to the illusion of community and closeness, but in reality are creating loneliness. However, facebook and other social media, do have many positive aspects. It really is about how we use them, and what values and ’emotional needs’ we project onto them.
As facebook has become a household name, anybody who does not have a facebook profile, is pretty much left behind. For instead of calling and having personal contact with our friends, the news is posted on facebook. Pictures from holidays are no longer shared during a cosy get together. No, they are shared on facebook. And all of those, who were sick and tired of uncool photos, well, they now can post only the glamorous ones. If 50 people ’like’ your post, you are loved and important. If you have 500 friends, you are not only important and loved, you are also ’cool’. You are a person, with a high social worth. On the other hand, you could also post something and only get a few or no ’likes’ at all. Then what? Then you are invisible, and you can’t see if any of your ’friends’ have found you important enough, to pay any attention to your post. As a result, all we become on social media is a profile, not a real person.
As I see it, the problem is, that social media, have taken over many of our social activities such as talking together, getting together over a nice dinner, hearing about your friends adventures, sharing emotions, caring about each other and well, just getting to know each other. All those deep and real things, we cannot see in the facebook pictures or the ’one liners’ we post. We don’t send birthday cards or make birthday calls anymore. No, we post it on facebook so we don’t have to have any direct personal contact. If a friend is having a difficult time, we send a ’chat’ message, saying we hope they are doing fantastically. We don’t even bother to call and show that we care. No, we just send it off in a ’chat’ message – or, do nothing at all (we often assume many of their other ’friends’ will do it.)
All of these examples show how social media, like facebook, has removed us from getting together. Sharing and being a part of each others real lives. As the video clip said,
”life on social media is edited and it is constructed.
It is not real and it is not live.”
Anybody, who has studied psychology knows, that humans are group animals. We can have 3000 friends on facebook and not have one single real friend.
I think, that loneliness was a problem even before facebook (social media) came along. Facebook arrived at the same time as narcissistic values were becoming more accepted. And with the narcissistic values, it became all about ME, ME and ME. It was all about, what can I get out of others, what can others give me, how do I get what I want and how can I make others realize, that I am the most important person here. More importantly, I am not giving anything, before they have given me, what I want first. Suddenly, we have a world full of competing ME’s. Social media, like facebook, was the perfect stage for this scenario. Absolutely perfect. This was where we all could publicly shine and show the very best of ourselves. We could show how popular we were and how much others loved us. After a while, the ’heat of the dream’ started to evaporate. All the ’likes’ became a little empty, because nobody really called anymore just to ask how the job interview went. Nobody bothered to put in the effort to send you a personal birthday card that they new you would like. We don’t meet for a cosy afternoon or evening to take part in each others lives. Nobody rings you up anymore, because they had a feeling you were a little down last time you met. No wonder we are lonely, and so many suffer from social insecurity.
For we are social beings with a natural ability to make attachments and closeness, which has now become so… difficult. Instead of making an effort to include each other in our lives, giving and sharing something of ourselves, we constantly send out signals that we don’t want each other. That we don’t matter to each other and that we, to be quite frank, don’t care about each other. Because it is all about ME, ME, ME and MY needs. And so is facebook. If a ’friend’ does not behave as we like or doesn’t give us what we want, when we want it, we ignore them or just delete them without directly discussing the issue with them. If a ’friend’ does not put up happy and cool pictures, we think thay are boring and thus, less valuable as a person. If they only have 30 friends, God, they cannot be that interesting, can they? Why should I care then?
Facebook has become a place, where we judge, include and exclude each other based on narcissistic superficiality. The thing is, that superficiality becomes boring very quickly. That’s usually when people start thinking, why am I not getting what I want here? Why do I feel lonely, when facebook ’promised’ something else? Well, facebook didn’t promise anything nor did any other social media. They all have the same amazing ability to create illusions of community, friendship and attachments. Social media is a little bit like Neo in movie The Matrix, looking for something ’out there’ in cyperspace. He searched, but didn’t find it. Neither did we, for we looked in the wrong place.
I once saw this quote, that is supposed to be said by Robin Williams (American actor):
”I used to think the worst thing in my life was to end up alone. It is not.
The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone”
I think we all know what that is like, and social media, might just be one of those ’people’ if we're not careful.