Posted by Mark Richards
The biggest social change since 2000 has, undoubtedly, been the interest in hyper connectivity. Though Twitter, MySpace and other social media networks are all popular, Facebook leads the way.
Regardless of who’s winning, however, the evidence is clear. People want to be connected. If you’re in doubt of that truth, consider Facebook’s 1.3 billion monthly active users. One could understand the draw of Facebook. As we discussed last week, humans are social creatures. As such, they crave connectivity. We want “friends.” We want to be “liked.”
Facebook is a visual reminder that you have a social group. What’s more is that it provides an outlet for you to actively participate in that social group at any time. No longer are you restricted by schedules or locations. You can be involved anytime.
Feeling lonely in the basement? No worries. All of your friends are there to be poked, liked and chatted with. And that should bring us joy.
Simulation vs. Reality
One of the main problems with Facebook is that it is a simulation. It is a digital representation of the way that most real friendships work. So, while on its face it feels like you’re with your friends, one look around the room reveals quickly that you’re alone.
The truth is that in-person relationships are beneficial. Human voices and laughter improve not only mood, but also health! You can pile the LOLs as high as you want, but they can’t replace a belly laugh shared with a friend.
Another part of the Facebook friendship that falls short is its reciprocity. In fact, the whole “sharing” business falls flat. When a friend comes back from Ireland and posts the pictures on Facebook, they’re not usually sharing them with you. They’re sharing them with everyone.
That’s sort of like setting a stack of photos on a table with a note that says “look if you want to” and walking away. All of the work, all of the participation is really one-sided. It may appear two-sided, because the other person’s profile picture is up in the corner the whole time, but it’s not. The fact that you can think it’s an interaction at all is simply the mark of a really good simulation.
Perhaps the most poignant realization about Facebook is that the relationships aren’t just simulated, but they’re shallow. Most of your “friends” aren’t friends at all. They’re people you know a little bit. High school and college classmates, co-workers you didn’t spend much time with, and other people classified, at best, as acquaintances.
Many Facebook friendships don’t even lift you up in the way that friendships should. They leave you feeling jealous, estranged and inadequate. That’s because Facebook isn’t real life. It’s a highlight reel showcasing someone else’s life. You don’t get the real stuff, you get the moments that would make “Plays of the Week” on SportsCenter.
It’s just not real.
So what’s a friendship-craving social creature like a human to do?
Well, we already know that the number of relationships we can handle is finite. Not only that, but the total is relatively low – somewhere around 150.
Therefore, the answer is that you need to forget about hyper connectivity and start unplugging! Not only are the simulated friendships doing little to improve your life – they’re hurting your real relationships by stealing your attention!
Instead of keeping your nose pinned to a screen, spend time with the people who matter. Your life is too short to waste on shallow simulations. My advice is to delete your Facebook account altogether. Disconnect.
Check back for more updates on my series about Increasing Your Joy!