The Problem with Facebook

I was reading an article today that linked anti-social behavior with Facebook activity. This might seem a bit strange at first since it would seem Facebook is a medium for being very social, with a potential for several hundred friends or so. I would like to highlight here some of the perceived anti-social behavior.

This one in particular was problematic for me. When somebody leaves a comment that I find offensive, I don’t know what to do. I remember that I am Facebook friends with them for some reason or another. I was once either friends with them or felt like I got along with them. But when somebody leaves a negative comment, I don’t know what I can do. Facebook is a medium that doesn’t allow for a kind of natural communication. One big reason for this is the lack of nonverbal communication.

Of course, lack of nonverbal communication is present in software like Skype, as well. However, in Skype, I am chatting with somebody live. If there needs to be some clarification on a negative comment (such as whether it was sarcastic or not), it can be achieved. What’s interesting about this facet, though, is that if I am talking with them on Skype in the first place, then it probably means I get along with them in real life rather well. So I can’t readily use Skype as an example here.

If somebody leaves a negative comment on Facebook, it’s very awkward to try to talk it out. Some people would say that talking things out was something saved for schools and mediators; that is to say, now that we are adults, we can just “get over” the negative comment. I would like to suggest that adults should be entitled to some amount of discussion about a topic that offends them. Am I to let go of the offensive comment and perhaps my feelings? It seems that there is something amiss there.

I could write back on my wall where the original negative comment was, but my conversation with the person would not be private. So, naturally, I can simply send a message to them. That would solve the privacy issue, but then another issue arises. I have begun a separate transaction with them now. They would likely be surprised and perhaps offended for my supposed ‘overreaction’. But wait a minute! If we were at a party and you said that same ‘comment’ to me, I can at least explain myself further a little. It would only take all of about two seconds to do that, even. We can have a mini conversation, of sorts, about your thoughts on my ‘status’. I might still be offended, but at least I wasn’t left feeling somewhat defenseless.

That is what I am trying to say about Facebook. I feel defenseless against negative comments. I don’t see any proper way to address them. I wish that people wouldn’t leave such comments in the first place, but don’t we all wish that? When I become the person who is offended, I seem to be the person in the wrong. I still think a face-to-face interaction more allows me to quickly figure out where they are coming from and how to proceed for the rest of that time.

I’ve talked a lot about negative comments. What about the concept of Facebook friends? I don’t know what to make of it. I realized that although the idea was to be friends with people mainly from high school, and past college graduates and the like, it seems that I really don’t talk to the people on Facebook any more than I would in real life. That is not to say I don’t care about them. But of 400+ friends, if I begin to devote some amount of time to even one person, I have lost time with other people. Therefore, I just wait for people to contact me. I am interested in continuing relationships with people who are interested in that with me.

This practically doesn’t happen, but perhaps out of selfishness I am okay with this. It would be an inappropriate move to unfriend somebody, especially for no real reason. But there is always the temptation. Recently, my idea for keeping certain Facebook friends was based on a certain ideal (and I am happy that others have approved of this ideal). I open up my home in Japan to visitors. This is essentially any Facebook friend. If I wasn’t comfortable with them staying at my home, then, really, why am I Facebook friends with them? This is probably a good starting point for somebody looking to cut down on their friends list.

I am perhaps a rare breed-it seems people are interested in having more Facebook friends than less. I don’t quite understand why. I’d rather have a few true, strong relationships than hundreds of relatively meaningless and non-progressing ones. Because of this, I don’t mind cutting down a little bit. At this point, however, I am not convinced that Facebook is doing me any real good.

There is one more topic I would like to address, but I will do so briefly to avoid too long of a rant. I can’t help but feel excluded when I see pictures of ‘friends’ hanging out somewhere and having a good time. I can’t help but feel that they are having this great time, and I am not. Actually, there was an article a few months back about this reaction that people have. It turns out that it is very common-to the extent that even the people who are the end of one’s envy are also envious of pictures they see or events they hear about but weren’t invited to. A little bit of human nature kicks in with everyone, it seems.

If Facebook is fostering these kind of feelings, then I have to ask myself, again, what Facebook is really doing for me? Perhaps the only thing it is useful for now is to have the ability to contact and be contacted by old friends. This is helpful across oceans because I seem to move around all the time and change my cell phone information and such. Facebook can be credited for inadvertently streamlining this kind of information. It is undeniable how easy Facebook is for contacting people. It’s almost too easy, but even this feature is not enough to keep me interested.

There’s a lot more that needs to be said about Facebook, but it would take more thought than I am willing to give. So for the sake of ease, I am not dealing with Facebook anymore, as a practice. Like I was saying just before, Facebook is a great tool for easily contacting someone, and I plan on utilizing it those times that I would like to contact somebody. But to save myself the grief of feeling isolated, feeling offended and feeling left out I will keep myself away from Facebook.

I could end this post here with that declaration. I don’t want to keep this so trite. I hope that people who use Facebook (and if you are reading this, you probably do) will think about some of these things and consider if it’s worth it for them, too.

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  1. […] of my interactions with people are simply confined to Facebook comments. I’ve already made a post about the danger of these types of interactions. The fact is, I would prefer a real interaction […]

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