Facebook, in short, is human experience gone berserk. And adults are to blame. Through the years, Facebook has taken on a variety of guises and has seemingly gone through epochs of existence. Facebook of yore was an archaic digital ‘ high school yearbook’ that served no other purpose besides connecting virtually with people you were already friends with in real life anyway. As a natural development of this, it began to include photos shared in a very yearbook-esque fashion. Along with the rudimentary networking functions were the personal biographies, likes, and personal favorite quotes in the ‘about’ section.
As Facebook became more and more advanced, it became a tool for the sharing of larger ideas, advanced networking, and social commentary. Nowadays, Facebook is far more than an online family photo album to share with the handful of people you know and love in real life. Instead, Facebook is now a platform for broadcasting the most envy-inducing side of your family or lifestyle in order to create a fictional fantasyland depicting your existence as meaningful and fulfilling. Initially, the subconscious purpose of this was the show those you befriended in the digital world how perfect your life was. By showcasing only the finer moments in your life, anyone could manufacture happiness for presentation to their friends. However, this continued fabrication of one’s rich and fruitful lifestyle, however false it may be, now allows people to view their own fake timelines as direct correlations of their actual lives and thus, their actual happiness. Essentially, oversharing on Facebook, although it began as a means to show off to others, is now just as much so a means to show off to yourself. There is a prevailing undercurrent of pseudologia fantastica that runs subtly within virtually every active member’s feed. That is, they’re consoling themselves emotionally by believing the feigned happiness they created which was originally designed to impress others.
While certainly Facebook is now a viable medium for everything from pop culture to comedy to recipes to current events, it’s still the forceful oversharing of feigned prosperity that hangs like a cloud over almost everyone’s personal timeline. No matter what news, sports, businesses, charities, or vocational trades a person ‘likes’ on Facebook, everyone’s personal timeline is still peppered with the blissful nostalgia of themselves, their friends, and their family. This is an unavoidable aspect of Facebook and so long as one maintains real life friendships in the virtual world, it will persist.
Facebook is not to blame for this trend of vainglory. Most certainly Facebook has an abundance of functions and business purposes that are real and meaningful. We can find art and culture, economics, politics, and entertainment media there just as we can anywhere else on the internet. Facebook brings that all together for us in one convenient location and is malleable, simply by what we do or do not choose to ‘like.’ Where this becomes problematic is in how easily the Facebook fact-viewing experience can be tailored to a specific worldview. For example, the biases that exist in news media are no secret but given the short ‘clip-show’ nature of Facebook content, particularly video, we can make our proverbial blinders that much more blinding by choosing to only ‘like’ the news sources that pander to our cultural worldview. Of course, we view the media in such brief intervals that we get virtually no facts at all. Instead, we get an extremely rapid and opinionated two-minute clip that is guaranteed to meet our sociopolitical approval because we’ve ‘liked’ sources we know will align with our beliefs. This is, in a technical sense, news – however in a realistic sense it’s the furthest thing from it. It serves no enlightening purposes and instead only makes our worldviews that much more narrow and widens the schism between meaningful dialogue between opposing perspectives.
By continuing this trend of digital self-promotion and selectively biased ‘liking,’ Facebook, originally a tool used to bring people back together who may have drifted apart, is now a forceful and effective way to drive people apart rapidly while simultaneously convincing everyone that they’re part of a grand community sharing ideas and experiences. The sheer irony of this is astounding. Millions of users engage in the vainglory and isolated worldview culture of Facebook based on the assumption that what they’re sharing is for others to consume. It is egocentric behavior branded as shared interest and executed under a delusional sense of altruism. Moreover, the wedge being driven between people is maliciously benign, in essence, it’s so subtle that’s it barely discernible as damaging because it’s done in the interest of ‘likes’ and ‘friends’ that is almost never perceived as intentionally deceitful, dishonest, or done solely for personal gain.