The Final Word

By Jeff Girod

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Posted August 22, 2013 in News
JeffGirodCheer up! Stop looking at Facebook.

That’s according to—well, everybody.

A new study by the University of Michigan found that the more time people spent on Facebook, the worse they felt about themselves.

German researchers discovered that looking at other people’s Facebook photos of vacations and special moments might be harmful to your own happiness, according to the Los Angeles Times.

A new British study says Facebook users who take and post a lot of self-portraits, or “selfies,” could risk alienating relationships with friends, colleagues and even family members.

Not that I’m not here to pass judgment. I have a Facebook account, I check it frequently and I’m just as self-centered as the next bronzed-up, shirtless “selfie.”

We’re all attention seekers. We like to believe we’re the stars of our own 24-hour cable news network.  We can’t enjoy a song, a meal or even a simple joke because we’re too busy trying to retweet it.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Flickr . . . Social networking is like screaming into a deep, dark tunnel and expecting there to be some dimly lit room on the other side filled with a captive audience wired to a “like” button.

But the reality is everyone is shouting and nobody is listening. It’s a twisted, chaotic mess of sight and sound, but mostly it’s just blurry cat and baby photos.

Social networking is fun. Sometimes it’s even interesting and useful. But the thing to remember is that everyone has a Facebook account including literally your grandma.

So while we prefer to believe that everyone is hanging on our every word, or waiting for our next clever post about hating Mondays and looking forward to The Bachelorette, the truth is the information highway is a logjam of every stray idea that flitters through our brains.

There are posts like “Going to the gym,” or “So-o-o-o tired,” or random photos of Gene Wilder dressed as Willy Wonka. If anybody wasted your time like this in real life, you would suspect they’d been kicked in the head. But apparently it’s socially acceptable to mumble pointlessly like a nincompoop because it’s on the Internet.

It’s like having 750 channels on your TV. You pay for all 750 channels and obviously you have the freedom to watch anything you want. But the reality is, even with 750 options, everyone is watching ESPN, Comedy Central or AMC, and nobody is watching Hallmark, Dog TV or the Church Channel (featuring church services from a wide variety of denominations including Protestant, Catholic and those overly friendly guys who keep ringing your door bell.)

Those are actual channels, by the way, I just found by hitting the “guide” button on my TV remote. And by clicking on each channel I probably just increased viewership to 1.

That’s how social networking is. We all can’t be ESPN. Most of us are the Church Channel with Facebook posts like, “Boo, it’s raining” or “Yay tater tots!”

Not every moment of our lives is meant to be “postable” or shared online with hundreds of people. And let’s face it. Our Facebook “friends” aren’t our real friends. They’re a mixture of voyeurs, fellow travelers and ghosts from our past.

If we were being honest, most of our ghosts should probably stay ghosts instead of over sharing about all the butt crunches they did in Zumba class.

It’s hard enough getting through the real day-to-day—the early mornings, the late nights, all the hours in between—without coming home, logging on and seeing how wonderfully picture perfect everyone else’s lives are compared to ours.

But here’s the thing: Nobody else’s life is perfect either. If it were, they wouldn’t waste it away, playing Facebook’s Farmville.

Social media is no different than movies, TV or huffing paint. Too much of anything can be harmful, even addictive. And we should always be careful about what we let inside our bodies—even if it’s the wild, misguided ranting of a former third-grade classmate about how we should all live in the woods because the CIA is secretly building a shadow government under Mt. Rushmore.

Actually, I like reading crazy stuff like that on Facebook. Because I’m doing wa-y-y-y better than that guy.

Contact Jeff Girod at finalword@ieweekly.com


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