Monday, May 2, 2011

Facebook Follies: Fun and Fear (an opinion piece)

     Since my blog is a safe place for ME to record MY feelings, I am going to actually “blog” my thoughts on some observations that have rather slapped me in the face recently. I do not like the conclusions I have been forced to draw, but the thought process that led me to the conclusions has been healthy and has made me realize that facebook CAN have some major “pros” as well as cons. By witnessing an extreme case in the negative, the contrast between that and “the norm” has made me realize that facebook is not “bad” for everyone. 
     However, I have seen evidence that it is indeed possibly not only bad, but dangerous, for some. I’m not talking about the “duh” cases that we all know about--the stories of marriage break-ups, stalking, libel suits, and so on. But the observation I have made is about a phenomenon much less commonly known (certainly not often discussed).
     For now, I am a facebook “user.” [See Comments.] I control my facebook with very tight settings—not just for security. I decide not only whose feeds I will see, but also, who sees mine—I even prevent some of my “friends” from seeing my posts (*gasp*) for various reasons. But only as a facebook consumer would I have been able to see what I have recently seen. In a way, I wish I had not. But in a deeper way, I am glad I know. 
     While there are some things about facebook that I do not like and believe to be inherently evil, I also believe that for some people (and maybe the majority of healthy adults) it can be a good thing—a fun and interesting way to connect with and stay connected with real-life friends and family, a place to chit-chat about the important and the non-important in a friendly environment. Here’s an example of the good: a married couple, both on facebook, with each other listed as spouse, with many mutual friends who are also real-life friends and with whom they have real relationships, have facebook up, on their computers lots of the hours they are together in their home. The fun of facebook is a part of their time spent together, and is just one of many fun things they do together. The husband and wife in that example had a healthy and normal psyche and healthy and normal interpersonal relationships BEFORE facebook, and being on facebook does not change that, and in fact may well strengthen those areas.
     I’m reminded of my husband’s take on those who came back from serving in Viet Nam “all messed up.” When asked about that, he always replies, “The ones I know about were ‘all messed up’ before they went to Viet Nam.” 
     That ties in with my conclusion:
Facebook + social maladjustment = Dangerous Volatility
     That’s the brief version—the extended version would be this: Social networking in the hands of someone who is socially maladjusted and may also have jealousy, control and anger issues is, frankly, dangerous, especially for that person. It prevents their getting better; it stands in the way of social adjustment and healing. It stands in the way of nurturing relationships and in fact may lead them to alienate those who care the most about them. I believe this applies to very few people, so I would not jump to the conclusion that facebook is bad for all, or even for most. But it is bad for a person such as one who fits the description just given.
     Further indicators of the kind of person in whose hands social networking can be a dangerous thing:
1) They have very few real-life friends. They may have hundreds of facebook “friends.”
2) Their posts are almost 100% selfish or self-centered or materialistic, and if anyone else posts something “altruistic” or (heaven forbid) “spiritual,” the maladjusted individual often has derogatory comments.
3) Their posts almost all seem to be an attempt to get others to “want” their life. They make obvious their jealousy by attempting to invoke jealousy. They may even go so far as to post photos of “things” that are not theirs (cars, motor homes, land, home construction), with no explanation as to the real owner. When someone comments on the photo (maybe “is that yours?”), there is no response.
4) It sometimes (maybe most of the time) seems that person does things, goes places, or buys things SO THAT they can post it on facebook (see #3). This is absolutely true and absolutely dangerous.
     The reason I believe it is harmful to that individual to interact in a social network environment is this: Instead of helping them adjust, it fuels their maladjustment. They “live” in the facebook world, and by definition, that is not the real world. They spend their time in a fantasy world, NOT learning how to interact with real people. They may even become confused about who they are in real-life, because they begin to see themselves as the person they have “presented” to the facebook world (someone they would much rather be). That is why that person may have fewer and fewer real-world relationships. Real-world relationships require real-life interactions, and this person finds that increasingly difficult. And so, the social networking environment becomes their life and can be caustic to real relationships. (Note: I do not believe facebook is a fantasy world for most healthy adults.)
     In their own facebook world, they are the RULER. They get to say whatever they want (don’t dare disagree in a comment that follows), make themselves appear to be whomever they want, and this is the kicker: because it is THEIR world, they get to throw out all the “rules” that socially well-adjusted people adhere to—rules like be polite, don’t be rude, respect your elders, respect others’ opinions, don’t put others down, and on and on. Of course, anyone who is on facebook has those same “rights.” But, socially well-adjusted people do not break those rules. Or if they do let a conversation get out of hand, they apologize, maybe even remove the post that they realize makes THEM look bad, rather than just going deeper and deeper into their own cycle of appearing to prove their ignorance.
     When conversations “hosted” by a socially maladjusted person get out of hand, that person doesn’t know when to stop. They keep on until every reasonable person who was a part of the conversation eventually drops it, realizing that this person is not capable of sound reasoning, or at least obviously has chosen not to use it.
     People who care about an individual like this can do their part by not contributing to the festering maladjustment. That may mean not commenting (since any comment other than a total agreement may evoke anger and rage). If you are a person like myself, who cannot keep from commenting on a post that is 100% off-base (not as a matter of opinion, but as a matter of fact), then the best course of action, for yourself, but mainly for the other individual, is to remove that person from your friend list. It is one thing to stand by and watch someone you care about self-destruct. It is another to be a part of it. This is particularly a good course of action if you also believe the other person should not see your posts (for example, if seeing good things about your life contributes to their dissatisfaction with their own). 

     Of course, the very best thing would have been not to have accepted the friend request in the first place. But, to reiterate, it was in the ongoing participation in facebook interaction that my observations have been made and conclusions drawn. 
     It is my hope that individuals such as those described here (thankfully, the exception rather than the rule) will find ways to heal. For that person, it seems crystal clear to me that non-stop facebook does not help. For that person, Facebook is a Folly, and one that should be Feared.


sharida said...

Here, here!!!!!

ROC REV said...

This is so true and so prevalent in differing degrees from different people. On another note, Facebook and similar forums are the place where nice guys either finish last or succumb to the tactics of the less noble. Rather than either of those alternatives, I choose not to play in such an arena. Goodbye Facebook. Don't say I never knew you.

Barbara said...

Update: Shortly after posting this, I made the decision to get off facebook. The cons far outweigh the pros. It is an invitation for conflict, unless everyone operates under the same set of rules. Since they do not, it is divisive and volatile. Not for me.