Facebook addicts: How we use the only place where bragging is acceptable

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By Monica Reason

Being of the millennial generation, we are the first to have grown up with social media. The biggest influence during these past eight years of our lives has been Facebook. I remember when it was launched: I was just getting into MySpace, which by then had died down within my social circle. My mother had not allowed me to get on any social media sites in fear of online predators. Since I had to follow the trend among my peer group by connecting to everyone online, I switched immediately from MySpace to Facebook. Facebook is where everyone can share anything about themselves, showing some discretion and conscientiousness in what to post. We are all guilty of some form of sharing what makes us look good, whether it is our greatest accomplishments, adventurous travels, exhilarating concert experiences, or our ‘stupid’ faces that we hope will get compliments and reassurances instead. Because of Facebook’s immense impact on our daily lives, I felt the need to research its addictive and behavior-changing attributes, as I see how it has affected my own self-esteem and perceptions of the world around me. Why do we feel the need to post our most fun and important moments on Facebook? How does Facebook dictate this type of posting behavior, in particular by having the ‘liking‘ system, and how does this system of judgment affect our self-esteem and the way we use Facebook? For this paper, I have researched these points with a survey and depth-interviews to study the effects of Facebook on self-esteem, narcissistic tendencies, conformity and the accuracy of Facebook’s ‘Year-in-Review’ application.

All-day Facebook usage

Before getting into specifics about Facebook and its influence on our behavior, it is important to understand how much we use Facebook. In a study conducted in 2010 evaluating the media use of young Americans between the ages of 8 and 18, it was found that 40% used social media for an hour per day, making it the most popular computer activity (Foehr, Rideout & Roberts, 2010: 21). Considering this was from four years ago and that Facebook has been constantly changing its interface in order to keep us online, my own usage of Facebook is drastically above this average. I actively use Facebook, in terms of messaging people and uploading photos, for approximately five to fifteen minutes per day but I am logged in about 90-95% of the day. According to the research survey I conducted, everyone used it ‘multiple times per day’ or ‘frequently’ as well, making ‘all-day’ Facebook usage the new norm.

The fact that I use Facebook this frequently has made me concerned about how it influences my behavior. I have seen myself open Facebook in a tab, check it briefly and see nothing of interest so I close the tab, but then immediately open it up again. It is almost like a nervous tic, one that always draws me back to Facebook. The notion of a ‘Facebook tic’ can also be understood as the ‘phantom limb’ of modern technology, explained by Sherry Turkle in her Ted Talk. She describes the feeling that we experience when we think we can sense receiving a message or call, even when we do not have our phones with us, a sensation she calls the ‘phantom ring’ (Turkle, 2012). This feeling and consequent type of behavior is especially prevalent with me if I just posted pictures or a status, changed something on my profile, or sent a message, making me check constantly for reactions.

Monica Reason - Cover illustrationThe fear of missing reactions, if only for the few hours or even minutes that you might be offline, has created a seemingly more ‘narcissistic generation’, and the Facebook system of ‘likes’ and sharing reinforces this attitude, as Damien Pearse (2012) mentioned in his article in The Guardian on Facebook’s ‘dark side’. When likes and shares dictate a person’s worth, it becomes pertinent to present oneself in a particular way on the Internet. The more likes and shares a post gets, the more important the user seems to be. However, this sense of importance can potentially cause the user to portray oneself in a certain way in posts in order to maintain that status. I have seen this type of behavior among people I know, though everyone does it to some extent. The less extreme case, which I am guilty of myself, is pretending to look like having a great time at an event for picture sake; when you are then tagged in the photo on Facebook, as you expect to be, others will have a false sense of how you carry out your life.

In my research I have investigated this behavioral process that goes into Facebook posting, interaction, and how personal feelings are affected. We are presented with so many added pressures due to Facebook, such as social pressures to stay connected online, and the need to comply with ‘media ideologies’ (Gershon, 2010) that dictate how to interact online, as I will further elaborate later in this paper. But I have come to realize that I do not want to be a slave to Facebook. I want to enjoy life without feeling additional pressures caused by Facebook on top of all the pressures already incurred in the physical world. Do others my age feel the same?

The research

In order to further my research, I conducted two research studies. The first was through an anonymous online survey that evaluated elements of Facebook such as usage, liking behavior, ‘Year in Review’, and general thoughts on the medium itself. Twenty participants took part in the survey, 17 females and three males: nine from the United States, five from the Netherlands, three from the United Kingdom, one from Slovenia, one from Hungary, and one from China. Of the participants, the median age was 20.5 years old, with the mean age being 20.8 years of age. The youngest participant was 19 years old while the oldest was 25.

The amount of time users spent on Facebook and how many friends they had was an important consideration. It was also important to measure how many of those Facebook friends they actually kept in contact with. As  discussed below, we have multiple friends because they give us perceived social support, but in reality, we do not have 500 friends. We may have 500 acquaintances but most likely not that many friends. This can help to indicate self-esteem levels due to its relation to need for popularity.

Facebook usage was evaluated not only in terms of frequency of use but also how we go about it as a media ideology, as explained below. I measured the activities people conducted while online, what they liked of their friends and why, and their own perceptions of the liking and sharing system. These elements indicate how Facebook influences our behavior when it comes to how we share about ourselves. I then evaluated self-esteem based on what people are viewing on their news feed and how it makes them feel.

The second research method conducted was in-depth interviews with three participants from different countries, all studying abroad in Amsterdam. I interviewed Matt, a 22-year-old from Hungary; Seth, a 20-year-old from Hong Kong, and Holly, a 23-year-old from Hong Kong (all names have been changed for privacy reasons). During these sessions, we discussed their behavior on Facebook, such as strategically managing their posts and their thoughts on the liking system and posting behavior we tend to have.

Limitations in the study included the survey question pertaining to interest in likes and why they give them or like to receive them. Some answers seemed somewhat sarcastic; one participant, for example, put that he or she liked ‘likes’ because of being an ‘attention-seeking whore’, yet also put not being interested in getting likes on a post, indicating that the person was not taking the study seriously. Also, wording of questions may have confused some people due to the fact that English is not the first language for some of the participants, which may have skewed their answers. For example, when conducting one of the in-depth interviews, I had to translate the word ‘brag’ to the participant and then the question made more sense.

Overall, though, the research produced some interesting results, some of which were surprising to me and actually made me reconsider my own views and attitude towards Facebook usage. As mentioned previously, our generation is more likely to use Facebook frequently and in doing so, we are more prone to becoming ‘slaves of Facebook’, as my interviewees also mentioned. Yet while many of the concerns about Facebook addiction as mentioned in the literature, discussed below, turn out to be true to some extent, in the end I found that we certainly don’t have to be Facebook slaves.

Narcissism and need for popularity

Monica Reason - Cover illustration2Facebook’s approval-oriented set-up causes us to become more aware of our online presence and how much we are considered by our peers. We add more friends than we probably need to (or even know) just to seem more popular, or it may be because we actually do know this many people but we do not actually interact with that many. Pearse (2012: 1) argues that there is a ‘direct link between the number of friends you have on Facebook and the degree to which you are a “socially disruptive’ narcissist”’. These socially disruptive, narcissistic people are the friends we have who are the Facebook slaves: they constantly upload pictures, tag themselves in posts, and post more statuses than the average user.

In the survey, although no one indicated that they directly used Facebook to brag, participants were aware that the Facebook culture is centered on bragging, as facilitated by the ‘liking’ system. This feeds into the socially disruptive narcissistic behavior that Pearse talks about, for we tend to be more indulged in our behavior when we have more people to share with and get potentially more likes from. But at the same time the ‘liking’ system can put more stress on users, with potentially far-reaching consequences. According to a recent study, 58% of plastic surgery patients from 2013 were under 30, and ‘13% of plastic surgeons mentioned patients who wanted procedures specifically because they didn’t like their appearance on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or Selfie.im’ (Waldman, 2014). Especially girls are made more insecure about their appearance because they become even more self-aware of it through social media.

Our need to paint an ideal image of ourselves on Facebook does not stop there. It also influences self-centered ‘Need for Popularity’ (NfP) behavior; according to a 2012 study, ‘[NfP] might be a better indicator of SNS [social network site] use, because SNS is an ideal venue for people with high NfP’ (Utz, Tanis & Vermeulen, 2012: 37). This means that people are more likely to be very aware of how they present themselves online so they are more likely to edit their profile, use Facebook more frequently, have more friends, and present themselves strategically to their network. People with high NfP levels were found to be more likely to engage in behaviors such as adjusting their profile in order to create a more popular impression to their peers, and also to be better with social grooming so that they can maintain their popularity (2012: 38).

Monica Reason - Illustration3

Self-esteem and ‘friends’

This need for popularity and narcissistic attitude can create psychological distress amongst users. A recent study by Wenhong Chen and Kye-Hyoung Lee (2013) showed that the more frequently someone is on Facebook, the more likely this person will have negative mental health implications, such as lowered self-esteem. I surely have experienced this lowered self-esteem, and I blame it in part on my frequent usage as well as the material I am seeing on my news feed. I feel as though I am wasting my life away, just constantly checking Facebook, instead of living the life that my peers seem to be living based on the photos that they are tagged in.

Although a large number of my survey participants did not experience drops in self-esteem from usage, some did experience it based on their current state or the situation that was being presented to them on their newsfeed. My interviewees were understanding of how people could be affected by Facebook in that respect but felt that they had no reason to feel a drop in self-esteem due to the medium as a whole. It seems that the bragging nature of Facebook can work both ways, for in my case, it lowers my self-esteem, but when the user is the one able to boast about some type of accomplishment, this also enables the person to boost one’s own self-esteem. Whether people are aware of it or not, Facebook does influence the user’s self-esteem either positively or negatively.

Besides the influence of frequent usage on self-esteem, one study conducted by Junghyun Kim and Jong-Eun Roselyn Lee (2011) found that there is a negative relationship between the number of Facebook friends a user has and perceived social support (2011: 359). Kim and Lee define friends as a ‘subject of peers who engage in mutual companionship, support, and intimacy’ (2011: 360). When people have more friends, they are more likely to feel an increase in self-esteem due to perceived social support. But what is a ‘friend’ on Facebook?

Monica Reason - Illustration2Facebook, at least in America, calls anyone that you add a ‘friend’, even if you have never actually met that person before or have only interacted with them once. But in some other countries, such as Sweden, people are added onto Facebook as ‘acquaintances’, according to international classmates. Does the slight title change of having acquaintances versus friends affect the strength in a person’s social status if they have 500 acquaintances versus 500 friends? Possibly, though Kim and Lee argue that ‘Facebook friends are not the same [as real friends], [since they] don’t require the strong attachment or close connections as a real friend would’ (2011: 360).

Yet in their survey conducted with 391 undergraduate students, they also found that having a large number of Facebook friends can contribute to a sense of ‘happiness’, and they suggest this ‘may be due to the visualization of Facebook friends, which reminds the users of their social connections, and to subsequent affirmation or enhancement of self-worth’ (2011: 362). My survey findings seem to support this; the participants who stated that they never suffered any type of self-esteem loss, whether as a whole or based on mood or situation, all had over 500 Facebook friends, confirming that the visualization of friends may help to increase self-worth, and in turn, increase self-esteem.

To conform or not to conform

So to reap the potential benefits of Facebook for our sense of self-esteem and social support, how should we go about? Well, sometimes we have to conform, whether by posting similar things that our friends do or adapting to the same type of media ideology. A media ideology, explains Ilana Gershon (2010: 18), is the belief that people have ‘about how a medium communicates and structures communication’. Every medium of technology that we use for communication—such as e-mail, text message, Facebook, and phone calling—has its own protocol as to when and how to use each appropriately. These media ideologies help shape how we interact with one another on Facebook, and if we do not follow the rules, we are prone to misunderstandings and unnecessary anxiety about the underlying message of what the other person is actually saying. When it comes to communicating on Facebook, however, these misunderstandings can be avoided because it is so easy to stalk someone’s profile and see how they use their media ideologies, so we are more easily able to understand their form of communicating (2010: 33-34).

Still, misunderstandings are common on Facebook all the time, especially when communicating with someone that you do not know well. ’Idioms of practice’—which dictate how we talk to people within our immediate circles, whether they are within the same friend group, class, or work place (2010: 39)—can further complicate how we conduct conversations with others over Facebook and affect how we are perceived online. If we are unable to maintain the same media ideology online, we are less likely to be of a higher social standing than if we conform to what others in our social circle are doing.

Based on the interviews, however, it seems my participants did not care about conforming. They posted what they wanted. A common finding in both the survey and interview was that many people, unlike what I had wrongly assumed, did not delete posts and a majority had never even thought about it. We conform in other ways, such as strategic management of our posts, but we do not let that dictate our usage. Facebook itself is a sign of conformity, for although no one really likes it, we all stay on it because in reality, it is not really about the social status but keeping up with the norm.

If we were so concerned about our self-presentation, then we would conform our posts to what we believed would get likes. I have done this, and I know that others carefully think about what they post and how they caption it in order to fit with the media ideologies that Facebook instills on us. However, we also put extra pressure on ourselves and instill these ideologies on each other, thinking people will want us to present ourselves in a certain way. For example, when studying abroad, users are expected to post very boastful-like happy posts constantly. No one wants to see something sad from someone studying abroad because they will never be understood by those that are not abroad because how could that person be upset? They are in Europe/Asia/Australia while I am stuck here. On the other hand, the fact that we post about things we care about, and thereby do not care about the recognition and stick to what is true to ourselves, shows that we do not completely surrender ourselves to the digital sphere.

Year in Review

For the past two New Years, Facebook releases an application called ‘Year in Review’, an app that picks the user’s best moments of the year and puts them together in a photo collage. Now how would a website know what the best moments of MY year were? It does not follow me around to see when I am most happy. No, instead it judges your best moments based on which of the users’ posts get the most likes, shares, and comments. This causes a lot of doubt within me because I see those moments in the application, yet when I think back to it, I do not see that moment as a highlight of my year. Yet, that is how Facebook, and presumably my friends, see those posts that get featured in the application. Is this application just another example of how Facebook dictates our media ideologies or does it just show that we are narcissistic and feel the need to post every big moment that happens in our lives?

Already, it does not sound like these are the biggest moments, just the moments where we made ourselves look our best. The fact that two participants in my survey thought that Facebook actually pinpointed their biggest moments when these two also cared about getting likes is predictable. However, neither of the two were concerned about the likes enough in that they actually went through with deleting a post that did not receive any likes, though they have thought about it. You would think that since most of their posts depicted in the ‘Year in Review’ were actually the biggest moments of their year, they engage in a lot of self-presentation management on Facebook. This could also show though that the moments shown are honest moments where they did not have to fabricate or make the post more showy in order to get more likes, which would have been picked up by the application.

I am also not surprised by the fact that a majority of participants stated that either some or none of the posts represented what they felt were the biggest moments of their year. After all, as one participant said, ‘Facebook is a curated version of real life‘. I interpret this as meaning that we post what we feel is the best automatically. My in-depth interviews also indicated that even people who do not post a lot only post their proudest moments. So why is the Year in Review not more accurate with people of this nature then? Because, based on the other statistics regarding deleting posts and what we post, I found that we actually do not care that much that we get recognition or not. Even if we are posting our biggest moments for us, it may not get likes, which means the ‘Year in Review’ will not acknowledge it. But we do not let that dictate what we actually have interests in and enjoyed during the year. So all in all, as my research findings show, our relationship with Facebook is pretty ‘complicated‘.

Survey results

The charts below depict the statistics determined in the online survey. Out of these, the most important of the statistics to examine is the general Facebook behavior as far as why people use it, for it gives us insight into the liking behavior and other issues such as self-esteem and conformity.

Monica Reason - Fig 1 Personal posting behavior
Figure 1: Personal posting behavior

Monica Reason - Fig 2 FB usage frequency and friend count
Figure 2: Facebook usage frequency and friend count

Monica Reason - Fig 3 FB interactions
Figure 3: Facebook interactions

Monica Reason - Fig 4 Deleting behavior
Figure 4: Deleting behavior

Monica Reason - Fig 5 Year in Review accuracy
Figure 5: Year in Review accuracy

Monica Reason - Fig 6 Self-esteem and Fear of missing out
Figure 6: Self-esteem and Fear of missing out

The major reason that people use Facebook is to communicate with family and friends (19 users). I also asked if getting likes concerned the user as well as why people like or share their friends’ posts on Facebook. There was a range of answers, but the majority ‘like’ and ‘share’ posts because they find the post entertaining, share the same thoughts on whatever was posted about, or genuinely want to show their appreciation for the post and acknowledge what that person is saying. Two people mindlessly like and share posts and two do it for apparent narcissistic reasons because they are ‘attention seeking whores like everyone else on Facebook‘ and ‘because it makes [them] look cool. Anyone who thinks Facebook is not a curated version of what is really happening is kidding themselves‘.

My final question pertained to the continuity of Facebook. If a site ever came up where we could communicate with our family and friends while also keeping up to date with news and gossip, would we switch from Facebook to this new site? The overwhelming response was yes for varying reasons, whether it was because Facebook is a ‘self-esteem killer’, they want to conform to the new trend if that is what everyone else is using, or because Facebook is a waste of time. Only seven said ‘no’ because Facebook allows them to keep up to date with events and it allows them to check up on people, those who they talk to or do not talk to at all.

Interview results

Interviewees were all asked whether they felt that they were slaves to Facebook. Seth and Holly from Hong Kong said yes, since they check it so frequently. Seth said that because Facebook is the only social medium that is really used in Hong Kong, Chinese youth have more time to focus on it. Unlike in the States, where everyone has Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc. so that they spread their time between Internet mediums, Hong Kong only has Facebook to check for hours. Holly stated that Facebook is where she gets all her main information and has become addicted to it because she wants to know about everything going on. Holly would be able to live without it if her friends did not use it, but that is not the case. Matt from Hungary disagreed completely. He said that Facebook is just another distraction but he does not feel a slave to its charms. Since Facebook is mainly made up of acquaintances, he is not interested in what is going on in their lives.

Another question pertained to the strategic management of posts. This entails anything from posting only at certain times to wording statuses/captions and tagging particular people and things to increase the likelihood of getting likes. Again, both Seth and Holly said that they were guilty of participating in such behavior. Seth stated that he posts things around the time when he believes that most people within his age group back home are online, mainly at 7 and 8 PM during high school and now 10 and 11 PM in university. Holly posts at around 6 PM when most of her friends are online. She makes sure to tag specific people when posting certain things, especially when she knows a friend has public privacy settings. This way, it allows Holly’s post to be seen by a wider range of an audience, increasing the chances of it being liked. Seth only really cares about posting and tagging when it is something that is truly important to him, otherwise it does not matter. Matt did not participate in any kind of this behavior, except that he is more wary of who can see his posts, so he blocks a lot of people from seeing things.

Because I had such interesting responses to the survey about self-esteem, I asked about their thoughts on lowered self-esteem and Facebook in general. Matt said that he does not necessarily experience it unless he sees someone post something about an event that he had never heard about. Otherwise, he does not feel jealous because he knows that he will get to have some experience similar to that great party/concert/trip experience eventually. As he said, ‘Facebook makes you feel like shit because it’s in your face that you are not having the same experience as someone else‘, but he doesn’t feel that way. Actually, he finds it ridiculous when people post that they are at parties and concerts, because if people were truly enjoying themselves, they would enjoy the moment and post about it before or after. If someone posts while they are in a moment like that, then it means they must be bored. Matt also brought up an interesting point on boastful posting, saying something to a similar effect that I agree with:

I feel that people do truly construct their identities on Facebook and want to be popular on there and give the impression that they have an interesting, powerful and dynamic life when they actually do not. They just post in the moment and show that they are having fun when they are really not. If they are posting within the moment, that means they are actually bored.‘ (Matt)

Holy and Seth felt that Facebook did not affect their self-esteem or mood. However, Seth experienced a fear of missing out, and even then, it has more to do with regret than due to actual constrains.

If there is something happening and I’m not part of it, I don’t care that much because after all, I am studying media too, so I am aware of people posting stuff just to pretend that they are having a good life. They are selling their own lifestyles to everyone else and it’s pretentious.‘ (Seth)

It seems that the common consensus is that they are aware that Facebook culture can create a fear of missing out and a sense of lowered self-esteem, but are intelligent enough to realize that it is all apart of the façade that is Facebook.

None of the interviewees have ever deleted a post but only one has thought about it. Seth felt that if he had deleted a post, it would have actually looked worse because it shows the concern that he has about getting attention. Yet he felt that whatever he posts online, he does put some thought into it so that he feels responsible for the post and will not regret posting it. Matt deletes posts that others post onto his wall if it has to do with something that he does not want others to see. Holly felt that it is not necessary to delete posts because she only posts what she likes, ‘who cares what others think‘.

They all felt that liking is important to an extent because it shows recognition to the person that posted it, indicates trying to make a point of something, or shows support from others. Matt did point out that likes sometimes seem like sympathy because you never know whether they like it because they like the picture or just because it is you that posted it. Because they like the poster as a person, the poster may then feel obligated to like that person’s stuff back. So the liking feature can be viewed as a psychological game in itself.

An interesting finding from the survey was that no one felt that posting personal things on Facebook was bragging, so I asked the participants why they felt such a way. Holly felt posting was not bragging at all. She never thought about it that way. She just thought that posting is sharing. However, the other two participants felt that everything on Facebook is bragging, whether people would admit it or not. Matt said he is very careful to not sound boastful in posts, and if it sounds even the slightest bit boastful, he will not post it. Seth said that whenever he posts about himself, he knows that he is bragging about himself. Being abroad, it is hard not to post something that sounds like bragging. After all, you are in a different country from your own, getting to travel to different places every weekend, partying, drinking legally (if you are from the US), and having many new experiences at once. Seth believed that he boasts for these reasons, but also when he posts about things such as intellectual thoughts. It is not direct, but is hidden within his agenda, for not everyone will know what he is talking about. Seth posts about things such as the June 4th Tiananmen Square massacre or his thoughts on things going on in Chinese culture that some of his North American friends may not fully understand. He does not do this intentionally but he realizes that it does represent his intellectual level on global events.

The final question pertained to Facebook’s purpose in being a bragging machine, despite everyone not saying directly that it is. Holly said that she does not always internalize everything and she just feels an immediate emotion and wants to post her biggest moments to Facebook. She just wants to tell everyone how she feels, not really thinking about it beforehand. Matt does not post that much as is. The last he posted about was getting to study abroad in Amsterdam. So I asked, why bother to post at all? Well, he posts to show that there is some evolution in his life. Matt believed that by sharing these kinds of things, it was some kind of communication to all his friends and family that one period of his life has closed and he has begun a new one.

Seth expressed another interesting opinion. He felt that we post so much about concerts, travels, and other exciting things to not only brag, but also to feed into the mediated reality that we believe is much more important than our actual reality. When going to a concert, it is not the concert that we care about. We care about how good the Instagram picture looks of the lead singer and the recognition that we will get through comments and likes when we post it. Notice now the big problem when we go out with friends to eat or hang out. If there is no wifi, everyone is actually talking and enjoying each others‘ company, but once wifi is found, the room is silent and we communicate through that medium.

They aren’t communicating on set; they would rather put the whole interaction of other people into the whole mecca/virtual reality thing.‘ (Seth)

The medium moment is more important than the actual moments we experience in real time. That being said, the fact that my participants were able to critically reflect on this suggests that they are still in control of the medium moment to some extent. So are we or aren’t we ‘Facebook slaves‘?

Conclusion

It makes sense that the biggest purpose for Facebook is communicating with family and friends, considering that a large pool of the participants are studying abroad in the Netherlands and need to keep up with people back home. I am not surprised that only two participants post statuses about their daily life, considering that now sites such as Twitter and Tumblr exist and those sites are geared more towards expressing honest (direct) thoughts about things going on in our lives. With Facebook, we have to be more cautious about what we say in fear of hurting our social standing or breaking from the norm.

We use Facebook to share about things that we are interested in rather than things in our daily lives. When it comes to something as big as college acceptances or going to major festivals or traveling, we do not hesitate to post about it. But discussing anything about my daily life? Forget about it. Sure, we will post about random occurrences in our daily lives, but they have to be about things that people will relate to and ‘like’ in most cases because otherwise it just seems like a random thought that could be kept to oneself. For example, complaining about being stuck in the library during finals or the warm weather (or rare cold weather) that we experience in LA are appropriate statuses to post about daily life. But if a user posts something along the lines of ‘I just ate a sandwich‘ or some type of status that is complaining or talking poorly about someone, the behavior as a media ideology is seen as inappropriate. Media ideologies allow us to express ourselves but pose limitations on how much we can actually express ourselves. So much for Facebook usage. How about Facebook addiction?

The two users that answered ‘frequently’ for Facebook usage both had the Facebook application installed on their phones, which makes us prone to using Facebook more frequently. Interestingly, people who are prone to frequent Facebook usage are aware of that, and many choose to do something about it. I know many who have uninstalled the application so that they are less likely to use Facebook. They are forced to keep themselves off Facebook because they know that they are more likely to use it. This was actually proven in a study by Stefan Stieger (2013: 629), who found that people who have quit Facebook have higher Internet addiction levels, where ‘SNSs have an addictive quality that manifests in an irresistible and overpowering urge to check the online status of one’s friends repeatedly throughout the day‘. This relates to Turkle’s (2012) argument that we are constantly using our phones, whether we are talking to a person face-to-face while doing so, at the dinner table, while in the waiting room; we are constantly connected. Yet apparently a growing number of people is opting to ‘disconnect‘ to free themselves from this addiction. According to Laura Portwood-Stacer (2012: 1043), ‘to ostentatiously remark upon one’s refusal [to use Facebook] is to implicitly align oneself with those socially privileged groups among whom non-use is not the norm‘. Too bad we can’t share that as a Facebook status update.

Monica Reason - Cover illustration2Overall, when thinking of Facebook as an entity, a majority of us are smart enough to realize that Facebook is made to give us a space to boast and a place to share what we are interested in. Even users who never or barely post on Facebook take advantage of it as a space for those purposes. We like it if our friends acknowledge our accomplishments and agree with us, but we also do not care if they don’t show that through Facebook likes and we will still be who we want to be. Still, we all live in the digital sphere, practicing some habits of strategic management of posting and liking in order to share our emotions to the world and get some love out of it. Facebook can make us feel bad and cause a fear of missing out when we see our friends’ personal milestones, best days, and new experiences, but the majority of us do not let that get us down. We know that someday, we will all have days as amazing as those friends or we will live out our lives the way we want to. Not every day is going to be amazing and not every day is going to have a good moment, but we all have our good days and we will be able to come away from Facebook with the personality traits and experiences that make us who we are.

(Written for Youth Cultures in a Transnational Context)

Monica Reason is a senior at the University of Southern California, studying communication and marketing. Connect with Monica on LinkedIn.

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Cover illustration © Reuters, Michael Dalder

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