Facebook has gone from social media to a social phenomenon in less than a decade. A website which was originally started to connect college students exclusively within Harvard University, now hosts 1.35 billion users as of the third quarter of 2014 (Statista, 2015). Mark Zuckerman and his friend, Eduardo Saverin created Facebook from their dorm room in Harvard University in 2004. As the word about Facebook spread, so did it. It soon expanded to the Ivy League, regional universities, and further universities, before opening for people over the age of 13 (The Social Network, 2010).
The social media giant has been described as the backbone of social networking, having paved the way for social media sites like Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. However, none have come close to how big Facebook is. Facebook is the number one social media site in the world, which was worth $200billion at the end of 2014 (Monica). It has had a significant impact on the way work is done, the way we communicate and our society. From posting on ‘walls’ to video conferencing, users can interact freely. However, the non-stop use of Facebook is becoming an increasing issue among our society. Checking Facebook has now become part of daily lives, with 890 million users (Smith), out of the 1.35 billion members doing so on a daily basis. This piece examines how Facebook has become a social addiction and how it has impacted on our society and young people.
The popularity of the site and its ability to deliver just about anything to a group or a person is connected to has become a daily, if not hourly, procedure for people of all ages. And those who proficient at technology practically use the platform for everything from shopping to discussing the latest place or location they have visited. With the use of internet being a necessity, so is the access to social media, such as Facebook. This need to share information and obtain it from others about personal life is a unique trend started in the 2000s and continues with each young generation that has a strong understanding of technology. In today’s society, it is impossible to go anywhere without seeing people on their smartphones, laptops or other electronic devices. Users of Facebook spend staggering amounts of time on the website, with some using it up to fifty hours per week (Adler, 2014). While other social media sites do not have the same usage – Instagram (13.5 hours), Twitter (7.4 hours), Snapchat (6.6 hours) and WhatsApp (4.6 hours) (Adler). So the most important question is why is Facebook so popular? According to Nir Eyal (2014), ‘What Facebook wants to create an association with is every time you’re bored, every time you have a few minutes. We know that, psychologically speaking, boredom is painful. Whenever you’re feeling bored, whenever you have a few extra minutes, this is a salve for that itch’ (Baer, 2014). Therefore, Facebook wants its users to associate it with something you have to do when you have nothing to do. They can disregard their boredom by just scrolling through their news feed on Facebook. Overtime, this forms in to a habit. There then becomes a need and a want to check what has been happening among friends and the internet. People are often wondering ‘What photos do people post? What are the comments going to say? How many likes do people get?’ With lots of variability of what a person might find, this becomes a huge attraction to Facebook. The social giant keeps bringing their users back by loading the next trigger. If a person posts a photo, Facebook uses this. If someone else likes the photo, Facebook sends you an external trigger or also known as a notification telling the person of this interaction. Hence, bringing the person back to see who it was (Eyal, 2014). This is clever on Facebooks behalf, as it website is not spamming the user. The notifications are merely based upon their interactions with Facebook. This need to know what is happening on Facebook all the time can also surface as an addiction. Unfortunately, the addiction is also changing how people behave, how they see the world around them, and most importantly, how they see themselves.
Considering the above information, it is important to examine the possible affects of the over use of Facebook has on society. Excessive Facebook use may be linked with a lower general self-esteem (Kalpidou, Costin, & Morris, 2011). Lower self-esteem may be resulted in low contact with friends on Facebook, or a feeling of exclusion for social gatherings. As Facebook allows users to see the profiles and the lives of friends and indeed, of complete strangers, this may lead to a feeling of jealousy towards these people. For example, a person with less friends on Facebook, may be envious towards how many people post birthday wishes on a more sociable peers Facebook wall. One of the most frequent reasons people give for jealousy on Facebook is seeing other people holidays and leisure activities (wordcrunch.com). People may feel envious of this as they feel other people are living better lives and having better experiences. This along with the affects on people’s self-esteem, can also lead to feelings of loneliness and depression. The most common cause of this feeling of frustration from Facebook came from users comparing themselves socially to their peers, while the second most common source of dissatisfaction was “lack of attention” from having fewer comments, likes and general feedback compared to friends (Sifferlin, 2015). It seems that people are under pressure to portray themselves in a certain manner to their peers on Facebook, while also trying to be the most ‘popular’. Women and young girls are more likely to stress over their physical appearance (Sifferlin). It seems that the need for social acceptance and popularity has become something that Facebook has excelled in a negative way.
In conclusion, Facebook may no longer be a fun way of staying connected with friends, but could become just another source of stress for people. It has become a place where friends have become almost in a silent competition with each other. There appears to be a constant battle to have the best profile picture with the most likes. There are also whole age groups now who see nothing wrong with posting their entire life online every day and expecting the same from others. The results can be life-changing, influencing a person’s career, how they interact with others, and their mental state and self-image. Considering the fact that Facebook is a worldwide phenomenon and envy, loneliness and depression are universal feelings, a lot of people are subject to these painful consequences. Facebook may have been a great idea, but it has revealed a few things human behaviour. A connection is not the same thing as a bond, and that instant connection is not something that leads to happier life. Solitude was once a place for reflection and self-reinvention, but now society doesn’t have that. People are constantly surrounded by a virtual society which leaves people wondering who they are all the time. Facebook revokes people the pleasure, whose sophistication we had underestimated (Marche, 2012). Facebook denies people the chance to forget about the world for a while, a chance to disconnect.
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