Social Net-worthing

In the 1980’s, the average person claimed to have 88 friends. Flash forward to today, and I currently have 654 ‘friends’ on Facebook.‘This is impossible’, I think to myself. How can I maintain 654 meaningful relationships while being a graduate student and having a multitude of prominently solitary hobbies? The truth is, I can’t.

When Facebook first started up in 2004, I was ecstatic. I saw the potential it had to revolutionize networking and I became one of the first at my university to sign up. I began adding friends without considering first the capacity that I knew them in.

I now log onto my Facebook page and search through my ‘friends’ who range from being my best friend back home in Texas, to that random girl I roomed with during my undergraduate freshman orientation. I realize, I don’t know half these people, and of those I know, I only really care about a quarter of them. As a first year undergraduate, Facebook was my portal to meeting new people fast. I could know a person’s musical tastes, hobbies, and interests before meeting them in person.

The original Facebook layout was simple. You merely typed in your university email address, password, and you were then directed to your personal home page. From there, I could see what my friends posted on my ‘wall’, send messages to friends, and if I wanted to look up a friend, I could go through the trouble of typing in their name into the search bar.

Now, Facebook is more complex than ever. As soon as you log onto the site, you’re directed to the News Feed that posts the musings of my ‘friends’ whether I care to know them or not. Apparently one of my ‘friends’ is having a quarter-life crisis and is jumping out of a plane, another ‘friend’ is going on a date, and another is eating squid fish in New Guinea.

Sure, I can ‘customize’ the site to display things I care to know, but why bother containing and concealing the extra clutter anyway? I’ve considered getting rid of the excess baggage, but de-friending is the equivalent of giving someone the kiss of death. So I’m left in this rut, feeling alone in a world full of friends.

I’m not sure what the psychological consequences of these social, online networks are.

Are we becoming more selfish as a society? Are we so naive to think that our tweets and status updates matter to others? Are the relationships that matter suffering because we spread ourselves too thin?

Personally, I’m finding that I feel more alienated and estranged from society. I wonder why my ‘friend’ didn’t personally notify me of her recent engagement; I’m sad that I had to find it out through Newsfeed. Then there are times, when I just don’t care. ‘Oh, you’re at Pennys buying new boots… fun.’ Then, to make matters worse, the comparison monster creeps in. To an extent, it is natural to compare yourself to others; unfortunately, social networking sites have made it easier than ever to do. With the click of a button, my self esteem is compromised when I see the fabulous life of so-and-so. What was once limited to being the title of a shabby VH1 sitcom is now experienced all too frequently the world over.

Then, I talk myself out of it. I realize on these sites, you’re only as good as you claim to be, only involved in the pictures you post, and only worth as many friends as you have. It’s what I call, social net-worthing.

All this being said, social networks are here to stay. I’ll forever be a user for the reasons I initially joined: to keep contacts, build friendships, and to learn more about myself.

-P

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