Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?

Facebook (and other networks) offer us a way to present a curated version of ourselves, an alter ego, powered by a constant trickle feed of hand-picked information that plays to our need for connection, but offers little that is substantial and worthy. Is it effective? Undoubtedly. Is it good for us? Arguably no. It becomes habitual, consumes mental space unnecessarily and dictates actions and dialogue. It’s not a stretch to say that our abilities to focus (and subsequently produce anything of value), are being hampered.

Of course, this is well known by the psychologists and the engineers who run these platforms. Everything, from the user interfaces, the notifications, the processes to send and receive information, are designed around keeping you hooked and constantly refreshing. Tiny morsels of dopamine and oxytocin are dispensed on a trigger, it’s a hard habit to kick. That’s fine, everybody can use the minutes of their lives as they see fit. The issue here is not the platform per se, but how we, as individuals, use it in different ways. Some of the most active people I know on Facebook, are the ones with the lowest self-esteem.

What I find lamentable is the loss of sharing in it’s true form, instead we get a barrage of thinly-disguised ‘boasts’, a mere facade of sharing, one that I believe is unsustainable in the long-term. I also find it intriguing when people take actions on the basis of how popular they predict the ensuing status update will be. It begs the question, if these people find it difficult to enjoy, without distraction, the purity of an activity without thinking about telling the world about it, has their quality of life truly improved? False connectivity, after all, is a poor substitute.

In any case, the article is well worth a read, though somewhat dramatised. In that 15 minutes, check how many times your thoughts wander to checking your notifications.

“Lanier and Turkle are right, at least in their diagnoses. Self-presentation on Facebook is continuous, intensely mediated, and possessed of a phony nonchalance that eliminates even the potential for spontaneity. (“Look how casually I threw up these three photos from the party at which I took 300 photos!”) Curating the exhibition of the self has become a 24/7 occupation. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, the Australian study “Who Uses Facebook?” found a significant correlation between Facebook use and narcissism: “Facebook users have higher levels of total narcissism, exhibitionism, and leadership than Facebook nonusers,” the study’s authors wrote. “In fact, it could be argued that Facebook specifically gratifies the narcissistic individual’s need to engage in self-promoting and superficial behavior.””

Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?


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