A friend of mine recently posted a link to an interesting video on Facebook about the effects of Facebook and other forms of social media on the brain. The video was originally posted by Cam Lincoln on mobiledia.com, and in it he describes a phenomenon we’ve all come to subconsciously realize: “I share, therefore I am.”
As we become more and more intimate with our technology and social media platforms, it’s important we realize the things that seem to connect us are also making us lonely.
On the internet, we get to create our best selves. We spend hours crafting and editing tweets, status updates and even text messages. We can choose which Instagram filter best suits a photo and the Facebook profile picture that makes us look the best. The cost of this excessive preoccupation with creating our best selves is a connection to reality.
In a study done by the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda, college students reported feeling addicted to social media such as Facebook and even facing anxiety and depression when asked to refrain from using them. When it comes time to face reality, we’re more inclined to immerse ourselves in a world of virtual friends and perfect images, leaving us with less time to experience real life.
But we don’t get to edit real-time conversations, and we can’t go back and touch ourselves up in everyday interactions with other people. There’s an unhealthy obsession with creating and selling a false image, even if we just think it’ll make us appear more interesting. Our addiction is to the instant gratification, the validation we think we’re getting when we get “likes” on a picture.
Margie Warrell a blogger for The Huffington Post calls this being seduced by social media.
“They seduce us with the implicit promise that, if we get enough friends or followers or likes, we will feel truly significant in the world,” Warrell writes. And many are falling prey to this promise.
According to thenextweb.com, Facebook has 1.19 billion monthly users and 728 million daily users. More and more people are connecting with each other, but what value do these connections actually hold?
Lincoln’s video suggests that a human cannot physically and emotionally connect with more than 150 people on an intimate level, but last time I checked, my friend count was two or three times that. Intimacy is a natural part of being human, but Facebook only offers the illusion of such connections.
Our hunger for more friends and more connections draws us to sites like Facebook, but reality suggests that more virtual friends, rather than real life relationships, really aren’t the key to relieving us of our loneliness. When we add friends on Facebook, especially friends we don’t even know well in real life, we’re not seeing their profile as an honest picture of who they are.
A Facebook profile offers a limited, edited version of a persona that the person has created. And yet, we revert to Facebook time and time again to learn more about people, to get glimpses into their “personal” lives that often misrepresent who they actually are. We get hung up on details about a person’s life without realizing that we’re never privy to the whole story.
It’s the conviction that what we’re getting on Facebook is real that drives our sense of loneliness. Studies have shown that people who use Facebook more tend to be more depressed afterwards because they feel inadequate compared to their friends. On the same note, people may feel lonelier even with so many connections because they realize there’s nothing truly worthwhile or real about the friendships they only maintain through Facebook.
Internet profiles and personas may make us feel interesting and get us more likes, but they don’t establish emotional connections or lasting intimate relationships between people. We’re making ourselves lonelier by continuing to believe that real relationships can come from a simple “add friend” button and that we can really know someone just by what they post online.
— Mackenzie Brown is a pre-physiology freshman. Follow her @mac_brown01