Joshua Taylor, Digital Associate Editor at The Gryphon, discusses why he believes Facebook is destroying our lives, and ultimately, is turning the global population into social media addicts.
I first met Facebook in the September of 2008, and have cordially disliked her ever since. She’s too intrusive for my taste, incredibly arrogant, and makes me feel miserable most of the time. She’s a sort of 21st century deity: created by man, omnipotent, and apparently invested in our mundane daily activities. This digital big brother sits uneasy with me, more-so than the countless Gods created by our ancestors. Unlike them, this one is very much alive and kicking.
I’m a child of the 90s, and grew up with a call to the hum of the machines. No longer a teenager, but a ‘screenager’ in light of our new digital horizons, as so beautifully phrased by Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising CEO, Kevin Roberts. We are, fundamentally, test-tube babies to the technological revolution – witnesses to the digitally interconnected global empire that is continuously expanding whilst we’re sleeping uneasy in our beds, with our phones by our sides, our computers on ‘sleep’, and our TVs on standby – do you really expect a good nights sleep? I doubt even the Wachowski Brothers could have predicted their fictional reality of The Matrix could be edging one step closer to our own.
These are the heavy matters that underlie the reality of which us ‘screenagers’ know: it is killing us and yet we fucking love it. And in this digital empire, it is Zuckerberg’s Facebook that reigns supreme overlord over humanity: the number 1 internet search term, with 1.35 billion monthly users, generating billions upon billions of ‘likes’ which turns into cold hard cash for big business. The empire continues to grow as more and more people plug in, and it’s time to face the truth. A glass of refreshment, in my view, never hurt anybody, so listen up.
“It is killing us and yet we fucking love it”
It is truthful to say that I find the Facebook network abhorrent. It is an open sewer of vice and pretence, filled with the toxic sludge of endless – and ultimately pointless – ‘liking’ and sharing. Now, i don’t know about you, but with me a feeling of Facebook time consuming always lends extra zest to self-dissatisfaction and self-loathing. And still, I remain plugged in. I check my laptop and phone at any and every given time, unconsciously. It is as if blinking was a more arduous task.
Facebook’s mission is to “give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected”. They go on to say “people use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them”. And i wouldn’t disagree with all of this. Without Facebook, i wouldn’t be able to communicate and engage in the lives of my friends who live all over the world. I wouldn’t be able to easily plan or attend events, or use the site to enhance my experience outside of the digital realm. This is the fundamental reason why i have had an account with Facebook for over 6 years: i think it is useful; i think that it aids to my life in a positive way which outweighs the negative. Yet here is where my pessimism lies: perception and reality are completely different things. Why have i become so hateful of something that i apparently love using? It is because, i believe, Facebook is a powerful drug that leads to addiction, and we’ve become a generation of addicts. Even the psilocybin magic mushroom would have trouble competing with this digital mind bender. It is a drug that completely consumes our lives, and one that has built up a tolerance that leaves us begging for more. In this world of ever-growing consumption, with Twitter, Snapchat and a host of others, it has become clear that we are giving away our most precious stone: that of our identity. We’re even giving it away without a fight, and we’re even giving it away to the people who intend to use this information for their own selfish gains.
“Even the psilocybin magic mushroom would have trouble competing with this digital mind bender”
Facebook was once a service with a mission to connect the people of earth to one another, but is now a manifestation of our own physical world. Numerous research indicates that our experience of reality is dulled as we inaccurately examine the inflated lives of our friends online; that our long term memory becomes damaged as our brains unconsciously sift through massive amounts of junk-data, and – most worryingly – that we struggle to connect and form lasting and meaningful relationships with individuals outside of the digital sphere. There is a clear problem with this. In addition, the Facebook world now houses over 30 million dead people. With its own digital graveyard, it’s increasingly difficult to adequately determine what sphere of reality we’re actually residing in.
“Our experience of reality is dulled as we inaccurately examine the inflated lives of our friends online; that our long term memory becomes damaged as our brains unconsciously sift through massive amounts of junk-data, and most worryingly, that we struggle to connect and form lasting and meaningful relationships with individuals”
Now, I am certainly not campaigning for the annihilation of Facebook, that would be unreasonable. I am simply highlighting the dangers that Facebook poses to a host of human interactions, interactions that are vital to our mental well-being and survival. The fabulous and not so fabulous Facebook platform must really be measured on a spectrum of human freedom: from the marvellous ease to which friends can so easily connect, to the marvellous ease to which we can so freely sign off on our personal information. It’s important to remember this fact – Facebook is a business. In my own user experience, i am left focusing on the wrong things, or perhaps, not even being able to focus at all.
Ultimately, it is true to say that our minds are key factors in determining the quality of our lives, and sites such as Facebook are powerful tools that can physically alter our psychology, for better and worse. Its purpose should be to aid our lives, not leave us chained to our desks, and as technology continues to inhabit our waking and sleeping states, it may be high time to start thinking about whether the promise of better communication is in-fact an illusion that threatens to make us less human, and if so, what can we do about it? It used to be a preposterous assertion to make such a connection; now a sign of how much the internet has changed our world.
There is hope, however, in all of these tangled wires, and this comes in the form of balance. Balance, I believe, can be a key component that can help provide towards a positive user experience that is fulfilling and enriching. Connecting with others online in order to connect offline; sharing valuable content online that will help shape activities offline. Sharing your ideas with your friends whilst valuing your privacy against big business. This balancing act is something that can provide stability and clarity in this world of ours. At the end of the day, time is our most precious resource, and i’m hopeful that if we scrutinise the time we spend online and refine our ‘balancing act’, it will allow us to reevaluate the question ‘is it time well spent?’ I’ll leave that one up to you, dear reader.
Illustrations: Adam Quest & Factslides