Status Update: It’s Facebook, Not Your Diary
Why social networking is turning us all into narcissists, in more than 140 characters.
‘Time to get yoga back in my life.’ ‘I need to book another holiday.’ ‘Getting my new car tomorrow.’
Hooked? Didn’t think so. And yet these self-indulgent delights were plastered across my Facebook newsfeed by bright UCL students, smugly assuming they’d capture my interest. Narcissistic at worst, dull at best. If Groucho Marx hadn’t been cremated, he’d be turning in his grave.
It seems our generation has developed such a sense of self-importance that we believe anything that happens to us must be of interest to everyone else. Burnt my toast? Better satiate the appetites of all of those Facebook fiends deliriously wetting themselves as they speculate about my morning routine. #lolwhatamalike.
The careless clatter of a few keys and the click of a mouse are all that’s needed to voice our less-than-humble opinions via Facebook statuses. Unsurprisingly, puffed up know-all undergrads revel in the stuff.
In 2006, the Twitter team cleverly tapped into this obsession. Gone were the superfluous photos and personal details; turns out we only really wanted to throw a few slapdash pronouncements around.
Certainly this has been put to good use; politically minded students have drawn my attention to worthy campaigns such as 38 Degree’s petition to Save the NHS (http://www.38degrees.org.uk/page/s/Protect_our_NHS_Petition). On the other hand, I’m too often reading about someone’s dead dog. Heartbreaking, perhaps, for the person involved. But completely irrelevant for me and for his other 567 friends.
‘Keeping it to yourself’ is obviously contradictory to social media. But why can’t bright students distinguish between the two categories themselves? From declarations of love (I assume, given the frequency of these, that I’m not missing out on a huge Facebook wide orgie and that they do only address one person) to catty remarks thrown cowardly about behind the protection of a screen. And ‘Some People’. Well isn’t she a vile character?
Moving between mediums is social media’s forté and this self-obsession glides seamlessly from words to images. There is apparently no embarrassment in uploading 147 photos of yourself on your way out to Moonies, from obscure angles to present your face at its most glorious for everyone to applaud. If there was any blushing involved, the almighty vacuum of instagram quickly saw to that one.
But this sort of vanity is dripping in dependency and insecurity. 3 ‘likes’ to your photo says pitifully ugly; 67 sends you viral. And Facebook’s seductive command ‘Write a comment…’ encourages all sorts. ‘Oh, Jennifer-May, must you always look so divine?’
Code for: ‘I hate being your fat friend but make sure you like my latest profile pic’.
There ought to be templates by now.
Maybe there is nothing wrong with some harmless hyperbole. After all, if Jenny feels like she can walk on water who’s complaining? But the superficiality cannot go unnoticed and the hurt from receiving few comments must outweigh any elation. Jennifer-May must after all recognise she’s no Venus, even with her arm popped out of joint.
It’s true that social media has made communication easier and connects more people. Rightly or wrongly, I am probably in touch with more people than I would be without it. But more than making us self-aware, it has made us self-obsessed. A discussion perhaps, that might need more than 140 characters.