There are few human needs greater than that of the need to stay connected. As humans, we feel the need to stay up to date as to what is happening in the world as a whole and the microcosm of our own world, most notably our friends. We want to know what is going on in their lives and, at the same time, update them as to what is going on in our lives. One way in which this has become incredibly easier, thanks to the invention of the Internet, is Facebook. We all know the story: Mark Zuckerberg created the site as a rudimentary dating site for college kids at Harvard, and it has now transformed into a social phenomenon that has changed how we gain information of the world and our friends exponentially. Says Doug Gross of CNN, “Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection” (2014). (1). However, how has Facebook changed us; namely, how has it changed how we view ourselves and how we represent ourselves online?
Facebook allows us to create a virtual profile, or self-representation of ourselves. These profiles include age, school, workplace, and interests, among other things. Through these few facts about ourselves and the things we post, others are supposed to gain a clear picture of who we are; however, it is difficult to determine the authenticity of these claims. According to Watson (p. 2), ” Although the claim to authenticity promises unmediated access to some “essence” or “truth,” virtual environments only underscore the poststructuralist critique that self-presentation is performative” (2014). (2) People want to believe what others say about themselves, but they can often lie and fabricate part of their identities.
Facebook has, in a way, changed who we are as a society, both collectively and individually. Through Facebook and other social media sites, we now self-critique ourselves very harshly. This can stem from seeing others posts and thinking their lives are immensely better than ours, or from others posting hurtful things on our posts or “walls”. Through Facebook, we can easily vent our feelings on a particular subject and hurt others if we want to, all from the safety of behind our computer screens. This has led to people thinking people they can say whatever they want, and there will be no consequences whatsoever.
We all want to put our best image forward, and Facebook allows us to do this. We can only highlight the good aspects of our personality and being in general, and are able to hide our negative qualities that would much more easily come out if we were to meet face-to-face with someone. Watson expands on this further, saying, “…however malleable and interchangeable identities are online, they are qualified offline by the complexity of embodied social identities” (2014). (2) This has led to many people being less social in the real world, or being less of a “peoples-person”.
In conclusion, Facebook has led to many changes in our lives. It has changed how we can inform others about ourselves and how we gain information. It has changed how we live and think in so many ways “that it tweaks our emotions, for better or worse” (Gross, 2014). (1)
Gross, D. (2014, January 31). 5 ways Facebook changed us, for better and worse. Retrieved from: http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/31/tech/social-media/facebook-changes/
Smith, S.,Watson, J. (2014, April 21). Studying the digital self: Five analytical concepts that can guide scholarship on virtual lives. Retrieved from: http://chronicle.com/article/Studying-the-Digital-Self/145971/