Sometimes I look around at my peers at Georgetown and think, “Huh, these must be the people who actually enjoyed high school.”
In that, I mean Georgetown students love the prescribed path. They like doing what has been done before and doing it well. They value competence and realistic thinking. They take comfort in their GPAs and knowing how they’ll fit on the grading curve, and savor the factoids about how many spots Deloitte is going to offer this year.
This being the case, Georgetown students love Facebook. Not only does it allow them the opportunity to network (apparently, we’ll all be important one day), Facebook allows these students to force everyone they’ve ever met to learn about their progress on their most recent venture. I glean the core bits of all my friends’ resumes from their Facebook postings—Tom: MSB ’14, Marketing, 3.8 GPA, intern at R.T.C. and Marriot. Helen: SFS ‘15, IPOL, 3.6 GPA, intern at the State Department and this nonprofit.
In fact, it seems like I know more about my friends’ resumes than their personal lives, which is fine, of course, except that it makes everyone seem more impressive than they really are. You see, not everyone loved high school. Some of us spent high school angsty, frustrated, and, at many times, alone.
Maybe I was just a lame high schooler, but I didn’t go out most weekends. I usually stayed home and spent time with my family, which I know now is only normal. Sure, I had friends, but, because of Facebook, it always seemed like I didn’t quite have as many as everyone else did. When all communication is public, when even the number of friends you have is displayed and quantified, it’s easy to feel that way.
I sweated over every status update I wrote. Whatever you say will be read by everyone you had a longer-than-average conversation with, so it better be snappy. And people better like, comment, and share it, or else you’re a loser.
I would look on Facebook and I would see my classmates’ smugly clever status updates, and all their friends would publicly recount what they all did without me. Though I knew it was irrational, I could only think about how I wasn’t invited and how I wasn’t doing something with my friends as well.
On Facebook, people only share their successes while hiding their setbacks and frustrations, which gives the false impression that users’ lives are more interesting and successful than they are. Every award, victory, or grade is carelessly posted as if they prevailed by power of their own skill. This culture teaches people to hide their emotions and failures more than they should be expected to. A 70 on a test suddenly becomes more shameful when your online diet consists of people subtley boasting about their SAT scores and records at the state championships.
High school is a classically difficult time of life, but Facebook only makes adolescent stress more severe. It pushes people to value appearances over substance, forcing them to distill themselves into a few preset categories. If people paid less attention to it, then I firmly believe people would feel more comfortable pursuing their passions instead of thinking they need to compare well against their peers.
This online culture even affects offline social interactions. With Facebook, the public image of an event becomes more enjoyable than the event itself. In high school, I went to parties where we only took pictures. Instead of enjoying being together and having that stand for itself, we only looked forward to seeing these pictures on Facebook. At that point, the impression of having friends, of being social, surpasses the actual utility in having friends at all. Facebook morphs the goal of friendship into appearances, for people who we aren’t even close to.
Facebook caters to the human desire to be impressive, and the company becomes more profitable as you spend more time on their website, the worst consequence of which has been the slow, inevitable implementation of timeline. A relatively new online phenomenon, cyberstalking involves scouring an acquaintance’s Facebook profile for bits of information on their personality, and, for some dumb reason, people take this online personality as an unbiased representation of oneself. Whereas before, cyberstalkers were forced to click and click to wade deep into their subject’s past, Timeline streamlines the process. Now, Facebook sinisterly offers up all of their users’ pasts for public view and commentary. Facebook does not only hamper social interaction and trivialize human experience. It destroys users’ abilities to move on from their old selves and change for the better.
After Facebook phased Timeline into my profile, I decided it was time to leave. I couldn’t comfortably go about my life without any semblance of privacy. So I deactivated my account. Although I haven’t found the resolve to completely delete my account yet (Facebook makes it exceedingly difficult), I’ll just say, I haven’t “missed out” on anything yet. I don’t need the Internet for social interaction. I have friends for that.