The other day a friend posted pictures from her wedding anniversary on Facebook. He collected “likes” of seismic proportions. A middle-aged friend of mine, vacationing in Goa, shared some beach photos; his whole body rested in perfect stillness and rest as he looked out to sea; the breeze ruffling the stray locks of her hair. What ideally should have been his unforgettable private experience, all of a sudden, turned into a public spectacle, as his Facebook friends erupted into a binge eating. The line of demarcation between the private and the public is no longer sacrosanct.
Another young FB friend continues to post photos of his visit to foreign countries on official tours. He, like any other FB addict, revels in the very idea of living in the public eye. Facebook gives him the visibility he always needs. His friends are overjoyed and the “likes” are followed by soapy compliments and buttered praise. A prerequisite for being liked on FB is shamelessly promoting yourself, with rare verbal flickering and self-confidence. This also begs the question: are FB friends real? We often interact with people on social media that we haven’t met or spoken to on the phone.
Indeed, being on Facebook, this ridiculous vanity and other social media, can guarantee rapid visibility. The endless stream of “I like” greases the wheels with a seemingly superficial interaction, otherwise devoid of spontaneity and human warmth. From birthday parties, honeymoon selfies to wedding anniversaries, birthday parties to selfies against the backdrop of majestic mountains and rivers, FB posts tickle our vanity.
A couple who married two years ago live their lives virtually on FB, posting anything from their birthdays and wedding anniversaries to their visits to many places. Before posting their photos, they also go the extra mile to make sure they strike the right poses in their colorful, fancy dresses to make their FB friends salivate and “like”.
Then there are the parents who waste no opportunity to decipher their children’s accomplishments by regularly posting photos of their paintings and school achievements. Not to be outdone, other equally ambitious parents and friends of FB are joining this Gadarene rush to promote their children on the social media platform. Immediately, a wave of “likes” from their followers swept over their actions. All that Irish blarney makes these puffy parents feel on top of the world.
Desire to impress
If you’re on Facebook, you’re supposed to have an opinion on everything, whether or not they have weight. No wonder, the platform is full of opinion merchants of all stripes ready to ram their ideologies down your throat. The social media platform brings out our innate desire to impress people, even if we end up putting on a show of ourselves. The other day yours really stumbled upon a ridiculous photo of an FB friend making a face in his monkey hat, for a laugh.
The point is, human eccentricity passes over this platform because decisions are hardly judged; the mind becomes as dry as fiddlesticks and people, while praising such foolishness, are happy to “practice a strange ingenuity in wasting the brief span of life on tedious exercises.” In other words, compliments and likes are nothing but a Pavlovian response, completely disconnected from emotions and sagacity.
Likes also act a bit like the lubricant that keeps the machinery of our narcissism running smoothly. It is an imperative that has completely enslaved us. Somerset Maugham once wrote: “… the desire for approval is perhaps the most deeply held instinct of civilized man.
Hungry for “I like”
There is no doubt that people send friend requests just to get more “likes” for their posts. This is a medium on which you are not supposed to sell yourself short. After all, we live in an age that is obsessed with ourselves, with the emphasis on me-me-me. The more you talk about yourself, the more you brag, the better your chances of being loved and celebrated on this platform.
An article titled “Evidence Grows That Online Social Networks Have Insidious Negative Effects” appeared in MIT Technology Review in 2014. According to him, a study of 50,000 people in Italy found that online social networks have a significant negative impact on individual well-being. The study found that “online social media interactions are not face-to-face, which can impact how much trust you have in internet users. It is this loss of confidence that can then affect subjective well-being rather than the online interaction itself. “
Another sordid side of Facebook is the horrific practice of people taking suicide to justify their act. The jury is still out on whether such acts of self-destruction really end up arousing emotions.
My enthusiasm for sending friend requests died out a long time ago. The idea of having fun with FB friends through self-promotion has never appealed to people of my ilk. The reason you really don’t want to leave FB is that there are still some positive things about this platform that we can swear by. Once or twice a month, I interact with like-minded writers to exchange views and ideas. Watching videos of animals and their antics is so much more exciting for me. If that wasn’t enough, watching videos of young singers balances my frayed nerves. My idea of Facebook has nothing to do with narcissistic self and face.
The writer is a Delhi-based freelance journalist.