People, especially teenagers, seem to be tiring of the popular social networking site.
They say happy is the person who can live with uncertainty. Now, there’s one more paradigm to judge the same: one could say happy indeed is the person who can log into his/her Facebook account and contemplate the news feed without a flash of irritation or a pang of envy.
Many of us have a love-hate relationship with Facebook (FB). On the one hand, it’s a tried and tested platform for getting back in touch (and staying in touch) with friends and relatives across the globe. On the other hand, it’s also a potential time-and-peace-guzzler. Every once in a while comes a new report that FB makes you more dissatisfied with your life and/or decreases your self-esteem. Most of these studies attribute the reasons to the fact that most users post about the best moments in their lives, which often creates an unrealistic image about the life and challenges that they may be actually living and facing.
Last year, University of Michigan psychologists reported that users often got a biased view of other people’s lives because they compared their lives to the apparently awesome lives that popped up on their newsfeed. The comparisons to the apparently awesome lives of others ended up making people find their own lives lacking. The same year, a team of German researchers found that Facebook causes feelings of envy, dissatisfaction and loneliness among users. The researchers concluded that the distress the site seems to cause could actually become a threat to its long-term sustainability.
Author Jaishree Misra says that so far, she’s successfully resisted the lure of Facebook and the pressure from publishers. “It was deliberate. Among other things, the amount of time I knew I’d end up spending on FB worried me. I’m an inveterate ‘replyer’, completely incapable of leaving an e-mail, message or letter unanswered, so FB would have been asking for trouble. She adds with a smile that Although there are days when she wonders about her decision. “I must admit, however, that when FB’s potential for viral marketing became obvious, I started to get tempted by it. Even now, there are days when I hear that evil little voice inside me hiss that it’s only for the lack of FB that my books aren’t all massive blockbusters!”
Does she feel Facebook is as bad as it is made out to be? “Moderation would ensure there’s no evil side to it. But I do worry about how FB is coming to affect the way in which people ‘socialise’. I’m aware that no generation wants to do things in the way previous generations have done but surely it isn’t healthy for laptops and phones to become the chief medium for human interaction? Worse, FB seems to allow people to hide behind the personae they deliberately and rather disingenuously give themselves — all those smiling photographs, the carefully crafted profiles. How many people would actually put their fears and anxieties on such a public platform?”
Author Mridula Koshy took a sabbatical from FB because “In my experience, Facebook has an anesthetising effect. For me, the relentlessness of the information feed, the endless supply of links to Upworthy, the tragic, the heinous and the banal rendered the whole experience a blur. This proved in the end rather addictive and a distraction from work and this is what finally drove my decision to get out.”
However, others argue that Facebook is like any other medium, including the Internet. Meaning that how it is used and how it affects one’s functioning depends a lot on the individual. American political satirist and stand-up comedian Jon Stewart famously poked fun at an NBC news anchor who said Facebook can ‘bum you out’ by retorting that if reading about someone else’s good times made you unhappy, then the problem probably wasn’t Facebook… Recently, a University of Princeton study predicted a massive decline in Facebook usage by 2017. Facebook responded by applying the same methodology, concluding that Princeton would cease to exist by 2021. On a more serious note, a study by researchers at Queensland University of Technology in Australia concluded that social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter can actually be used as vehicles of introspection and self-therapy. Researchers said social media allow users to share thoughts, confess about shortcomings and talk about their achievements. This can help users understand themselves better and reflect on how to improve their lives.
Author Milan Vohra says although Facebook can undoubtedly become a time-sponge if you allow it, the opportunities it offers for connecting with people are immense. She narrates an incident that made her decide to have on having a fairly active social media presence. Says Vohra, “I had handed over the job of developing my website to someone but had no time to check on the work. Later, I realised the developer had been utterly irresponsible, failing to pass on tons of e-mails meant for me. Many were from readers, some for interviews or platforms to talk about things that matter to me. One such was an invitation to give a TED talk. That’s when I realised I needed to be accessible in other ways too.”
She says all it takes for her is half an hour a day to stay on top of her updates and messages. “So far, it’s been totally worth it. Recently, I read a short story of mine at a literary festival. The story dealt with child abuse and the almost-never discussed subject of the genesis of sexual abuse, where and how the abused turn into abusers. When I read out the story, there was a strong reaction. I could palpably feel it but I could sense that there was some holding back when it came to asking questions on a subject like this before a whole bunch of strangers. And then I was astounded at how much dialogue this story generated through FB Messenger. The way I look at it is, no matter how much you talk about subjects like this, it is still too little. I'm glad in this case, social media was a useful space to open up discussion on an important subject.”
While the end of Facebook may be an exaggeration, there’s evidence of increasing Facebook Fatigue, including from an unexpected segment — teenagers. It’s not just adult users getting weary of Facebook anymore. Teens are reportedly feeling wary of the platform and are staying away, a reaction to the fact that their parents seem to have already infested it!
Koshy says, “Rediscovering my old school friends and seeing pictures of my nieces and nephews who live in the U.S. were probably the high points of my Facebook experience. Feeling like I had to persuade people to come to my book readings and buy my book was the low point. So, while I don’t know for certain that people are weary of Facebook, I think they might be”