|A Guest Post by Erica Bettac|
Wait, is that last word a typo? You would hope Facebook, now boasting over 500 million users worldwide, would be the last source of loneliness. Think again.
Facebook is now causing a type of cultural anxiety never seen before. A malicious cycle has users spinning: a general feeling of isolation followed by increasingly more time spent on site, only triggering a greater sense of utter lonesomeness. What is this trigger? In other words, how is Facebook unknowingly sparking loneliness? Although scholars are working to clearly define normal and abnormal Facebook usage, there is now a developing concern of loneliness found online despite Facebook’s attempt of allaying this anxiety. Facebook is not just a place of socialization. It is a source of loneliness.
Most compelling is the evidence that is found in the YouTube video “Facebook: The Things That Connect Us” (theofficialfacebook).
On October 4, 2012, the Official Facebook released this one minute and thirty-one second clip exposing a total of sixty-two screen shots.
In the beginning of the video, the narrator addresses chairs and their ability to provide people with a place to sit down and relax as well as converse with each other by the swapping of stories and telling of jokes. She compares Facebook to that of a chair, saying they are one in the same. Facebook as a “chair” gives people a place of relaxation, unwinding and utmost, conversation and laughter. The fact that Facebook is compared to a chair likely alters the frame of mind of a Facebook user to the point where the social networking site serves more as a “chair,” or crutch, than the very chair they sit in.
Foremost is its portrayal of chairs as a place of comfort, conversation, and ease just like that of Facebook. However, quite the opposite is proving true. Facebook in reality yanks the chair in which the Facebook user sits right out from underneath them! In fact, it simply eliminates the original comfort (face-to-face interaction) that physical chairs once provided with a face-to-Facebook interaction. Humans undoubtedly need in-person contact and without it, will become lonely.
The screen shot of the chair also proves interesting: it is depicted alone. Although the narrator articulates the many chairs around the world being connected through Facebook, it ironically shows a single chair. At one point, it is floating in the middle of nowhere, evoking the viewer a different direction than the narrator first implied. The chair is isolated with no physical company just as user is left sitting alone in their own chair without any interactive stimulus. Simply put: the user becomes isolated just as the seemingly innocent lonesome chair.
Furthermore, Globalization is presented through the discussing of transportation elements such as planes, bridges, and doorbells. Just like that of Facebook, these elements bring people together and allow for interactions with individuals from anywhere, even across the globe. Great Nations is a term also brought forth, implying that Facebook is a “great nation” due to its virtual globalization just as real world “great nations” implement physical globalization. Globalization refers to the connection of the entire world, and Facebook is able to create this relationship.
Such loneliness is then globalized around the world, even spanning the “great nations” of the world. Facebook may claim to be among the great nations; however, through its globalized dispersal of loneliness (derived from lack of in-person interaction) it is essentially only creating isolation.
Scholar Amanda L. Traud of the University of North Carolina would find this particularly intriguing. In her 2011 article “Social Structure of Facebook Networks," the demographics of the user are taken into account. Traud confines her research to the location, age, and gender, and according to her calculations, location primarily affects a user’s type of use (Traud 4178-4179). Location is once again accounted for; first by the globalization of Facebook, and now, by scholar and researcher Traud. If a user lives in a secluded region of the country and lacks the conversation he needs, he may in turn log on to Facebook more often to meet this conversation “fix” thus traveling down the road to addiction and further loneliness.
The video then makes reference to the unknowns of our cosmos:
“The Universe, it is vast, and dark, and makes us wonder if we are alone. So maybe the reason we make all of these things (chairs, globalization elements, and countries) is to remind ourselves that we are not” (theofficialfacebook).
In essence, this statement signifies that we may indeed feel alone, however, through the use of Facebook we will “remind ourselves that we are not.” It is ironic that Facebook would make such a claim. “Remind ourselves that we are not” alone? The social site is proving to be doing quite the opposite! Facebook expresses it “makes us wonder if we are alone,” yet perhaps humans question this isolation from the “vast” and “dark” unknown because they themselves are lonely.
Do lonely users use Facebook differently? An answer is found in Sophia Xenos’ of RMIT University 2011 article “Who Uses Facebook? An Investigation into the Relationship Between the Big Five, Shyness, Narcissism, Loneliness, and Facebook Usage.” She initially breaks users down into three primary groups: shy, lonely, and narcissistic individuals (Xenos 1659). Xenos concludes “Facebook gratifies its users in different ways depending on their individual characteristics” (Xenos 1662). Specifically, lonely and neurotic personalities spent typically more time on the social site per day than their non-lonely counterpart.
Loneliness and other traits of Facebook users are uncovered in Kelly Moore’s article “The Influence of Personality on Facebook Usage, Wall Postings, and Regret.” It was here, in 2011, that she suggested “personality accounted for significant amounts of variance over and above that explained by gender and Facebook experience” (Moore 271).
The lonely user filling the void with the empty use of Facebook has indeed become a malicious cycle. However despite its attempt through this recent YouTube video, Facebook is still unable to comfort the global anxiety of feeling alone. For now, the vicious cycle continues…
I myself am not a Facebook user. This is my personal choice: the lack of privacy makes me uneasy but more importantly, the effects that the social site has on its users are too unmistakable today. If you are a Facebook user, don't throw in the towel just yet! Loneliness isn't just spreading over Facebook users, but to users of technology itself.
Want to know more? Navigate these sources:
Moore, Kelly. "The influence of personality on Facebook usage, wall postings, and regret." Elsevier (2011): 267-274. Internet.
theofficialfacebook. "Facebook: The Things that Connect Us." YouTube, 4 October 2012. Web.
Traud, Amanda L. "Social structure of Facebook networks ." Elsevier (2011): 4177-4178. Internet.
Xenos, Sophia. "Who uses Facebook? An investigation into the relationship between the Big Five, shyness, narcissism, loneliness, and Facebook usage." Elsevier (2011): 1658-1664. Internet.