Dec 6 Update: I wanted to add this small survey and article that claims Facebook feeds narcissism which you can view by clicking here.
To me it’s nothing more than a medium for the self-promotion of narcissists. I mean honestly, nobody’s life is that interesting, except mine, and you’ve got to be crazy to think people are just waiting for your next comment or photo. The reason Facebook works so well is that it is an electronic version of common human behavior that we observe every day.
For example, when someone asks you how your weekend was in the elevator at work, it’s usually not because they really care, it’s because they want to tell you what they did that weekend and need a socially acceptable way to foist that upon you. People on Facebook simply endure everyone else on Facebook because all Facebook users agree to suffer the whimsical conceit on everyone else’s walls, in exchange for having all of them “Like” and post comments on their own wall. In other words, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy…if people did not “Like” your comments or photos, you would probably not “Like” theirs back and any motivation to post anything at all by anyone would dry up like the Gobi. It’s the circular ego-stroking that makes Facebook work at all.
Are there certain uses for Facebook? Sure. If it’s just family members or close friends, to share pictures because it’s easier than emailing them – but there are other ways to do that. And before you ask, no, I am not on Facebook. I am not there for this reason and because I don’t think anyone should have that much information about themselves recorded and available to any agency, public or private, for your entire life and beyond. Nobody needs their great-great-great-great granddaughter adding an old Facebook photo to the family history website that Ancestry.com found for them in an archive of your pole dancing around a ring of shot glasses with whale tail.
My wife shared an extension of this behavior with me last night. A co-worker asked her how our daughter was doing. My wife replied that she was doing well but still not sleeping much which has been a little rough on us when it comes to getting our own sleep. Her co-worker then thought it appropriate to tell her how much her son slept at the same age, how easy it was to get him to sleep, a son who is now well into High School. What? How self-centered was that!?
I see it all the time when people talk about mundane stuff. Someone asks someone else what they did over the weekend, which they then answer, and the spiraling and self-reinforcing game of one-upping is off to the races with each sentence from each participant casually besting the others previous sentence. It’s nauseating to listen to.
The real challenge of course is to shut your trap. Just say nothing. People want to be heard. It is polite to simply listen and only respond to questions when asked. To provide sympathy if it’s desired. To relate something personal only if they want you to. I encourage everyone to challenge themselves to just listen, in fact…here is what I do…when people talk about places they went or activities they did, for example sky diving or going to Napa, rather than relate MY trip to Napa or MY time skydiving, I talk to them about it like I’ve never been, or have never done that before. For most people, this will be a difficult challenge because the knee-jerk reaction is to compare our story to theirs. If they ask if I have ever been, I of course tell the truth but I leave it at that unless they actually ask me a question about it.
In conversations where people are talking to me about their cars, or their trips, or the best restaurant or stroller or video game, I simply listen. I ask questions. I don’t try to respond espousing the superior virtues of my car, my trips, my favorite restaurants, stroller or video game. Humanity suffers from a pandemic of one-up-manship and it needs to stop. Unfortunately, Facebook just promotes more of it.
I thought the following video my wife sent me expressed my thoughts rather well…it has been pulled in some places for copyright so I don’t know how long it will be available. If it is not available below, search for “Look at this Instagram:Nickelback Parody.” Hilarious.
Dec 6 Update: Yup. Got nicked for copyright. You can watch the video by clicking here or on the image below.