Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Internet Imitates Life... But It Is Not The Same

I will start this off by admitting the truth: I do not have 667 friends. That’s an outrageously large number of people with whom to have close relationships. However, if you were to happen upon my Facebook page, you would see 667 friends listed. Originally when social networking pages such as Facebook came out, many people in society thought it would be a great way to keep in touch with friends and reconnect with friends from the past. While these websites are useful for that purpose, they cannot compete with real life. Actually, they sometimes manage to conceal what is really going on in real life.

For example, upon seeing someone’s Facebook page similar to mine broadcasting upwards of 700 friends, nobody would expect the person behind the page to have no friends and spend their nights alone in reality. People can use the Internet to conceal pain and loneliness; anybody can act happy online. Hypothetically, someone in hysterical tears can muster up a Facebook status about how summer is amazing so far and post it for their digital friends to read. Afterwards, it is likely that some people will even click “like” on the aforementioned status. A stranger not knowing the difference who stumbled upon the page might assume that the people who clicked “like” are the page owner’s friends. And in some situations that is true, but in other situations it’s a complete facade. Not many people take the time to notice the difference.

I have witnessed numerous conversations in which one person will say something like “I have no friends” or “I never have anyone to go out with,” only to receive a response like “I’ve seen your Facebook and your Twitter and you clearly have friends.” The Internet imitates life and many people believe most of what they read online, especially on social networking pages.

Some users of social networking pages even acknowledge this problem. Upon doing some research, I came across Facebook groups that were created to bring together people who experience some of the above-mentioned social networking phenomena. For example, the group, “Facebook- a relationship’s worst enemy” was created to express the fact that once people publicly declare that they are “in a relationship” online, copious amounts of drama ensues. Some couples share too much information with their Internet friends, and it is detrimental to their relationship. Conversely, another group is titled “Facebook makes every relationship legit,” meaning that if a couple decides to leave their relationship off of the Internet, people might not even believe that they are actually dating. Some people do not care what their peers think of them, but more people are affected by these opinions and judgments.

Another problem that has arisen with the popularity of social networking pages is the amount of time people spend on these websites. Some people allow the Internet world to take over the real world. Some Facebook groups that encompass this problem are entitled “I just can’t get Facebook out of my head” and “I eat, sleep, & breathe Facebook.” Another group called “I actually know all of my friends on Facebook” was created for the users who have not allowed Facebook to affect on their personal lives.

Additionally, some people post so much information online that it almost makes regular, personal conversations obsolete. People don’t feel the need to ask how somebody’s weekend was if they already saw the answer in a Facebook newsfeed or a tweet on Twitter. For some people, this is convenient, but for others it puts a damper on friendships that used to flourish.

In conclusion, social networking pages can be very helpful in terms of keeping in touch with people and rekindling old friendships. However, these pages can also become too powerful if their users do not exercise caution. If a social networking page is ruining any aspect of your actual life, that’s a red flag that you have given the Internet too much power. Also, adding people as a friend on Facebook or following people on Twitter does not create real life friendships. This may seem like a blatantly obvious statement, but some people have gotten unbelievably caught up in these websites. All of the retweets, “likes” and comments in the world will not improve anyone’s actual social life.