24 September 2009

Social Media: Facebook Surrogates

ace it! Social networking is here to stay. The various systems of networking on the web have infinite constructive uses; the only limit being the user’s imagination. One could use the micro-blog “Twitter” to follow a train of thought to a professional connection and a job; Facebook is used to stay in constant contact with friends and acquaintances from opposite sides of the globe; MySpace is used by thousands of underground bands to cultivate a following and stay connected to their fans. However, as with any technology, the user decides whether to be destructive or constructive, and in today’s world of ADD and warped egos a disturbing trend of online cult-of-personality is wrecking havoc on human social skills.

The most socially destructive way of using social networking is to create an online alter ego to compensate for perceived offline inadequacies. What can develop thusly is an alteration of the offline self to mimic the online alter ego. Also, as the confident and realized online self begins to branch out and develop social ties completely unrelated to geography, kinship, or profession, in favor of internet based ties, the offline self begins to lose touch with personal relationships and can either become narcissistic or socially distant and uninterested.

There are several different socially corrosive online behaviors that characterize a user. One is the posting of pictures depicting an exaggerated counterfeit of the realized online alter ego. These pictures commonly show alcohol abuse or sexually suggestive content. This activity is seen in those who wish to portray a fun-loving and confident image to their Internet contacts. This causes the user to replace healthy self-respect derived from introspection and self-understanding with pleasure derived from increasingly self-destructive acts such as drug use or sexual promiscuity.

Another negative behavior is cyber self-pity. Often times, when a user has a negative view of their offline selves then they will use the alter ego to chastise their offline selves. Their scathing self-criticism allows them to sustain their mediocre offline social skills; self-pity is addictive. This activity is characterized by what some call, “emo status updates,” that is a status update that overdramatizes a personal problem with the intention of garnering pity from others. This behavior often causes users to spiral into asocial, angry, and violent behavior.

Aside from these extreme examples there are intermediate levels of abuse. Many avoid minor problems or responsibilities by using Facebook to kill time. Basically, the most common abusive use of Facebook is laziness. Also, the more serious abuses are only a symptom of a much deeper problem in American culture: lack of faith in the self and a waning belief in the goodness of humanity.

However, that is a topic for another time. I hope this has been illuminating.

Related Material: http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol3/issue1/garton.html

-Peter Lajoie

Twitter and Youtube Username: Lajoieride

E-mail Address: peter.lajoie@gmail.com

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