Thursday, February 28, 2013

Facebook: One Identity -- Total Transparency

What does privacy mean to you? 

"In The Facebook Effect, a recent history of the social network, Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg told author David Kirkpatrick that he envisions a society in which "you have one identity"where "having a different image for your work friends or coworkers and for the other people you know" will no longer be possible or even desirable." [source]

As humans, we are involved in deep and complex relationships with many different people.  I would never share the same things with a friend that I share with my wife.  Nor would I share that information with my boss.  Yet, the idea of a total transparent world is something that is not only desirable for the Facebook creator, but the ideal.  Such an ideal, is to me, quite terrifying. 

I can not help but wonder why a person would want to live in such a world.  I have touched on the subject in previous posts of the virtue of privacy.  Many people have died for the freedoms and privacy that people in our modern world now take for granted.  Has the internet and the obsession with (a)social media made us forget the desirability of privacy?

Of course, Facebook is known to be an enemy of privacy.  In fact, it's been the subject of multiple stories stating that it has been involved in breaches of privacy.  Yet millions of people don't care.  As long as they can share their lives and watch their contemporaries' lives, everything is okay, right?  Many people don't even think about what they are giving up when they sign up for the quasi-"free" service known as Facebook.  Instead, they think of it is merely as a tool to allow them to live a more social life.

Should a person want to share every aspect of their life with everyone?
  Are having secrets a bad thing?  Should the world know who you slept with, where you are planning on retiring, who you are angry with?  Should your spouse and co-worker both be aware of your financial life?  Should you tell everything to everyone?  No!  Such an idea is, frankly, absurd.  Yet, people subscribe to such an idea when they sign up to Facebook.  I have touched before on the idea that Facebook is a business.  People seem to forget this.  You are sending a message that you agree with the ideals of the company, Facebook, Inc., even if, in reality, you do not support the idea of a world without privacy.

If Facebook was a or the government, people would be appalled at the site's lack respect for privacy.  Yet, since it is a non-physical website, and not a government, that allows one to engage in behaviors such as creating envy (though making others jealous), bragging, comparing one's self to the perceived life of others, and acting like a fool in a public forum without abandon, many are glad to sign up and trade their ideals for it.  Being non-tangible makes Facebook seem like less of a threat.  But there are a host of psychological threats that come with using and living your life through Facebook.  Do you really want your entire life to be transparent for the rest of the world to see?  Do you value privacy at all?  These are questions that many users don't consider but should.

If you are on the fence about using Facebook, now is a good time to try a stint without Facebook.  You may be pleasantly surprised at how things turn out.  If you think that there is something to lose by giving up Facebook, you should instead consider what you have to gain.  Put the time you spend on Facebook towards reaching your own goals.  You live the life you choose.  Only you are responsible for your dreams.  If you spend your time hooked up to (a)social networking, are you really accomplishing your dreams?  Perhaps, but that is for you to think about.  After all, it is your life.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Study: Facebook Makes Users Envious and Dissatisfied

Here is an interesting study that has recently been conducted that shows the correlation between Facebook and envy.  I have found envy myself when using the site.  After reading an interesting story -- and subject of a future post -- that individuals can purchase a "fake girlfriend" for a period of time on Facebook, I started to realize that much of what I was seeing and reading on Facebook was indeed false.  Reality is constantly distorted on Facebook.  The result, for many, however, is intense envy and anger.  Much of this anger is directed at the self.  Is this healthy?  I do not think so.  

Yet, the sole purpose of purchasing a girlfriend on Facebook is to create envy in the minds of your 'friends'.   Has Facebook reduced your life satisfaction or caused you to feel considerable envy?  If so, please share in the comment field below.  

---Facebook Makes Users Envious and Dissatisfied---

Participation in social networks, such as Facebook, can cause negative feelings and reduce members’ life satisfaction. Those are the results of a survey with nearly 600 Facebook users by Information Systems scientists at the TU Darmstadt and the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

In a joint research study conducted by the Department of Information Systems of the TU Darmstadt (Prof. Dr. Peter Buxmann) and the Institute of Information Systems of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Dr. Hanna Krasnova), Facebook members were surveyed regarding their feelings after using the platform.
More than one-third of respondents reported predominantly negative feelings, such as frustration. The researchers identified that envying their “Facebook friends” is the major reason for this result.
Project manager Dr. Hanna Krasnova, who is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Humboldt-Universität, explained that, “Although respondents were reluctant to admit feeling envious while on Facebook, they often presumed that envy can be the cause behind the frustration of “others” on this platform – a clear indication that envy is a salient phenomenon in the Facebook context. Indeed, access to copious positive news and the profiles of seemingly successful ‘friends’ fosters social comparison that can readily provoke envy. By and large, online social networks allow users unprecedented access to information on relevant others – insights that would be much more difficult to obtain offline.”
Those who do not engage in any active, interpersonal communications on social networks and primarily utilize them as sources of information, e.g. reading friends’ postings, checking news feeds, or browsing through photos, are particularly subject to these painful experiences.

Envying Facebook friends leads to a vicious “envy spiral”

Another result of the survey was that about one-fifth of all recent online / offline events that had provoked envy among the respondents took place within a Facebook context. This reveals a colossal role of this platform in users’ emotional life. Paradoxically, envy can frequently lead to users embellishing their Facebook profiles, which, in turn, provokes envy among other users, a phenomenon that the researchers have termed “envy spiral.”
The leading online and offline envy provokers in Germany are related to “Travel and Leisure”. As Dr. Thomas Widjaja of the TU-Darmstadt, who was also involved in the project, put it, “This is a result of numerous vacation photos posted on Facebook, which are particularly popular among German users.”

Facebook envy fosters dissatisfaction

Based on the survey data, the researchers were also able to establish a negative link between the envy that arises while on Facebook and users’ general life satisfaction. Indeed, passive use of Facebook heightens invidious emotions that, in turn, adversely affect users’ satisfaction with their lives. Coauthor Helena Wenninger of the TU-Darmstadt argued that, “Considering the fact that Facebook use is a worldwide phenomenon and envy is a universal feeling, a lot of people are subject to these painful consequences.”
The results of the survey will be presented at the “11th International Conference Wirtschaftsinformatik (Information Systems)” to be held in Leipzig, Germany, February 27 through March 1, 2013. The researchers plan to conduct a follow-on survey that will explore the effects of Facebook use on envy and its consequences within various cultures.

This story was originally published at

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Virtue of Privacy and of Being a Private Person

I am a private person.  I don't feel the need to share my life with the world.  In fact, I have found that I have done much more with my life since I stopped sharing my every life detail with others.  However, I have also found that many people do not understand how a person can not desire to share everything they do with the world.  This presents an interesting dilemma for many.  I have found that, as a truly private person, I have no place on Facebook.

At one time I shared my not-so-exciting life with others over the internet.  I once had a Facebook account, a Myspace, and blog in which I talked all about my boring life and what was happening with it.  I found that when I would say something that other people did not like or did not agree with, it came back to haunt me.  Sometimes the results were just plain scary.  The people I knew, on one hand, thought that I should share everything about my life with them.  This was partly due to the fact that I was quite young when I moved out of my home and I moved quite far from the rest of my family.  I found, however, that when I shared my life with others, there was much questioning about it.  Many people came up to their own conclusions about my life, many of which were erroneous.  Therefore, I began to slowly realize that sharing my life was not for me.

I have always enjoyed writing, both fiction and non-fiction.  I have found that my writings are well received by those who I do not know, but those who I do know either do not care to read what I write, or they are offended by what they read between the lines.  At one time I shared my writings with family and friends, but often this was met with angry responses about something or other.  Sometimes these responses were not told directly to me, but I learned of them through another party.  It was then I decided that I would withdraw as somewhat of an experiment.  In fact, I found that it worked well.  Writing without wondering what others would think or say made me stop worrying and caring.  Instead, I focused on the writing and began to write for a new audience.  I must say, it was exciting.

Talking to other writers, I find that I am not alone in having my work appreciated by other people but not by those who are close to me.  For example, many bloggers state that their family does not read their blogs or that they do not understand the point to blogging.  Much work goes into creating blogs and stories, and it's a shame that family members do not understand that such works are a creative endeavor that says a lot more about a person than what someone says on a Facebook account.  Yet, people expect you to be on Facebook.  In fact, I have found that it angers some that I am not on the site.  What one writes on Facebook is rarely a creative endeavor, and if it is, it is not of the same caliber as a longer written work.  I found that everything I wrote on Facebook was read, scrutinized, and taken apart.  Some of the things I wrote which were not meant to offend got so twisted around that I was on the receiving end of a nasty lashing of the tongue (so to speak).

I am not alone here.  I have known people who are on Facebook who are constantly getting a lashing.  Part of me thinks that these individuals are masochists, because they don't feel the need to end their involvement in (a)social networking and begin a psychologically healthier life.  Instead, they feel a duty to be on it and share every essence of their lives with those who will take notice.  The draw of watching other people or maintaining "virtual" friendships is so strong that many can not even begin to hope to escape.  It is sad that they feel this way.  I liken it to a sickness, because I strongly believe that this is not the optimal way to lives one's life.  I also believe if something is not optimal, then the best method should instead be applied.  The result, of course, is to leave the site.  Of course, this is not what those who have a financial stake in the world of (a)social networking want you to realize. That's right: (a)social networking is a business, and to exist, it requires on you being on the site.  Many people forget this and think that Facebook was created for "fun."

When I woke up to the reality that sharing my life with others was not for me, I realized that my life began to flourish.  I realized that I shared too much with others, and pulled back on the reins, so to speak.  I realized, however, that leaving Facebook would amount to little good if I was still to share everything I did through blogs and other writings.  Therefore, I got rid of them.  Of course, this may not work for everyone, but I felt happier and more sure of myself as a person once I stopped sharing my life with those who are 'far away'.  I found that I was less creative and more lethargic about life as a whole when I was sharing my writings and creations with those who only scrutinized them.  I found that being on Facebook is often a vehicle for others to watch you and keep you within their gaze.  It is comforting to some to know that they watch you.  Can you imagine the horror that many would feel if one day you were no longer on Facebook?  This dependence on Facebook is part of the problem why many people are so addicted, and why there is much anger when a person disappears from the site.

I am a very private person.  I believe that keeping my life to myself is the best way to live my life.  This does not mean that I won't tell people about anything in my life.  It does mean, however, that I will not expel energy to proclaim to the world every small thing I do.  Some of my writings are best reserved for those who are strangers to me.  Many of my writings should not be scrutinized by those who are close to me.  Every member of my extended family does not need to know everything I eat, everywhere I go, and every event that happens in my life.  There have to be some things that we keep to ourselves -- some things that we keep sacred.  Life is not about keeping secrets, but it's not about telling everything to others either.  I have found that I have often told too much about myself and my life over the internet, and only came to regret it in the end.  Facebook was one of those ways that easily allowed me to say far too much.  I never felt comfortable telling the world about the small details of my life.  Much of it is nobodies business.  Other things only cause one, in the end, to feel negative emotions.  I felt no want to make people jealous of my life through (a)social networking.  I felt that competing with people over the internet that I once knew well, but now barely know, was a foolish endeavor.  Such a site is a bastion for those who feel the need to be the center of the world's attention.  That was always antithetical to who I was.  I feel no need to embark on such a journey.

Many of the world's shapers are private people.  One can not create great things while spending their lives talking about every small thing that they do.  The greatest creations happen in the shadows, in the quiet places where creation thrives.  Few great things happen when one is busy sharing every small detail to the world.  For example, I have found that those who talk about writing a book are less likely to write one than those who just go to work writing it without sharing it to the world.  A critique of one's work can be good, but that should be saved until the end, when the draft is complete and the work is ready to be revised..  Many people on Facebook proudly proclaim the great things that they have planned, but very few actually do those great things they talk about.  Talking about doing something and doing something are two different things.  Generally they are two distinct things that never actually meet.

Being a private person is a positive thing that is respected less and less in a noisy world.  Our world is obsessed with the idea of sharing one's lives at all times.  The modern world tends to elevate the loud and the bold.  If people are talking about you, then you are on top.  As a result, people compete to be seen and heard.  It is not by virtue of a great creation that many thrive to be noticed.  Instead, it is through various methods of being seen.  Whether it is by throwing a temper tantrum on the internet or through saying something that has great shock value, our culture says "you are great if you are noticed."  It is through Facebook that many people get their 'fifteen minutes of fame.'  However, once many join the site, their outside lives stop and they are merely a spectacle for those who take notice.  There is a cost to being a private person, a psychological cost that is rooted deep in our culture.  We believe we want to be seen and it can eat at us.  However, the benefits of being a private person -- free to live one's own life, free to create, and free to shape our own future without the constant scrutinizing gaze of the world -- is far greater than the reality of being a slave to (a)social networking. 

Friday, February 1, 2013


Our population is screenlocked. We have an obsession with staring at small screens.  We are so captivated by them that we barely can control this primal urge to stare at a screen whenever we have the chance.  As little as ten years ago people used to interact with others or looked where they were walking.  However, today there is a burning obsession with staring at a glowing screen.  It is something that I have fought to resist.

I will admit I was intrigued where I first heard of the iPhone.  I had an iPod and really enjoyed it.  I really enjoy listening to music and the idea of being able to use the internet while listening to my favorite songs on the go was a huge appeal to me.  However, when I saw the monthly cost of owning an iPhone, I said "no way."  Being frugally minded, the idea of signing up for a two year contract and pay $60-80 a month made no sense to me.  Actually, it sounded asinine.  I am not that fond of using the phone, and the idea of being connected every moment via a cell phone is truly harrowing to me.

I watched as people waited in line and obsessed over this product.  I could not help but feel somewhat turned off at the idea of people literally spending days in line for this thing.  What really made my stomach turn was watching it happen over and over again, year after year.  Every time a new iPhone is released a new line forms.  What really blows my mind is that people will stand in line for a new phone with barely any changes while they have last year's model in hand.  Many will let go of $300-400 just to be the first to have it.  And what's the point?

I must say, when I see this going on, my faith in humanity starts to fall a little.  I can somewhat understand people being excited about the first model, but when a model adds a few new features, is a tiny bit lighter, but otherwise is the same thing, I don't understand waiting in line.

Cellular phone addiction is huge among our population.
What really made me feel sick was the story about the young Chinese kid that traded his kidney for an iPhone and an iPad.  Last I read, this kid was unable to make it to court on allegations of illegal organ sales due to health issues.  Why would a person trade an internal organ, and their health, for something so silly?  While this seems extreme, I can't help but wonder how many people would do the same thing if they were offered.  What if he drops that thing and busts the screen?  What about when it starts to not work, or goes obsolete?  Will he even survive that long?  Why trade your life or health for a material good?  Are people forgetting that it is life, and not these things, that is important?

Actions speak louder than words, and I tend to believe that many people forget what is important.  I constantly see people ignoring each other in order to stare at a cell phone screen.  Whether it is on the bus or during class, people are obsessed with paying attention to what is written on a screen than paying attention to what is in front of them.  Whether it's to be (a)social through Facebook or to play Angry Birds, people are glued to cell phones.

Our society is screen obsessed.  Whether it's walking into a building and seeing a row of televisions playing the news, or to starting at a phone, people can't get enough.  Is this a healthy way to live?  Isn't it important to take quiet time without these things to reflect.  There is nothing wrong with owning these products, or even using them to sometimes pass the time, but when these things start to own you, there is a serious problem.

Will you be in line when the iPhone 6 comes out?  Share your thoughts in the comment field below.