Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Book Review: Unfriend Yourself

Recently I have had the chance to read the book "Unfriend Yourself" by Kyle Tennant.  I ordered it off of Amazon, and while it is a short read, it has given me much to think about, and much to write about.  Unfriend Yourself is a book that is written in a critical tone about how people have come to use Facebook.  It is also written from a religious point of view.  The author is a youth director and graduate of the Moody Bible Institute.  While this book may not immediately seem like a desirable read to a person who is not religious, I would state that it has a lot of interesting points to make about Facebook use.  If you do wonder, however, what place Facebook and social media has in a Christian life, this would be a good book to pick up and read.  It is available as both an electronic kindle and physical book. 

This is a small book, which is designed to be read in a weekend.  At the end of each chapter (meant to be read in a day), the author gives the reader a task or experiment that they can use to come up with their own conclusions about social media.  One example of such a task is to "go do something creative, or fun, or exciting, all by yourself, and tell nobody about it."  These tasks are simple, but perhaps they are not something that many of us, as (a)social addicted individuals, ordinarily bother doing.

Kyle Tennant begins with a history of how he came to see and use Facebook.  He was a user of Facebook in high school and during college (later on you will find that he has not given up Facebook, but is still a functioning member of the site).  Tennant mentions getting a running start on his social life after getting accepted to, but before starting, Moody Bible Institute.  However, he finds that friendships online were a lot different than friendships in person.  When he met his new Facebook friends, he notes that they were awkward off of Facebook.  Tennant states that he still uses Facebook, "this is not a book about how Facebook is evil; it is a book about thinking" (21).  He explains that "at its core, this is a book about the promises Facebook and other social media make and how they often fail to deliver on those promises" (22). This is one of the best chapters of the book, and one that provides the reader with much to think about.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Manufacturing Envy through Facebook

Manufacturing envy is perhaps the main reason why Facebook has become so huge. The fact that one can so-easily create envy using Facebook is in part why the site is incredibly addictive. The website, states that such envy has a profound effect on other aspects of one’s life.  It can lead to severe depression, self-loathing, rage, hatred, resentment, feelings of inferiority and insecurity, pessimism, suicidal tendencies and desires, social isolation, among others [3].  A study which was published in December 2012 found the more time college students spent on Facebook, the worse they felt about their own lives. Yet many people refuse to let go. The website has a hold on many lives, even though people are starting to understand that psychologically, being "on" Facebook is not healthy.

When one sees the accomplishments of people in their day to day lives (outside of Facebook), they see them in the light of what they actually see before them.  However, what one sees on Facebook are distorted versions of those accomplishments, worded in the light of the author who has "accomplished" them.  Such events are often warped in a way which alters them from the realm of truth to the realm of fiction.  This means that the person who talks about their accomplishments is often no more than a bragger, trying to get themselves positive exposure. We often see our own accomplishments and lives in a positive light, and we definitely want others to see us in a positive light, therefore, people will and do advertise and talk about their lives as if they are perfect -- even if they are not.  There is often a cascading effect on Facebook where individuals will compete for the imaginary title of who has the best (or most enviable) life.  This leads to a lot of competition between certain individuals. A bystander is often a friend with one of these competing individuals, but not friends with that other person who the individual is engaged in direct competition with.  The bystander sees a grandiose but fictional account of this person’s life and feels intense jealousy. There is no basis in reality for many of the claims that are made on (a)social networking.  Some claims are outright lies.  

Facebook Prostitution?

Such outright lies include the emerging trend of purchasing romantic partners via Facebook
.  Services have begun to emerge that allow a Facebook user to purchase a fake girlfriend (or boyfriend) for a short duration (usually a week) for a monetary sum.  This individual’s sole purpose is to create jealousy in the lives of other Facebook users.  For a period of time, such as a week, the purchased romantic interest will post on your wall and act like one’s romantic partner.  Many have reported that the service indeed does what it is intended to do - make one’s ‘friends’ jealous.  To add insult to the matter is the fact that the purchased girlfriend is no more than pixels herself.  The real individual is generally not who appears in the picture.  In reality all one has purchased is a fraud.  The person in the picture may not realize that their image and likeness is being used in such a matter, or the picture itself could be merely found on the internet and distorted in such a way that the individual does not even exist in the first place.  

It is quite easy to distort reality through Facebook.  This is due to the fact that we all see the world through a different lens.  We all have our own experiences and thought patterns that paint the world in a different light.  One perceives their life in a different manner than they perceive the lives of others.  Many people outright believe that their life is more exciting than the lives of their friends.  This is natural.  After all, we have only lived one life -- our own.  However, when we look at the fictional lives of others on the internet, we start to have our worldview distorted.  How can we expect to live up to the fictional lives of others?  In the end,
one exists in a fictional universe while on Facebook. The danger is not in the fact that Facebook but is mere fantasy, but that many (and almost all) perceive this fictional world to be real. People believe that others lives, even if in a state of detritus, are actually made of solid gold.  

One's existence on Facebook has real consequences.  Unhealthy consequences.  The psychological trauma that Facebook causes exists in all of its users -- whether one will admit it or not.  The cold hard reality is that those who deny that Facebook is damaging are in cold stark denial.  Trading one’s real living hours for hours spent in a virtual world where many are duped into believing they are seeing truth and reality is not beneficial for anyone.