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Fire Away: Facing the issues with Facebook

Thursday, February 9, 2012

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Written by Stephanie Rennie

I have an addiction. I don’t gamble. I don’t smoke. I Facebook.

I have a love/hate relationship with this popular social networking device. On one hand, I like thousands of other students love keeping in touch with friends from afar and being distracted at the click of a mouse. I also recognize the role that Facebook has played in many movements over the past years. In her presentation at War Memorial Hall last week, Dr. Angela Davis spoke of the pivotal role of social networking in the occupy movement and how such networks create a community in cyber space.

On the other hand, there are many elements of Facebook that I find troublesome and problematic. Although there are benefits to keeping in touch with friends and family on one simple network, there are many repercussions to the openness of such discussions. Not only are such public conversations problematic for fuelling gossip and animosity at times, there are also serious privacy issues with Facebook that some users are not aware of.

One major issue with Facebook that I have encountered during the last few years as a user has been the alteration of social correspondence between friends on Facebook and friends in real life. I feel as though people fabricate and enhance their conversations between one another when they are posting on someone’s wall or that they are selective in the posts or links they share with them. Because the conversations become so public, friends that only interact publically on Facebook (because of distance or otherwise) may be deteriorating their relationship. By being overly selective and staged when addressing the other person, the genuine nature of the friendship is comprised.

Another problematic feature of Facebook is the new Timeline site. Timeline was released earlier this year as an optional feature of the site that will become mandatory. On the surface, Timeline seems like a cohesive way to organize Facebook activity, but I would argue that there is a more troubling depth to this new site. One argument towards Facebook is that it has become a container for life. The problem is that this container only possesses carefully selected items from life, fabricating an appearance that is not genuine. So much is based on what you want people to think of your life, and not of your actual life. With the new Timeline, users are now telling their “story” through Facebook as they “fill” their timelines from birth until 2012 with “monumental” instances in their lives. It has become a scrapbook that tells a public, fabricated version of the user’s life.

The distortion of reality on Facebook is insane. This summer I became engaged to my partner and shared the news with family and friends. After a week or so, my relationship status remained unchanged from “in a relationship” and my aunt wrote on my wall that “it isn’t official until it’s on Facebook.” Though she was merely being joyful for me to share my news, this concept resonated with me. Why isn’t it official if it isn’t on Facebook? If we don’t share something online does it make it less real or less important? Is it possible that proclamations of our success and failure on social networks add some sort of validity to the experience?

Of course another major element to this social network is the way in which it fuels narcissistic behaviour. This makes me think back to a high school friend that used to pose in the most hilarious and unattractive ways when a camera was near. One day I asked her why she was so outrageous in front of the camera and she responded that people take themselves too seriously on Facebook as they post endless self photos that are perfectly staged to go public. I didn’t realize it then, but years later her comment is gaining truth as more and more people utilize Facebook as a way to develop fictitious versions of their lives. 

Stephanie Rennie is Editor-in-Chief of thecannon. Fire Away publishes every Thursday in The Cannon and in The Ontarion Student Newspaper at the University of Guelph.

The opinions posted on thecannon.ca reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces, including ones that run contrary to the opinion piece in question.

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  1. Posted by: Shamu on Apr 8, 2012 @ 7:50pm

    Very thoughtful and interesting piece!

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