Facebook has much of the world in the palm of its hand. The website had more than 845 million active users at the end of 2011, and more than half of its users logged on daily.
We’ve all heard the argument that Facebook helps keep friends and family in touch. But this argument seems inconsistent.
Are many of the things posted on Facebook necessary? Photos of lunch, new shoes and new outfits? Overused philosophical quotes and song lyrics? I’ve seen it go as far as a soon-to-be mother creating a profile for her unborn child and recommending friends to befriend the fetus.
Other times, it seems as if Facebook is just a tool for checking up on others. I often witness jealousy and curiosity taking hold of people: “Why did he comment on her photo?” or “I can’t believe she’s still talking to him.”
Keeping in touch? No. The online forum resembles more of a beauty pageant, bringing together hundreds of so-called friends who seek approval from each other for places they check in to, photos they post and statuses they update. The more, the better.
The problem lies in the essence of Facebook: It presents a false numerical value of your worth to others and becomes a breeding ground for narcissism. People place unreasonably high importance on something as insignificant as a “thumbs up” button or how many wall posts you get on your birthday. It keeps users from easily walking away.
It gets worse. It gets serious.
In Iowa, a woman burned down the garage of an ex-friend who de-friended her; in Texas, a husband drunkenly beat his wife for her failure to comment on a status update; in New York, a 14-year-old committed suicide after months of bullying over Facebook.
One story from earlier this month is particularly bizarre. After a teenage girl complained about her father on Facebook, he ended the social life of his malcontent daughter by shooting her laptop nine times — eight times for himself and one time for his wife. To add insult to injury, he videotaped the entire ordeal and placed it on his own profile. The video then went viral, racking up more than 26 million views and giving his daughter a lesson she will surely never forget.
Late last week, Marvin Enoch Potter, 60, and his friend Jamie Lynn Curd, 38, murdered Billie Jean Hayworth and Billy Clay Payne in their home. Their motivation? Hayworth deleted Potter’s adult daughter, Jenelle Potter, from her Facebook friends list.
If you need any other reason to use Facebook more responsibly, a simple search reveals hundreds of similar articles, journals, studies and surveys — all ready to be read, liked and recommended.
Facebook users should use the public forum for its positive aspects: networking, keeping in touch, raising awareness and planning events. Don’t plague the population with pointless information, threats and bullying. Use Facebook for its intended purpose and don’t take what you see on your newsfeed so seriously; you might end up preventing a few casualties.
Andrew Gomez is a senior majoring in philosophy politics and law. His column “Bête Noire” runs every other Thursday.