Facebook is something most of us check every day. We sink hours into the social networking site — obsessively clicking from profile to profile, looking at pictures, commenting on our "friends'" activities. Since 2004, this time-sink has become a predominant form of not only wasting time, but also social interaction.
Facebook, however, may be doing more harm than good. While most claim they use of the site mainly for "social interaction," there may be more at play than just socializing. Many social psychologists argue that people would like to believe they can see themselves through the eyes of others, and Facebook allows them to do that, according to a Harvard study and survey of students.
Through the site, people have the ability to put their best self forward, but what does this mean? Facebook gives us the ability to put forth only what we want people to know and see. We only put up the best pictures of ourselves, the most intellectual statuses and quotes, and our "about me" always sparkles not only with wit, but also just a few of our favorite things. While not every user does this — some leave their profiles sparse for a number of different reasons — it is quite difficult for those that do to live up to the way they portray themselves on Facebook, according to a Psychology Today review of Facebook and the people who use it.
Once people put themselves online as if for review, they are able to use the responses they get to gauge how other people see them.
This is problematic. People become used to thinking and doing everything in front of an audience. As their every thought is put up online for their "friends" to see, they get used to behaving in front of an crowd.
After posting their lives for their friends to see and to judge, people have come to use Facebook to gauge not only their relationships, but also their level of importance. This leads to anxiety in people who seek approval from others and is found increasingly among the female users of the site.
Women have stated that they feel crestfallen when the number of "happy birthdays" posted on their Facebook wall is not sufficient enough to make them feel important, according to a Forbes article about the site and its emotional side effects. Furthermore, the ability to see who wished them "happy birthday" and who did not leads to even further anxiety over strength of their relationships. Facebook gives us the ability to seek approval constantly from our peers, even though it may lead to an increase in anxiety. Though the site has its pros, the cons seem to outweigh them. Though it may be a wonderful way to keep in touch with friends and an even better time-sink, the site's negative psychological effect should, at the very least, lead one to question the value of Facebook.
KC Aransen is a sophomore psychology major from Arlington.