A video came out in the past year called “What Facebook is Doing to Your Brain: The Innovation of Loneliness.” These days, social media rules personal and business oriented interactions. The site was started by college students, but now everyone uses it, from moms to business associates to grandparents. With so many people on Facebook and a dedication to promoting self-image, it is no surprise that Facebook can be stressful, as well as detrimental to certain facets of the human brain.
The video explains that the invention of language allows humans to be in larger social groups. Humans are naturally social beings, and therefore easily get lonely. In real-time, most humans are not capable of knowing more than 150 people at a time. Thanks to social media sites such as Facebook, however, it is possible to be “friends” with thousands. The video points out that these online “friendships” often play on the natural human need for connection, but skip the meaningful intimacy that most friendships and relationships cultivate in real-time.
Humans in Western society are largely measured by success, wealth, achievement, and image. Some individuals lose their social and familial ties to achieve this ideal image, and feel a pressure to produce more–and to work more. Sadly, in this modern world, loneliness is one of the most common negative side effects. Social media sites, like Facebook, help reduce the feelings of loneliness by allowing people to manage their lives more effectively and efficiently. Anyone can post what he or she is thinking right at the time he or she thought it. It is also easier than having real conversations because of the possibility to control what one says, and optimize one’s self-image in every way possible. The slower, more intimate skill of speaking to people and cultivating relationships in real-time, however, gets exchanged for sharing photos, statuses, hashtags, and likes. For this reason, people can have lots of Facebook friends and never be fully “alone,” but still feel lonely.
More and more people are tuning into Facebook. Scholars at the University of Edinburgh confirmed that the wide variation of friends a person has on Facebook may be very stressful for them. This may have to do with a difference in social image for one’s friends versus one’s business colleagues, or parents. Another survey showed that 20 percent of American adults said that Facebook was the primary social network which caused them to be in a negative mood. Another 20 percent of adults said that Facebook was the main social media site that makes them feel stressed out. Over half of the people surveyed said, however, Facebook had a positive impact on their lives.
Facebook, and social image on the site, are becoming more and more integral to users’ emotions and moods. In a way, Facebook and other social media sites are replacing real interaction with quicker, easier connections. People can feel happy, stressed, or depressed at the click of button. It is true that Facebook can be stressful, and may be rewiring the human brain. People should be cautious of their usage of the site, but the effects of Facebook are neither entirely good nor entirely bad. Instead, just like the ups and downs of real life, it reflects what people want and allows them to express it as such.
By Louise Webster