The Facebook Disconnect


For those of us who will not be drowning our sorrows in cheap bottles of Chardonnay or whispering sweet nothings to the less-than-amused house cat, Valentine’s Day is the day that usually means flowers, a box of chocolates, and a romantic dinner with that special someone. But why go through all the hassle of buying some plastic lilacs at Kroger or booking a table for two at Applebee’s?  Why not skip straight to what everyone really wants: sex. As an old iPhone ad once said, there’s an app for that.

“Bang with Friends” is a new Facebook application that allows users to anonymously discover which of their friends are down for a one-night stand, taking the “you’ve just been poked” notification to a whole new level. But it’s not breaking news that a promiscuous understanding of sex has infiltrated American culture. Unfortunately, we as a nation have moved from classy escort to two dollar hooker.

The problem is not that we’re sleazy (I’ll save the morality talk for Mom and Dad), but that we’re becoming disconnected in our sleaziness. What ever happened to the good old-fashioned night at the bar where you had one too many whiskey sours, asked the cute bartender for her number, and got embarrassingly told off, while your friends mercilessly mocked you for weeks? In fact, that gives me a good idea for a slogan. “Bang with Friends: Taking All the Fun out of Getting Rejected.”

In all seriousness, Facebook and other sites like it are effectively facilitating the social decay of America and it’s a problem that is becoming increasingly evident as these sites progress technologically. It’s the problem that arises when you have 1,000 friends on Facebook and are only close friends with 50 of them. It’s the problem that Manti T’eo faced when he found out that the woman he formed a relationship with online wasn’t even real.  It’s the problem we create for ourselves when find more pleasure in spending countless hours in front of our Macbooks chatting about the latest Big Bang Theory episode than going out and socializing face-to-face. This disconnect forming between individuals is disconcerting to say the least and it is the cause of staggeringly harmful effects, particularly for younger generations.

In a 2011 study, California State University psychology professor Dr. Larry Rosen distributed electronic surveys to 1,000 teens and observed an additional 300 adolescents while they were studying. The results of these tests were overwhelmingly negative, demonstrating that those who used Facebook frequently were subject to depression, anxiety, narcissism, and other antisocial behaviors. Not only did the test subjects show social problems, but they also got lower grades, had lower reading retention rates, and developed sleeping and stomach problems.

So, how are these symptoms developing from an outlet that was meant to encourage positive social interaction? Studies show that a measly 7% percent of human communication is based on written or spoken words, while the rest comes from nonverbal cues.

It is not only recently, however, that these social media pitfalls were discovered. In fact, these tragedies were realized before Facebook or even the Internet was created. In his 1992 book Crossing the Postmodern Divide, Albert Borgmann warned that information technologies would create a sort of social “hyperreality” where we would become drawn into the IT universe and lose interest in what was actually happening around us.

Hubert Dreyfus expanded upon this notion in 2001 when he pointed out that online interactions lack risk, without which we cannot form any meaningful sense of commitment or identity. The warnings were out there, but we were too busy updating our statuses to pay attention.

Realizing the irony in the term “social media” is becoming easier as time passes. Though Facebook was undoubtedly created with good intentions as a useful tool, it is becoming warped into an instrument of frivolity and shallowness. Is it possible for us as to go back to using Facebook responsibly? Only time will tell.

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