The Facebook Funk


What we always suspected has now been confirmed by a university study – Facebook actually depresses people. Frankly, I was completely depressed when I saw in the news that the first thing the abducted teenage girl did when she was returned home after her mother and son were murdered by her kidnapper and he was gunned down by the FBI, was to go on Facebook to answer questions from her “Friends.” Is this how we now process grief in America, by giving a virtual press conference on matters most personal? I’d argue that nothing gets processed virtually except the shallowest aspects of one’s own ego, need for attention, or vanity.

The study, conducted through the University of Michigan by psychologist Ethan Kross not only revealed that a person’s mood fluctuated depending on their Facebook usage, but that, “the more you used Facebook, the more your mood dropped.”

Is that really any surprise when you consider this form of social media is used more like a depository of bragging rights for the computer literate suburban set, just as rap music is used for the urban street? But instead of bragging about how many bitches, bling, BMWs, size of your crib, or members in your ‘posse’… it’s children or grandchildren, career or scholastic achievements, bling, size of your crib, and members in your posse, otherwise known as “friends.” When you base your self-image or life on comparison of material possessions, number of friends, and where you career is on the food chain like it’s some kind of scorecard, it’s no wonder most people become depressed. Remember, there’s only 1 percent in the 1 percent, and even if you consider yourself lucky or privileged enough to fall into that category, there’s always someone within the 1 percent who’s going to be doing better than you are.

Wouldn’t it be an amazing leap in evolution if we measured success in terms of emotional balance, empathy, conscientiousness and selflessness? But than those qualities, too, would somehow turn into a game of one-upmanship, as well. There would be a competition to see who gave the most to a charity, or volunteered the most, or gave the most humble acceptance speech at a humanitarian award ceremony. Our Hollywood ‘royalty’ already plays this game.

But as long as we measure anything or buy into such comparisons, we put our self-image into play. Dr. Thomas Harris once authored a national bestseller, called, “I’m OK, You’re OK,” yet Facebook fosters a paradigm shift that promotes “Look at how much better I’m doing than you, but I hope you’re still okay with that and will ‘Friend me.’”

I hate to break it to people running up their ‘friends’ score, but that’s not how ‘real’ friends roll.

According to the study, Facebook users wound up feeling worse about themselves after two weeks, and their moment to moment-mood-darkened the more they browsed the social medium, no matter how large their network was, or how supportive they thought their ‘friends’ were.

The fact that businesses and corporations now feel compelled to have Facebook pages only serves to emphasize even more obviously that Facebook is used more to promote, than to actually connect.

Eventually – and there’s evidence it’s already happening as people drop off or move on – Facebook will fade away and some other new-fangled way to ‘keep in touch’ or ‘connect’ will emerge.

There’s this thing called the telephone where you can talk to people live, actually hear the context or sincerity in which they are saying something, and have a real give and take conversation, where, hopefully, you listen as much as you talk.

I hear it’s a fantastic device to lift a friend’s spirits when they are depressed. Just try not to brag that you thought of calling first.

– A. Wayne Carter

(And I’m hereby vowing to call at least one long distance friend per week as penance for writing this blog)

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