Facebook is designed to manipulate you: Part One

Man with dog alone in horizon and sunset

Are you selfish for not being on facebook?

These are just my opinions. Perhaps these are just my own personal hangups that I need to work through, but maybe not. I know there are good some things about Facebook. It’s a way to keep in connection with people when travelling and for some it can help with promoting their business, but this two-part post is my experience of trying it and then deactivating my account.

A few months ago, I was encouraged to open up a Facebook account by a new friend, something along the lines of “Just do it already”. Well actually, I secretly already had an account which I opened in 2007 and then deactivated about a year later. It had been lying dormant ever since then. Like a time capsule. But with this recent conversation, I decided to log in again almost ten years later and see if maybe my perception of it has changed. Perhaps I was wrong. I was young then. We all make mistakes when we are young. So I dug out my old passwords and logged in. Cue the matrix.

First thoughts, at first, it was fascinating. My old friends were still active on the site, mostly friends from college. I saw pictures of new babies (congratulations), pictures of some of my old friends with girlfriends, who’d I’d never seen before, and countries where people were living. It was like a mini catchup without the actual human interaction. I didn’t write on anyones wall. I lurked silently like a stalker clicking through the various pictures. I wasn’t fully ready to plug back into Facebook yet.

I realised that a certain limbo was present in my Facebook account and that these friends represented the me of ten years ago. It even brought back memories and feelings of the person I used to be back then. I think we can all change into different people at different times of our life if we move to new places, do different types of work and meet new people. On reflection after all these years, a lot of changes had occurred and many new people were a part of my life today for which I am grateful.

However, after the initial interest and nostalgia had passed (after a few minutes), a strange uncomfortable feeling gradually stated to come over me. It may be that I am sensitive in this way, but I started to get the weird feeling that everyone’s life seemed to be much better than mine. Perhaps that sounds strange, but as you look at pictures of people’s lives, of all the smiles or the pictures of social gatherings surrounded by cheerful friends, or fancy locations, that feeling of “everyone seems to be better than me’ became more predominant and yet, objectively, there was no reason for it.

People will always try to portray the best sides of their life (as many of us do with wearing masks in society). I had no reason to compare. They had their life experiences, I have mine. There is no better or worse, just different. Just mine aren’t on display, that’s all. But then without me showing this, no one knows. A teacher on a seminar, I recently attended, said: “…because if you don’t put it on Facebook, it doesn’t exist”. The friend who advised me to “just do it already”, also said, “have you considered that it’s selfish if you don’t put things on facebook” implying you’re not sharing yourself with the world. Hmm, deep things to consider.

But as I looked at the walls of my friends, rather than ignore or distract myself away from this uncomfortable feeling, I chose to explore it. Maybe I do have some hangups from the past. Maybe I have a tendency to jealousy. But then perhaps that’s the same for me and so many others. Then again, maybe not. Nonetheless, Facebook was bringing out a negative mood in me.

In conclusion, I decided to externalize the reasoning for this negative feeling (because its better than internalizing it, blaming yourself for supposed weaknesses and making yourself sick). I decided that the reason I felt this so-called ‘negative’ feeling, was not because of an inner hangup. It is because it was an intentional feeling created by Facebook. Facebook is designed to make you feel like shit.

How can a computer programme do this? Well in a similar way that a fruit machine (UK equivalent of slot machine) is designed to stimulate a feeling of joy in the player. It plays on our desires, our emotions and weaknesses. Facebook is specially designed to make you feel that everyone else’s life looks better. It is also designed to help you portray your life in an outstanding way, like in the manner of a celebrity. So in this way we continue the cycle by continuing to engage with the machine. This is one of the reasons why the old school generation like my father in his 70s will never embrace the concept of Facebook. The idea of ‘showing off’ is completely alien to them. It goes against their ethos. I would say, the baby boomer generation would probably be more open to it if they were more comfortable with social media and technology, but in this respect, they’re not. So therefore, the mantle was started with generation X and will be further refined by Gen Y and the Millennials. Facebook encourages a cycle of one-up-man-ship. After contemplating this feeling and coming to this conclusion, I quickly decided I didn’t want this feeling anymore. Perhaps it will fade, if I continuing using, but there will always be an undercurrent of it there, manipulating me and creating a low-level feeling of being shit. I made the quick decision to seal up the tomb again and logged out again. Sayonara. Atto junen (Goodbye, see you 10 years later).

End of Part 1

This is the end of Part 1 of ‘Facebook is Designed to Manipulate You’. For Part 2, click here.


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