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For quite some time, probably around the time that Facebook stopped being a student-only networking site, people started considering really how the site was affecting our lives. Back when it was all about forming study groups, finding out what parties were happening and learning more about a classmate you’d been secretly admiring, people didn’t seem to worry too much about any of that more serious stuff.
With proclamations like “Facebook Is Making Us Miserable” on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network and questions like “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?” on The Atlantic, the widespread head scratching really began in earnest.
Daniel Gulati’s much discussed HBR post weighed the dangers of comparisons, time fragmentation and friendship closeness decline brought on by Facebook while Stephen Marche’s longer piece for The Atlantic focused more on the downsides of superficial connections.
Interestingly, a new report out of the University of Edinburgh seems to point out that the popular may have the worst of the potential maladies and then some – as the report asserts; more Facebook friends means more stress.
According to the report’s authors, the more people someone has friended on Facebook, the more likely these online friends are to spread across groups of friends, colleagues and family. As such, this creates stressful psychological considerations around self-presentation, since after all we are different people, if only slightly, sometimes more so, to each person we know.
As Ben Marder, author of the report and early career fellow in marketing at the Business School proclaims,
“Facebook used to be like a great party for all your friends where you can dance, drink and flirt. But now with your Mum, Dad and boss there the party becomes an anxious event full of potential social landmines.”
Megan Garber has wrapped this up quite nicely over on The Atlantic. Some thoughts I’ve condensed here:
“Which is another way of saying that Facebook is George Costanza’s worst nightmare: It enforces, second by second, the collision of worlds…
Facebook’s power, and its curse, is this holistic treatment of personhood. All the careful tailoring we do to ourselves (and to our selves) — to be, say, professional in one context and whimsical in the other — dissolves in the simmering singularity of the Facebook timeline…
Because, as liberating as it is to erase the divides that separate formerly fractured identities — as nice in theory and in practice as it is to live an all-purpose, one-size-fits-all existence — the mingling comes with costs…”
In addition to time fragmentation that Gulati brought up in 2009, turns out that self-fragmentation is yet another potential headache we’ll all have to sort through as we all try to figure out this dual IRL/URL existence we all live. If all this just becomes too much, you could always take articles like Psychology Today’s “Quitting Facebook Could Make You Happier” to heart; spend some time on wikiHow’s increasingly popular “How to Quit Facebook” page and join the likes of these people.
Of course, chances are, at least one version of yourself is going to have a tough time letting go.