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Instant Gratification, Instant Characterization

by Lindsey Mason
 

I remember a time when I used a telephone if I wanted to make plans. I remember a time when it was rewarding to meet new people. I remember a time when days were enjoyed and not documented.

I sign in to Facebook at least three times a day. Facebook is an online community — one of many, but clearly the most popular. Through Facebook I am able to create a profile so that every Facebook member can see who I am. I am able to post photos of myself and view photos of others. I am able to send messages to friends, find old friends, and make new friends. Most importantly, however, I am able to hide behind a computer screen and pretend I am more outgoing than I am in reality.

The more I use this online service, the more I realize that it is tainted with vanity. In an ideal world, perhaps Facebook is a successful community that allows users to network while living normal lives, but in reality, the website's affects are very different. Why do I say this? Let me explain.

When I spend time with friends, I sometimes bring a camera along. I've found it's nice to have light-sensitive keepsakes. Perhaps I hope to look at the photos in my old age and reminisce of days and loves past. Maudlin as it may sound, there is some kind of timeless charm to filling one's life with photographs of sunny days and all kinds of friends. It is Facebook that rips this timelessness away.

"Can you send that photo to me? I want to put it on my Facebook."

When a friend asks this of me, I can't help but wonder — Are they really, truly enjoying themselves? Or are they overly concerned with the appearance of enjoying themselves? A strange question, I know, but it makes sense. They want everyone to know how much fun they supposedly had that day. They want to look fun, because that means people will want to be their friend. Can you still have fun if you are wondering how fun you look?

Other aspects of Facebook promote this idea. Though I am not an outgoing person, no one on the internet need ever find out. I can leave comments on someone's page, saying things that I wouldn't say in reality. I can create my ‘About' section to reflect everything I want to be.

By showing off what books I read, what songs I listen to, and easily summing up my entire personality in a number of sentences, I provide an easily-accessible version of myself. I'm not saying that self-analysis is wrong, but to state things about yourself that you feel everyone should know is insane. "I'm a deep thinker," and "I have a cute, bubbly personality," are observations best left discovered naturally.

True, not all 'About' sections are this straightforward, but they might as well be. All it really boils down to is that you are creating an image of yourself that will say everything you want it to say so that others can judge you accordingly.

On Facebook, you have an alterable ‘status.' This allows you to let everyone know your current feelings with just a few words. Lindsey is lonely. Lindsey is irked. Lindsey is going on vacation. These, too, are just forms of instant personality formation. Whether you feel a certain way or not, you're only going to write what you want others to see.

This brings me back to the photographs. You go out, you have fun, you post the photos. Every Facebook member will see your pretty face. This is not life, because those photos will never show how you look when you're crying, or when you're sleeping. It's wrong. If you are able to choose how people see you, if you are able to choose what people know about you, then it isn't you. It may look like you, but it's distorted. You are limiting your personality to a web page. You are packaging your character and selling it at half price.

facebook
 

English Composition 1, Fall '07