My first introduction to Facebook came in the days of LiveJournal, MySpace, Geocities, Yahoo and Ask Jeeves. Many moons ago now, on a computer long since obsolete, I scrolled through my Hotmail (before it became ‘Live’ or whatever it’s been rebranded to) and saw a college friend had invited me to something called Facebook. I deleted the request, and subsequent further requests, thinking “what is this thing?” (or, probably more likely “bugger off, and stop spamming me Joe!”).
There was no way I would have been able to predict the impact this website would have on my life, the life of my friends, businesses, families, communities. The hours I would waste scrolling through the updates of real friends, ‘friends’ that I had added to expand my connections, people I had met only once, and even some strangers.
Eventually I succumbed, as more and more of my friends were sending me requests. That need to fit in, or to satisfy curiosity, drove my cursor to the link contained in the emails.
Once signed up, bio filled out, photo uploaded I started engaging in the realm of Facebook. The process was fascinating, yet it always seemed lacking – as if what it was meant to deliver was hidden between the lines (and behind the lines of code). I expected connections, building on those I had in real life and expanding outwards into the realm of the internet to make new ones with like-minded humans. Innocent enough, one might think, and one of the very things that sell social media to the modern-day world.
And yet, we seem to be mistaking the simulation of social interaction for something tangible – the method we now turn to for support in anger, sadness, frustration, in place of our friend, our family, our loved one. We bash out words at a screen, trying to express ourselves, hoping beyond hope that someone, out there, is reading what we type and can give affirmation in our times of need. In getting connected, we are disconnecting from reality.