I was in for a nasty shock when I deactivated my Facebook account; I was suddenly forced to socialize with three-dimensional people again. I couldn’t talk about meme pages and Facebook trends anymore. I realised how easy, social media interactions were. While having a virtual conversation, we have the liberty to phrase everything we say carefully, in anticipation of a response. Contrary to this, face to face conversations are much more impulsive.
We constantly seek validation on social media and begin to quantify everything based on likes, follows, comments or the number of people who wished us on our birthdays. We keep track of the number of likes we garner, while we ridicule ‘1 Like = 1 Prayer’ posts. Facebook users have a mutual symbiotic relationship where they gratify each other’s egos so do numbers mean anything at all?
Making friends on Facebook is like making instant coffee. They react to your status updates, you comment on their pictures, then bam, you are tagging each other in memes before you realize it. Due to our confirmation bias, we project our ideas onto a person based on their posts and hashtags. The inherent need to fit in plays a significant role here; we struggle to create support systems for ourselves. Most Facebook relationships are fragile because they are built on the bedrock of virtual reality. We do not come across as we think we do but on Facebook there is a lot of scope to manipulate this and when we bump into people with good marketing skills, our self-esteem drops a notch. These unreasonable expectations and disappointments eventually lead to loneliness, anxiety and depression. Many people take to social media as a coping mechanism without realizing that they are caught up in a vicious cycle. These toxic behavioral patterns are self-destructive and we perpetuate together.
While I was busy writing long-ass statuses, making memes and voicing out my opinions on various socio-political issues, I failed to reach out to those closest to me. I met people who were not privileged enough to post #MeToo statuses. These are the people who need awareness about sexual harassment at workplace, not those on my friend list who are as privileged as me. A friend once called this intellectual masturbation, rightly so.
While I was off Facebook, I met people from across the spectrum and realised that making friends had little to do with isms. I began having real conversations again. Non-verbal cues are an integral part of communication and we learn a great deal about people based on their countenance. There is a certain genuineness in real conversations that is lost on facebook. I stepped out of my comfort zone and became increasingly accommodative; I realised that a budding friendship is an organic process that needs to be cherished. We are so engrossed with our smart phones that we are always in a different time and space, missing out on the little joys of life. Likes and comments mean nothing at the end of the day. Seeking validation and making friends on facebook, however effortless, does not bring real happiness. A dap greeting does!