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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Columnist: Add as friend

So, I think it is safe to assume that the majority of this campus spends more time than they should on Facebook. Whether you’re checking your friends’ status updates while waiting for the bus, chatting about how crappy your paper is at 2 a.m. or making epic Triple Word Scores on Facebook Scrabble, you are interconnected in this network.

Since the start up of the social media company in 2004, some have been skeptical of the impact that Facebook might have on our culture. I’ve heard about the perils of Facebook ad nauseam. In the next few years, we will all need glasses and have wicked cases of carpal tunnel syndrome. The degradation of the English language is due to social media.

Well, you know what? Haters gon’ hate. I love Facebook. This amazing gathering of life histories places your “we met at a party once” acquaintance’s drunken photos next to the adorable puppy videos your roommate’s mom likes to post. How is that not useful?

Countless charities and businesses have also found Facebook to be a great marketing tool. It’s also a great interface for journalism. Facebook’s Facebook page even boasts that the social network helped a man lose 100 pounds, helped a woman find her lost wedding ring and even saved a life when a surgeon diagnosed his friend’s appendicitis after seeing his Facebook status.

With over 500 million active users, it seems that you can never be lonely when you’re logged in. With more than 30 billion pieces of content (photos, web links, notes, etc.) uploaded each month, we might have finally found the cure for boredom. Does Facebook provide its users with instant contentment at the click of a mouse?

A recent study published in the April edition of the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t see Facebook in such a great light. The study suggests that kids and teens are susceptible to “Facebook Depression” when they start to compare their profile to the online presence of their peers. Glancing at photos of other people having a good time or counting the number of comments and likes someone else’s relationship status change gets can affect one’s mental well-being.

The researchers claim that “Facebook Depression” is not an actual diagnosis or real disease, just a “phenomenon.” Robert David Jaffee, a mental-health activist and journalist, blogged about the issue on Huffington Post late last month.

“There is a difference between technology-driven disappointment and true depression, a term that is used far too promiscuously. As I have written before, depression of a clinical nature does not come and go based on technological success or popularity. Clinical depression often remains with a person for his or her entire life,” wrote Jaffee.

I know I’ve been victim to the disappointment that Jaffee is talking about at least once since I created my profile. It’s sometimes impossible not to compare yourself to your Facebook friends.

Seeing my sister’s profile picture of her standing next to Colin Powell (yes, she got to meet the former Secretary of State) did make me jealous and feel a bit worthless. But, after five seconds, I got over it. Why? Because we’re different people living different lives. While cyber-bullying and identity theft have been other dangers often associated with Facebook, I think the core of the trouble with Facebook lies somewhere else. The website has made the experience of human interaction seem quantifiable and sometimes cold.

Even though you might only have three friends on Facebook, that doesn’t mean only three people care about you or that you have only interacted with three people in your lifetime. Just because nobody comments on your status update, that doesn’t mean that it has gone unread or that nobody cares.

Also, Facebook is not a substitute for real life. It doesn’t always function using the same rules. The social networking site lets you easily create an alter ego, a representation where you can pick and choose what people see about you. Users can hide their human flaws and play up their good qualities more so than they might be able to do in their daily lives. Potentially, you can have millions of “friends,” but you will have probably only met a handful of them in person.

With time management skills, parental supervision for younger users, some strict privacy settings and general good judgment, I see no reason for us to give up Facebook. But, if you still can’t get rid of your “Facebook Depression,” turn off the computer. Go out with your real friends. Give your refresh button a break.

Instead of Facebook stalking CORRIE JACOBS, like and comment on her column (or send your friend requests) to cljacobs@ucdavis.edu.

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