Facebook – Friend or Foe?

share-buttonby Anne Day

I am a relative newcomer to social media, especially Facebook. So when people talked about poking, tagging and friending, I had no idea what they were talking about.

Maybe it was my British background, but I saw no merit in revealing my innermost thoughts on the Internet, especially when I wasn’t even sharing with close friends and family. After all you never knew who was reading it.

While many people share their great news, all these happy messages can create feelings of inadequacy and a sense that you are not good enough. It becomes a false base against which to measure your own success. And comparing ourselves to others is an activity doomed to make you feel worse or sorry for yourself.

But I have to ask – are they being completely truthful or are they hiding behind a mask? Is there a phony façade being created by social media?

Certainly it would be easy to hide behind your social media persona, and just share and create an ideal image of what you think people want to believe. “People use Facebook to present themselves the way they want to be seen, and to get a sense of belonging,” according to a recent article in The Atlantic.

And on the other end of the spectrum, there are those who over-share, and air all their dirty laundry on Facebook. Recent research has found that this activity may be more indicative of someone who is lonely, seeking attention and just wants to belong.

I know the couple of times that I have vented online, I have been amazed at the number of complete strangers who have had their say on what I should do. I almost wanted to snatch back my words, because truth is, I knew what I needed to do, I was just letting off steam.

Reality TV has fueled this voyeuristic need to glimpse into other people’s private lives, creating an environment where sharing our innermost thoughts to all and sundry is becoming more the norm. Experts say it actually speaks to our insecurities; we care too much what others think. We want to make ourselves look good.

And we have this constant need to be “hooked” up to our devices, which author Sherry Turkle believes are eroding the fabric of relationships. How often do you see couples out for dinner but each is checking emails, and they are not talking to each other at all?

What’s the answer? Pause and think before you share personal information on social media. Ask yourself why you are doing it, and what you hope to gain? What could happen as a result of sharing these thoughts? Because once it is out there, it is there for good.

As for other people’s postings, take them with a grain of salt, don’t let them impact how you feel about yourself. Who knows, they may be sharing what they want us to believe, rather than what is true. We all have something we are not sharing with the world, and you know what, that’s OK.

While social media has played an important role in connecting people and making “friends”, nothing can beat getting to know someone face to face. Then you not only hear what the person has to say, but you get to read the body language and emotions. This is what is missing and misinterpreted in social media.

So before you press share, reflect on whether the information is authentic, real and worth sharing.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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