Something about Facebook

What is our obsession with Facebook? It’s become our worldwide search engine, event planner, pentameter for self-esteem, our social circle and the soapbox of many. Hardly a day goes by where most of us don’t check in or check out. Is it just the voyeur in us or does it resonate at a deeper level and play on our psychological connections with the world around us? In a time where our days can pass in the company of strangers and our energies exchanged for corporate success, perhaps the circle on Facebook that we create reflects a little of the tribe we remember. Maybe how we interact with Facebook today mirrors our primal need for connection, acceptance, approval and belonging. Well, FB certainly got that right.

I was not the popular kid at school, nor am I the most popular person on FB. If I clock up likes in the double digits I think my Facebook game just got better, but in reality, that’s only about a 15% response rate from the average number of FB friends that we all have. One of my FB friends regularly posts pictures of her incredible watercolour paintings and I’m stunned when only a few people click like, same story with many creative posts I see, but a well-plated dish taken at a popular restaurant will get over 100 likes. I got curious and wanted to know why…

Facebook gets into the rhythm of our brain where all the good things flow in and around the brains pleasure centre. It takes us to a state of the happy observer. That is, as long as the content is right; not too heavy not too light. It seems that we generally like posts that don’t challenge us, they’re easy to “like” and perhaps, something that we too can easily achieve. It’s not attainable that we can all paint brilliant watercolours, but that picture of the plate of food is well within our reach. In other words, we like things that are easy to digest.

The hook is simple, when you’re bored, you scroll. Within moments there’s a multitude of things to see, to read, to watch and to comment on. We go from wondering what to do to being completely engaged in the world again, in a matter of moments. But there’s another catch; when we’re down or lonely, posting something on our newsfeed gives us a much needed boost. Studies have shown that students who update their FB status more regularly than others, record lower levels of loneliness. We possibly also like the chance to spread our empathy around, it helps build our social image and liking widely acceptable stuff generates a sort of intangible goodwill. It plays on our need for connection and validation; back to the tribe.

We’ve learned a lot from Facebook; it’s where 30% of Americans get their daily news, eating curly fries suggests intelligence and companies actually select staff based on their FB activity. We’ve learnt that social peer pressure works and what you “like” creates a reasonably accurate profile of your broader social beliefs. So on the other side of the coin, while we’re out there socialising our virtues, Facebook the corporation, is collecting analytics worth their weight in gold. Perhaps they need to be more subtle, as a travel blogger its pretty obvious when my news feed is filled with uninvited ads promoting 7 nights in Thailand.

The tendrils of Facebook keep reaching out into new corners of our psyche, crossing all sorts of privacy barriers and drip feeding marketers a well crafted supply of information. It’s hard to imagine that 10 years ago, most of us survived pretty well without knowing what each other was having for dinner or what movie we were watching. But of course Facebook survives because this is just the first layer that it touches; go beyond this and clearly we love the reach that it gives us to share, link, to hear and be heard. It triggers what lies at the heart of our very nature, our social instinct to surround ourselves with company and have a voice, even if it’s all played out on a handheld screen. Well, there’s no going back now.

5 Comments on “Something about Facebook

  1. Well now this is a very in depth analysis and I might also say, extremely true, certainly in the FB comments and insights I have seen. Myself, I engage not for getting likes per se, but for actually feeling like I have a voice out there in the world of social changes and politics..that’s my go to place..I always been known to like to have the last say and I can actually do it!! ..but really, it’s somewhere to engage on any level at any time..thanks for the piece.

  2. Whilst FB does have it’s many negatives too many to go into here, it certainly does fill a ‘feel good’ void.

    Unlike ‘back in the day’, there are many people today who are housebound or thought-bound for numerous reasons.

    FB opens their doors and windows to the world news and events both fake and true, and more importantly, to a wealth of new relationships on different levels, depending on the ‘need’ of the day. So this is a good thing.

    On the other hand as it exposes those ‘needs’ of others, one can quite quickly sum up a lot of ‘who’ that person is, much of their character, what are areas they are ‘needy’ in as well as how they see themselves in the world.

    So, if one is in a melancholy mood and of an empathetic nature, it can be quite sad reading their posts. You can almost feel the pain, frustration or exasperation as their thoughts and experiences are laid out before you.

    So, based on the theory it is better to let things out rather than keeping them to yourself, FB gets a big tick here too.

  3. ‘have a voice’, ‘no going back now’ ‘anytime anywhere voice ‘- these random thoughts of you gals on fb have crystallized pursuits of my thought bound mind. Thanks to you all

    • Thank you Sushil, great to hear that. Thanks for commenting!

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