Belonging to social networking sites no longer seems to be a choice. 91% of online American adults access them every month. We are all under relentless pressure to join and maintain our presence on them.
Obviously there are huge merits to this technology. Movements such as the Arab Spring. Get Money Out. And we’d all rather live in a country that allows social networking and not in places like China and Iran where Facebook is banned.
However, there are downsides here. Peer pressure has been around since society began. But social networking compounds the problem.
The most ubiquitous site, Facebook, now has 800 million users worldwide. Yet perhaps as I call it “Face-stalk” is a more apt name. It is peer pressure in the extreme. How many friends do you have? How big is your house? Been on vacation lately? Given birth? Your child can talk at 2? Oh, the love of your life is engaged. To someone else.
I’ve grown to resent Facebook. Like many, I’ve just been coerced into having a visible presence on the site. Someone set up a fake profile of me and being on it is the best antidote. I struggle to make the real me interesting. Why anyone would want to pretend to be me is even beyond me,
Deep down we all know you cannot measure friendship by Facebook page. I have a theory that the people with the most picture perfect Facebook lives end up broke and/or divorced.
But it’s hard not to get caught up in it. Facebook makes me feel inadequate. I get stressed about “friend requests” from people who bullied me at school. And people I’ve never met.
Meanwhile, Linked In tries to make it Mission Impossible not to join. If I get one more invite, I will throw my Crackberry off the top of 30 Rock.
Enough of the bad, let’s talk about my new love… Twitter. Perhaps hypocritically, I adore Twitter. I’m more in control of it. Twitter is an invaluable work tool. I follow news organisations. And close friends who I enjoy hearing from. I’ve managed to keep it an ex boyfriend free zone.
But even Twitter can bring out our worst. You’re on it? You’ve compared follower counts with your peers. Cue ego inflation or deflation.
Social networking is here to stay. Firms like Facebook are spending record amounts on political lobbying to keep them the cultural norm.
We must be wary as we are cyber-bullied into these sites. They may be unavoidable. But what truly matters is our real world. Not our virtual one. And I for one want to make sure there is a difference in the two and I know which is which.