I have now heard it said by a few different people: Facebook is over. The social networking tool that the world fell in love with has become so thoroughly embraced that it is no longer useful or fun.
According to Facebook’s “Press Room” page, Facebook is a social networking tool with more than 150 million active users. The fastest growing user demographic is people over 30. The site is available in 35 different languages. Worldwide, more than 3 billion minutes per day are spent on the site.
That’s a lot of minutes. What do people spend that many minutes doing on Facebook?
They spend a lot of time looking up long-lost friends and lovers, then adding them as “friends.” A Facebook friend is a person you are digitally associated with. When you become friends with someone, you can do things like post on their page (called their ‘wall’), read their status updates, and see what their other friends are saying. This is all fine and good. To a point.
Yes, it’s great to be back in touch with someone who you went to high school with. When you become Facebook friends with the person who sat in front of you in 11th grade history, you initially think it is great to hear that he’s doing well. He tells you that he’s had some bumps along the road, but things are now going smoothly. You politely exchange information, then run out of things to say directly to each other. The problem is that when you are done with your initial pleasantries, information about him continues to come.
Information about the 11th grade history guy can come in forms such as a list of “25 Random Things About Me.” If you have not heard about this yet, it is possible that you live under a rock. The New York Times even reported on it. “25 Random Things About Me” is exactly what it sounds like – a list of 25 things a person chooses to share with their Facebook friends. These things range all over the place in terms of oversharing, from the very simple:
“I hate olives.”
“I secretly want a mini van.”
“I wish I could go back in time and change my college major.”
To the disturbing:
“Throughout my life, I have fantasized and hoped for a violent end. I am now past that.”
“I sometimes consider leaving my family.”
“I am in Sexaholics Anonymous.”
I have received all of this information through “25 Random Things About Me.” Are these things you really want to hear from people you barely know? Yet, these lists of “25 Random Things About Me” have spread like wildfire throughout the enormous Facebook community.
Aside from receiving random thing after random thing, the longer you are on Facebook, the larger your community of friends grows. As hard as you may try to limit your friends to people you have legitimately been friendly with over the past 30 years, you still end up with people on your friends list who are not really your friends. People you haven’t spoken to in a decade. People you barely spoke to when you knew them a decade ago. While I wish these people well, I do not require knowledge of their minor daily activities.
Much of this knowledge comes in the form of “status updates.” On your Facebook home page, there is always the question: “What are you doing right now?” People fill in this information with anything and everything. Here are some actual examples of what my contacts’ status updates say right now:
“Bill is making meatloaf sandwiches.”
(Bill is a guy I knew in high school. He was a grade older than me and we were on the fringes of the same social circles. However, Bill and I were never actual friends. I also think that his mother was one of my middle school English teachers.)
“Lauren has a headache.”
(Lauren is a former co-worker.)
“Erin is having a new furnace installed.”
(Erin is a woman I was friendly with in college, but have not spoken to since 1997.)
“Cheryl is looking for a new chiropractor.”
(Cheryl and I had some classes together in high school, but I can’t remember having actual conversations with her.)
My point is that while I want Bill, Lauren, Erin, and Cheryl to be happy and healthy, I honestly do not care about their sandwiches, headaches, furnaces, and chiropractors. I am sure the feeling is mutual. If I were to enter a status update right now, it would read:
“Stacey just finished eating a candy bar.”
It’s likely that Bill, Lauren, Erin, and Cheryl care about me and my candy bar as much as I care about them eating sandwiches.
Facebook has also now spread through many generations of people. I first noticed this when my friend Danielle’s mother joined Facebook. This was a topic of hot debate for Danielle and I. We spent hours pondering why Danielle’s mother would join Facebook and if Danielle was obligated to be friends with her. While on the surface it sounds like no big deal, if Danielle were to become friends with her mother, it would greatly limit what she was able to say in her status updates. A harmless statement such as “Danielle’s son is driving her crazy” would cause Danielle’s mother to become alarmed and immediately call Danielle to find out what was wrong. In reality, this status update would simply be Danielle blowing off steam. Her mother, however, would take every status update extremely seriously.
Danielle’s mother did end up becoming her Facebook friend. Danielle now rarely uses Facebook because of it and has vastly explored the site’s privacy settings.
After Danielle’s mother joined Facebook, our friend Dave’s father joined. Then came my stepmother. Our parents are joining Facebook in droves. If my mother knew there was a way to check on my daily activities via the web, she would be all over it. Thankfully, she has not yet discovered this.
Facebook can also sometimes bring you news you do not want to hear. One morning last week, I received a Facebook notice that my friend Brian had updated his profile photo. Brian does not fall into the category of people I was never really friends with in real life. Brian is a former boyfriend who recently decided we should stop talking. Out of curiosity, I clicked on Brian’s new picture. On my laptop screen appeared a photo of Brian and his new girlfriend. This highly bothered me and I quickly deleted him from my friends list. Brian and his new girlfriend are not what I need to see every day, among my daily news of headaches and meatloaf sandwiches.
Facebook has gotten too big for its britches. With everyone and their mother and grandmother using the site, it easily has the capacity to become annoying. Use Facebook at your own risk.
Goldstein, S. (2009). Facebook: Enough Already!. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 21, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/2009/facebook-enough-already/
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.