Farce: A light dramatic work in which highly improbable plot situations, exaggerated characters, and often slapstick elements are used for humorous effect.
This could also serve as a definition of what we see everyday in the social media world that is consuming modern culture.
I’m sure you’ve all seen it: That one friend of yours who you know is a total recluse is posting self-portraits to Facebook like it’s their job. This would fall under “exaggerated characters”.
Or there’s the guy who couldn’t get a date to save his life bragging about what a “pimp” he is online. This falls into the “highly improbable plot situations.”
Not to mention the many times you encounter those status updates that include all the “new car”, “new shoes”, “new clothes” photos, when the person bragging about their new gear was just complaining the week before about having their food stamps run out, or something to that effect. Those are definitely “slapstick” elements used for humorous effect to make their lives appear to be more interesting or entertaining or fulfilling than what they really are.
Watching this flood your news feeds on your social network of choice day in and day out may not bother you, and maybe it shouldn’t. But to me, these habits are a first-hand look at an amazing and shocking transformation of human personalities and the formation of interpersonal relationships via social media. Have we all forgotten what it means to meet and interact in real life?
Think about it: Do you remember a time when you had to be yourself in front of a large group, and that was the only chance you had to make an impression? You were coming in clean, without everyone having seen all your photos on your profile or knowing what you had for dinner last night and what your interests are. Before the age of the Internet and social media, our only chance to make our personalities known to the people around us was to reach out and be somebody in person.
I mean, what it is that drives people to be someone other than who they really are in the social media world? It’s not like it’s some new thing to exaggerate about your life’s accomplishments or to bend the truth a little about what you do for a living. Everyone knows that. But now, it’s out there on the Web, it’s documented on a Timeline and your lies are no longer words lost in a conversation with a random group. Now they’re in print on your webpage serving as proof of some life that you may or not be living in reality.
With the birth of social networks and chat rooms, for the first time in history, a person now has a way of creating a version of them self that is specifically for the Internet. I like to refer to this realm of existence as one’s “Second Life”. And, to my dismay, some place far more importance on this virtual life than their Real Life.
-Instead of actually going out to celebrate some accomplishment, you now judge your success and feel celebrated by how many “likes” or “re-tweets” you get on your big news status update. You got 15 comments? You GO!!
-Instead of visiting your friends to talk about what’s new in your life, you just update your profile and are required to answer to no one about it. Personal quotations: “Life is what you make it”. SAVE CHANGES. Wow, that person is deep…
-When you have a baby, you can invite the whole of your friends list, and their friends list, into the delivery room and labor process with you! “Baby is crowning!” I just lost my breakfast…
-You spend all your free time out at the bars, but you post plenty of pictures with you and your kids to show everyone what an awesome parent you are. Little Johnny is learning how to eat whole food. How cute!! Meanwhile, check out how wasted I was last weekend!!
I’m sure many more examples come to mind here, but the point I’m trying to make is that the use of social media has allowed for people to pretend to be something they’re not, and they live by it. And it’s sad to me because the attention you get from this Second Life you put out there on the Net is not nearly as fulfilling or meaningful, or as honest, as what it would feel like in reality.
But we’re not all guilty of behaving this way.
I’m a Facebook user myself. But I reserve the use of Facebook and my Second Life for things like talking politics, sharing my blog, sharing photos and at times sharing news about my personal life in minimal detail. I would never publicize my life’s crises on Facebook, as so many do. I find it meaningless to use it as a means of self-praise, considering I don’t see about 90% of the people I’m friends with on a regular basis anyway. And I also don’t sit around waiting to see how many “likes” I’ll get about an opinion I have or about something I did. I just like having easy access to a network of people whose opinions I’m interested in.
I’ve managed, as many others have, to keep my Second Life as light and impersonal as possible. Because I feel that Second Life is a farce, it only makes sense for me to share things for which I am seeking a sensational reaction to. If I’m posting something to Facebook, I’m doing it because I want feedback, not because I need it. So for me to log in and pretend to be something I’m not for the sake of “likes” and “shares” and “comments” would be contradictory to the principles and standards I live by in reality.
So now that I’ve examined this, it makes me wonder: When did people allow their Second Life to become what they perceive to be their real life? I mean, since when is a relationship invalid if it’s not publicized on Facebook? Since when is something not true unless it’s been posted on Facebook? Add to that, since when has it been so easy to publicize a lie just because it’s on Facebook? And don’t even get me started on Twitter….
The farce that is Second Life has allowed a fake consciousness to flourish in modern society. The more people post about how great their life is, or contrarily about how terrible it is, the more they begin to believe that their life in their web page is their real life. Some feel that if they don’t tell anyone on Facebook, it isn’t real. So what will that mean for the future of developing relationships with the people around us? I plan to stick around and find out!
Personally, I believe that if we continue to perpetrate these falsities and believe everything we see in social networks so easily, we will watch real life human interaction become a tale for history instructors to discuss. Don’t get me wrong; social networks can serve a great purpose for keeping in touch with old friends, publicizing your brand or just as an outlet for sharing some of life’s pet peeves. But I don’t think it should serve as a replacement for real human interaction.
As you navigate the social networks, think about what they represent to you. Are you a part of the farce, or is your Second Life an accurate representation of what you wish to make public about yourself to the world?
Until next time,