The stress of living has never been higher for America’s youth. This stress has many sources, yet there is one particular source that trumps all others. This source is Facebook. Why is it so stressful? Because it has demanded that young people strive to maintain not one, but two personalities—their real personalities and their Facebook personalities. Want to increase your stress levels? Just add another person to your life. That’ll do the job nicely.
If psychiatrists want to know why they’re suddenly receiving a flood of youthful patients, they should look to Facebook for an answer. Facebook has provided a craved outlet for releasing America’s wildest psychological disorders. It has produced a new generation of individuals beset with problems such as stalking, narcissism, insecurity, anxiety and alter-egos, to name a few.
If Facebook causes so many problems, why not just opt out of it? Nobody’s forcing you to get a Facebook, right? Haven’t you heard of freedom, people? This is America! Well, it’s not so easy. The social pressure on the youth to have a Facebook is tremendous.
If you are under the age of 25 and you don’t have a Facebook, people are going to assume that something’s off. He doesn’t have a Facebook? Horrified pause. Does he keep guns in his house? Is he a social recluse that plays violent video games in his basement? Does he talk to people? Dear God, save me now! Please, tell me you didn’t give him my number!
After being subjected to such an onslaught of judgment, most individuals cave and get a Facebook. And once you’ve entered the Facebook world, there’s no telling what sort of personalities you might encounter.
Perhaps the most common personality you will meet is the avid stalker. Facebook has normalized stalking by turning your most miniscule online actions into a trail of electronic crumbs just begging to be picked up.
Granted, there is a certain thrill to Facebook stalking. You’ve just been introduced to a simply charming individual and you must complete the first impression by racing home to Facebook stalk them. Of course, the thrill goes away when you stumble across something unfortunate. Wow, you still live with Mommy at the age of 30? It’s strange that your attractiveness level just plummeted. Wow, you got yourself a girlfriend one week after seeing me? Now that’s just sloppy honey, every good player knows that. Wow, you just landed yourself a third consecutive speeding ticket? I hope that you can appreciate the simple pleasures of public transportation; my car just became mysteriously unavailable.
But another personality is swiftly arising to compete with the stalker for dominance—that of the narcissist. People have always been obsessed with themselves, but Facebook encourages you to flaunt this obsession to a frightening degree. In case you haven’t heard, I am the most fun, most beautiful, most fashionable creature out there. And I am going to prove it to you, complete with photographic evidence. You will see photos of me dancing, drinking, swimming, (all candid of course!) so that you will feel compelled to routinely acknowledge my breathtaking existence. I’m sorry, did you say something about the real world? I don’t have time for that, I’m busy with a photo shoot! Please, give me more compliments. Tell me how beautiful I am. Again! Again!
Unfortunately, the narcissistic personality almost always goes hand-in-hand with insecurity. Oh my god! Did you see that photo she posted of me? Someone hack her Facebook, destroy her camera, call 911, do anything to take that photo down! I know, I’ll report her to Facebook for posting offensive material—this is clearly a deliberate smear campaign against my beautiful, online countenance. Sadly, when people place their lives under a constant microscope, even the most gorgeous of individuals start squirming with insecurities.
The last prominent Facebook personality is that of the alter-ego. People you thought you knew in person suddenly transform themselves in pixel form. Honey… is that you? But you’re so shy, so timid in real-life, how were you comfortable being featured in the latest Harlem Shake video? Besides producing unexpected acts of boldness, there is an increasing incidence of Facebook brawls occurring. The problem with any electronic-induced rage is that everything sounds a thousand times nastier while being a thousand times easier to say online. The result is a shouting hoard of Facebook personalities that cause significant damage to actual personalities.
Of course, stalkers, narcissists and brawlers aside, the benefits of Facebook can’t be denied. It is a highly effective dispenser of news. How do you think I know what goes on in the world? It maintains contact with old friends. That is, old real friends. Not old in the sense that you’ve been stalking them for so long that you can no longer distinguish between knowing them and knowing every last centimeter of their profile. Finally, it provides visual reminders of the ones we love—the accuracy of these visuals is contingent upon the amount of photoshop, instagram and user manipulation employed in their creation.
So how do you get these benefits without developing your own unhealthy, virtual personality? By using Facebook for the right reasons. Don’t use it for affirmation. Don’t use it for security. Don’t use it for background checks. Because you won’t find what you are looking for. Use it for its original purposes. Use it for communication. Use it for memory. Use it for social news. And then, do your real personality a favor and go talk to an actual friend. You may find that it reduces your stress levels, one less person at a time.