Facebook, The pursuit of happiness?

Annoying Facebook friends; we all have them, and if you think that you don’t, then it’s you. But the irritations of Facebook and other social media websites don’t stop there!

Whether you love it or hate it, there’s no denying that Facebook has well and truly become part of our daily lives – and in some cases, daily routine. The social networking website which was created by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004 was initially intended for students at Harvard University to stay in contact with one another, however it launched worldwide in 2006 after its popularity grew rapidly.

Since then, Facebook has become an entity in its own right with just over a staggering 1.3 billion users worldwide as of the second quarter of 2014. But what exactly is our obsession with Facebook? And why is it that we feel inclined to share the most intimate of details with acquaintances, or worst still, with strangers?

It’s down – in part – to a similar fixation that has escalated with celebrity-culture over the past few years. Our desire to know each and every move of our favourite singer, actor or TV personality and to consider ourselves ‘celebrities’ in our own right as well as seeking the approval of strangers.

Only last week did I receive messages from a friend enquiring about the relationship status of another friend as she “no longer has that she has a boyfriend on Facebook”… We live in a world where terms such as ‘Facebook Official’ (referring to the relationship being posted on the profile of the parties involved) has become a determining factor and we are no longer required to speak to the person involved to find out about their life and instead are encouraged to read it on their profile.

Whilst the average Facebook user has approximately 130 friends, it’s well-known that it’s not uncommon for people’s Facebook friends to hit the 500-mark, or even in some cases, to be in excess of 1000. But, you may ask yourself: how is it possible to have more than 1000 friends?! Well, the answer is simple; it isn’t! For these, by definition, are Facebook friends.

As we all know only too well, it’s simply not possible to keep track of say, 30 close friends, let alone 1000 friends – even with the aid of the omnipresent Facebook! Something which Facebook themselves have acknowledged through their settings that allow you to group friends into 3 basic categories: acquaintances, (regular) friends and close friends.

So if these friends or contacts (as they should more appropriately be labelled), are exactly that, then why on earth would you want to share your latest holiday snaps with them?! Has the 21st century Facebook-culture led us to become so self-obsessed that we think that hundreds of people are interested in our fortnight in the Spanish Sun? Or perhaps that everyone is fascinated by a gap-year travelling around South-East Asia and Australia?

It would be the equivalent 20 years ago of taking pictures on holiday in a bikini or swimming costume, getting them developed, and then sending them to Mike, the friend of a friend’s cousin’s brother who you met at a party the previous December. The thought back then would have been unthinkable! Yet here we are in 2014, where people readily upload photos to Facebook without a second thought for who can see them or who can use them.

The very nature of Facebook and its famous ‘Likes’ is a classic example of how the social media giant is redefining standards. No longer is a photo or statement judged on its own merit, but rather by the number next to the thumbs-up logo below it. This was underlined during the ‘10 Year Anniversary Facebook Memory Videos’ in which Facebook compiled, “your highlights from your time on Facebook” and gave importance to “Your most liked posts” as if this were in some way to define the value or importance of said posts.

It’s easy to see how Facebook has been linked to cases of depression by psychologists as we’re led to believe that everybody else is having more fun than us and living the ideal lifestyle. But it’s important not to forget that Facebook is the ultimate tool to “accentuate the positive” and “eliminate the negative” as the old song goes and that is the key to happiness, or at least, that’s what Facebook has led us to believe over the past decade.

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Brit who likes writing about music, films, social events and life experiences.

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