Facebook Psychology

As seen in the Oregon Daily Emerald!

It’s a generally accepted social practice that, when someone walks up to you and asks how you’re doing, you always lie to them at least a little. This is because nobody actually wants to know how you’re doing, they just want to show you that they care enough to ask. That’s why you bend – or perhaps break – the truth when you reply by saying that you’re doing pretty well, thanks. When my friends say, “Truman! How’re you doing?” I don’t say, “Well, at the moment I’m really worried that I might have appendicitis. I mean, my appendix doesn’t hurt or anything, but I read on Wikipedia that sometimes appendicitis doesn’t have symptoms, so your appendix just gets bigger and bigger without you knowing until it bursts and you die. So I’m sort of worried about that right now. But how’re you doing?” Sometimes, there are just things we don’t want to know about each other.

On Facebook, however, we do not pay one another same courtesies that we do in real life. For example, outside of Facebook I don’t run around Poking people – if I want to convince someone to have sex with me, I’ll find a more effective method than that. In much the same way, it seems that the time honored “Lie about how you’re really doing” rule does not carry over from real life to Facebook.

One of Facebook’s many features is the “Status” bar, which you can edit to tell the Internet how you’re feeling and what you’re up to. Facebook users find many applications for this tool: some explain what they’re actually doing as though we care, others put up inside jokes, and still others fill this space with song lyrics in an attempt to seem deep and vaguely meaningful. There are a few people in my network, however, who take the Status bar much too seriously. To these people, the prompt “What are you doing right now?” is an honest, caring question from their good friend Facebook, and they answer it truthfully.

“_____ is crying right now because its like drew nods & smiles but just doesnt understand!! :-(”

“_____ just wishes she would GROW UP already i mean jesus”

“_____ really wants sarah to call because he can totally explain it ok??? why do you always just assume stuff about me omg”

Since when did Facebook become a psychiatrist? It’s one thing to update your status to say that you’re feeling down in the dumps, but turning your Status bar into a political attack ad makes it really awkward for everyone else on Facebook who happens to be on the outside of the issue. It’s like going over to a friend’s house for dinner as a child and seeing his or her parents have a noisy argument at the table – you don’t know whether to watch or pretend to not notice, but you do know that it’s an uncomfortable experience you’d just as soon forget.

I’m not trying to tell you what you can and can’t do with your Facebook. All I’m saying is that when you’re angry at someone and are considering turning your profile into a billboard declaring your angst, step back and ask yourself whether you want all of your friends and casual acquaintances to become acquainted with your personal problems as well. In the long run, I think you’ll appreciate the extra second’s thought, and I’m pretty sure your friends will too.