When Facebook first went public and issued an IPO, I was Debbie Downer and told all my friends how overrated the stock was and how I predicted – and hoped – its value would plummet. It did.
Fact is, Facebook offers little, if any, value, and at enormous expense. The cost of Facebook is the cost of living in a painful alternate reality in which everyone else is happy except you. That’s right. In the Facebook world, everyone else is having great relationships, having lots of fun, succeeding in their careers, and just generally making nothing but stellar decisions that lead them to a nonstop life orgasm. There’s only one problem:
It’s all fiction.
In the scientific community, we call it the Self-Selection Bias. For example, if you want to know the average human penis size – as countless people have – you have to somehow randomly select men and, if necessary, chemically induce and measure erection. What you don’t do is go to Cancun during Spring Break and ask a bunch of uber-confident, hypersexual frat boys to show off what they came to Cancun to show off. Self-selection bias.
The same effect seems to happen via Facebook. A Psychology Today article points out that, because of the selection bias in social media, people think that everyone else is a lot happier than they are. For example, while 78% of respondents got depressed, they thought that only 52% of their peers did. And while 56% reported weekend loneliness, they thought that barely over a third of their peers felt the same way.
Because people only post the best of themselves on Facebook! Prescreened photos showing only our sexiest, funnest, happiest selves. And while it’s great to be sexy and fun and happy, it’s also inauthentic to suggest that it’s true all the time.
The problem is not just envy – and believe me, many of your friends envy you when you post those awesome pics of parties, scuba diving, picture-perfect marriage, and front-row concert seats. The real problem is disconnection. When everyone feels that everyone else is happier and having more fun, then discourse about the ups and downs of life ceases. People stop being genuine; they start to feel isolated and alone in their despair, confusion, and dissatisfaction. Instead of banding together supportively, as humans have done for millennia, they rot in isolation.
Ironically, history’s largest and most pervasive social media conglomerate is also its most isolating. Let’s either abandon Facebook altogether or, at the very least, start being more real.