Before Facebook chat or Twitter updates, people would broadcast their every action and emotion to the world through away messages. For those who remember AOL Instant Messenger, they probably remember the away messages that usually consisted of song lyrics or meaningless cliché expressions, just like today’s Facebook status updates.
But unlike AIM away messages, Facebook statuses and Twitter posts don’t disappear. Facebook stores every picture, wall post – everything – to a server, where it remains even after users “delete” the information from the public.
The Library of Congress not only copies and houses every tweet, but also stores more than 167 terabytes of other Web-based information.
The potential repercussions of social media may be scary, but they are no doubt valuable tools if used appropriately. For instance, President Barack Obama, who won the presidential election two years ago partly because his campaign took advantage of what social media have to offer, tweeted, “We just made history…” after the 2008 election results were announced.
But when people take Facebook hostage by sending out cries for help, using sympathy comments as ransom or fabricating happiness, they abuse the social media and damage the culture by merely sharing too much.
In particular, the tendency for select friends to post miserable Facebook statuses about losing love or hating life is growing into a frightening trend.
“I’ll never trust another person / Never let anyone else in / Won’t give anyone a chance / I’m Done,” reads one Facebook user’s status.
That’s just one of many negative Facebook statuses from a “friend” of mine. This one has garnered an oddly impressive and singularly sympathetic five comments, which all attempt to flirtatiously comfort the college-student.
He’s not the only one venting on social networking sites. People around the world are updating about how much their lives suck.
Director of Tuttleman Counseling Services John DiMino said it’s difficult to figure out the difference between cries of help and cries of attention.
“Sometimes it takes a good friend to help someone get the services they need by confronting them in a caring way,” he said.
Not every dismal post requires professional help. Some people simply need to humanly vent to an instant outlet every once in a while. But those who do habitually post miserable “e-complaints” should seek comfort elsewhere.
If they aren’t, friends should offer to listen or suggest necessary resources, largely because DiMino said the posts can “rais[e] the anxiety of everyone who receives the message.”
Part of the problem could be people who attempt to counter others’ overly positive posts of people, which make them have perfect lives – at least, according to all the laughs in their Facebook pictures, relationship statuses and inside jokes posted on their walls from friends.
In a way, one’s online presence defines a part of someone, and social networking users know that. Users try to articulate themselves to the world from Facebook to illuminate a manipulated and small piece of their identity: usually happiness. Social media has produced an abundance of smiling faces that dogtrots the emotions and feelings that is reality.
Contrary to how Facebook illustrates a portal of skewed emotions, life isn’t purely happiness or jaded misery. The reality is that people experience a mix of good, bad and in-between periods, and aren’t necessarily smiling all the time.
Some users’ supposed happiness can lead to jealousy and depression for others, and the emotional cycle of statuses perpetuates.
In a world where the Internet constructs what reality should be, the worst part is that it’s not the media, evil corporations or agenda-setters creating a false world – it’s Facebook and Twitter users.
People need to be aware of what they consume to help stop the online onslaught of angry statuses, and friends of those who cannot stop the sad song lyrics should kindly suggest professional help.
Matthew Petrillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.