Your Facebook status, what you say there, tends to identify the sort of person you are.
From narcissists to loners… with more than 1.2 billion people using it, psychotherapists find ample scope for study, to discover what people want and what reactions they hope to get.
Say jealousy: “On my way home… whistled at, honked at, almost caused a car crash. Sometimes I really hate guys.”
Or more enigmatic attention-getting: “This could be a veeery important day.”
Hard to say if some posts are boasts, competing or just informing: “First the gym, then study.”
Clearer image projection comes with: “I sympathise with the Egyptians fighting for their freedom. Everyone has the right to be free.”
Behaviourists say Facebook reflects need for acknowledgement.
Lucy Beresford, UK-based psychotherapist: “It colludes with our deep desire to be affirmed, to have lots of positive affirmation. I’m thinking of the pokes, I’m thinking of the likes. We almost do things specifically to post them on Facebook and then to get that feedback, to get that instant gratification, and that’s not healthy.”
To mark its ten-year existence, the site offers a “Look Back” video made with around 20 of the user’s most-liked photos and so on, set to music.
Karen North, Professor of social media, University of Southern California: “Facebook now is your address book and your photo gallery. It’s got your photo gallery from your entire family lineage if you want it to, and people who went to elementary school together are finding old pictures from their childhoods, so we now have an extensive library of photos from our family history and from our social lives.”
No matter that some people still identify with the quote from Jackie Kennedy: “I want to live my life, not record it.”
It is a choice.
Social networks have also, let’s remember, been used to exchange important information, and this has been potentially revolutionary, as they allow users to escape censorship and control by authorities, as in the Arab Spring uprisings.
Bel Trew, Cairo-based journalist: “Citizen journalism really exploded in 2011 and Facebook and Twitter were one of those ways, well two of those ways, that people were able to get information out there to the rest of the world, because their own media wasn’t helping.”
Facebook can be a conduit, an archive, give us many ‘eyes’. But let’s end with a note from thinker Susan Sontag (1933-2004). She said: “The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own.” She put more stress on real experience than virtual experience.