I can trace the beginning of my very misguided love for psychology to 8th grade. I clearly remember this because I used it to get close to the ladies. It's not that I had somehow mastered the intricacies of the human mind at that tender age and found it easier to communicate with the other sex, it's just that no one else around me had any idea about it so I could literally lie and everyone would be none the wiser. I saw the power of understanding the human psyche, so I joined psychology club, slept trough most of it and then walked around my school with a clipboard and some vague questions about the meaning of "Limp Bizkit" lyrics or something like that and asked cute girls for their opinion and their phone numbers for "further research". It totally worked. "People your age are complete idiots, Andy, learn about me and together we can be manipulate them with your superior intellect because you are so freaking smart". It was the first lesson Lady Psychology ever taught me. Sure it wasn't a good lesson, and maybe I made it up, but the point is that it got me interested in the scientific study of the mind. And as I looked further into it, I realized that it was a wonderful tool that could not only aid my 15 year old self quest to "score" but it would actually fulfill my need to understand myself and help others. And so I have played with the idea of actually following psychology as a career for a quite a while. I don't want to get into too much detail, but a myriad of obstacles and a lack of confidence had prevented me from pursuing my goal of a Doctorate in Psychology until not long ago. So imagine my disappointment and dismay when, after finally working up the courage to follow my dream, I discovered that just like beepers and common sense; my dear, dear psychology would no longer be useful in the future.
I know what you are going to say. "Andy, what are you on about? Psychology is a growing field, we have barely began to understand the mysteries of the human mind. There's no need to worry about Psychology going the way of the dinosaur any time soon!". Well first of all, let me tell you that if you are saying that, you are wasting your time because you are talking to a computer screen and there's no possible way for me to hear it. I don't need any training on the field to inform you that you are nuttier than squirrel shit and you need to quit that before someone sees you. With that out of the way, I ask you to allow me to retort. Psychology IS a dying field, and it's all because of Facebook.
You see. Facebook has quietly but surely become an integral part of everyone's life. At first it was harmless enough. Just a way to keep in touch with friends. But then as it grew in numbers and it amassed power, people decided to let this virtual network become a living, breathing stage for real life. Facebook became the meeting place for the masses. Like a courtyard in high school or the break room at your job, Facebook was the place where people could make small talk then just get back to whatever it is they where doing. Unfortunately just like in those other places, certain people have discovered that by acting out in specific ways, they can now get all the attention they need without the effort of actually interacting with other human beings.
I want to suggest a party game. Everyone has a laptop and a pint glass. Log on to Facebook and have all participants scroll down their post feed at the same time. Every time a friend has vented about their shitty lives or work or stress take a one finger sip. For any relationship (or lack thereof) drama take down two fingers. A public breakup it's worth four fingers and an actual couple fighting online means you must skull the whole foken pint. The winner is the last person standing and if you really look at the implications of that last statement, you will realize the extent of what I mean by "winner".
The reality is that writing down our pent up emotions is a very helpful tool for dealing with them, but the layer of anonymity created by seating behind a screen, and the false sense of understanding and acceptance we get from everyone pressing like on our short rant about how "every1 in da wrold is reely stoopid" has created a terrible phenomenon I like to call "Facebook Therapy". Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the occasional rant will lead to your demise, I'm talking about those that have allowed the social network feed to become their main outlet when they have trouble expressing themselves. And although the action of venting in itself is not detrimental, it is the repercussions of that action that can be even more damaging to people than the post itself. You see, the lack of intimacy and connection with a real human being will, in my opinion, have three very negative effects.
First, the person venting feels a false sense of being heard and understood when others simply "like" or agree with whatever it is they are saying. If you needed to share your fears and frustrations with a close friend, and after opening up to them they gave you a thumbs up and said "like" then walked away you would probably feel pretty bad, but this is completely fine online. The reader doesn't have to engage the poster more than necessary because that quick acknowledgment is just enough to show that you care without getting on the way of your "Farmville" time. So even though the poster might have been reaching out for someone to listen, they have to settle for some artificial empathy which may not be a big deal if you are bitching about a coworker, but might be the worst possible thing for someone that may already feel isolated and disconnected.
Second, if someone does challenge or disagrees with the rant, then it's very easy to simply ignore that comment because the bottom line is that you aren't dealing with another human being, just a computer screen. There's an artificial barrier when we use devices to communicate with each other, whether is text or online or even talking on the phone. No other form of communication can be as complete as talking face to face with someone else. Take the time to observe two people conversing (try not to hide in bushes with binoculars as the police apparently tend to frown upon that) Notice not only what they say, but the way the hands move, how the bodies are positioned, the way they move closer or farther away, the tone of voice, etc. The point is that there are a whole lot of other processes going on that convey information which are lost when we interact trough a device. So now, no matter how much you care or empathize with the person, whatever response you post will have a degree of artificiality that can be more harm than good.
The third and possibly worst effect from "Facebook Therapy" is that your business is now online for everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE to eventually know,no matter how private your profile is. Let's use my "Facebook as the water cooler at an office" analogy. Let's say you are upset about whatever and so you put a sign on the bulletin board to vent your frustration. As people walk by the water cooler, they see the sign, maybe try to cheer you up, and you feel a better, however, life continues past the water cooler right? These people may talk about your issue among themselves, but probably to others that were not meant to be involved to begin with. Now your business is out in the open in a less controlled way. Now imagine how those people feel when every time they go for a drink they find a new post about a new issue in your life. Little by little they might feel less and less sympathy for you and may possibly end up alienating you altogether.
You know exactly what I'm talking about because it is a big part of the social network experience. I myself made a conscious decision to avoid not only letting my dirty laundry air online, but to make an effort to interact with others in person as much as possible. I plan to get my attention the old fashioned way, by being loud and obnoxious everywhere I go. Basically to not fall into the sweet, sweet laziness of receiving artificial attention online before I end up in the unending cycle of feeling like crap, posting about it, waiting for the world to care, feeling like they don't, therefore feeling like crap and starting the process again.
People could end up all kinds of messed up from this, so now that I think about it I may have to thank "Facebook Therapy" for really foken people up. I never thought I would say this, but thank you from the bottom of my wallet Mark, your creation will one day make me as rich as you!