I got my Facebook account when I was 14 years old, entering my first year of high school. Facebook started becoming popular a couple years before then, but my peers all viewed Facebook as an ‘old people’ site (because our parents were on it), and we seemed to collectively keep our obsession focused on MySpace. However, entering high school meant it was time to mature, and it seemed that getting a Facebook account was the way everyone was approaching that task. Gehl’s main argument is that Facebook is an addiction that changes much more than our interpersonal relationships, and though Facebook is arguably a voluntary practice, it does not feel that way. I completely agree.
I did not feel any sort of pressure to create a Facebook profile until the majority of my peers had one. Gehl writes, “communication technology increases in value as more people use it” (p. 225). The more people you know that use it, the more pressure builds on you if you do not (Gehl, p. 225). Except for Tumblr, each of my other social media accounts I have created simply because it is what seemingly all of my friends were doing at the time. Now checking all of these accounts have become a tedious, addicting practice that eats up the majority of my morning routine and spare time. The exponential growth of the population using Facebook, has initiated both peers and professional settings to assume that everyone has Facebook accounts (Gehl, p, 225). Gehl argues, “If you don’t have Facebook, you don’t exist, in all walks of life.” While he does not mean it in the literal sense, it is true in my experience that Facebook has become the medium to connect with others, and validate someone’s identity and relationships with others. I am starting a new job this year, and my supervisors contact my colleagues and I via Facebook with all important updates and information. At my previous job, the process of getting shift coverage and requesting days off was also done on Facebook. These are examples from my own life, of how Facebook has been integrated into my professional life and probably further into the professional sphere than I even realize.
Facebook is also used to validate all sorts of interpersonal relationships. “Facebook The Musical” was all too true in the way it said that nothing is real until it is Facebook official. It is an ongoing joke that in order to make something official in a romantic relationship, the two people must be “in a relationship” according to their Facebook status as well. While it might seem ridiculous, I have actually overheard a couple arguing over their Facebook activity. I have had conversations with friends about whether or not we could date someone who is completely not present on Facebook or any other social media site, and we all agreed we would prefer that they were on Facebook. This contrasts with Gehl’s statement that very few Facebook friendships represent “actual, current friendships or even associations that you remotely value” (p. 231). I completely agree with his statement, as there are many people I have on Facebook (of whom I know details about their personal life), but would feel awkward if I had to interact with them in person. However, with romantic relationships, it seems to be a way to ‘claim’ your significant other, and legitimize the relationship.
Through my experience on Facebook, we may exist outside of our profiles, but it is easier to exist within.