It’s the tempting question Facebook asks us every day. “What’s on your mind?” The more philosophical among us may take a quiet moment to contemplate just what exactly is on their mind, or what the mind really is, or whether or not we truly can rack the depths of our subconscious and pull out an answer like a rabbit from a hat. But for the more most of us, the answer is quite simple.
We want to show off. A Facebook status or a tweet is one of the easiest methods for self-aggrandisement. Or, at least, this is what it has become. We submit our daily practices and experiences into a lottery of outbidding one another for the most exciting story to tell. Whether it be via a carefully mapped-out lexical boast or an expertly photoshopped selfie, we fight for the throne of the newsfeed. The pressing question is: why do we do it?
If you think about it, there’s something incredibly tragic about turning the minute-by-minute experiences of one’s life into an attempt for approval, quantified by a number of ‘likes’ or ‘favourites’ each one receives. We all (whether we can admit it or not) love the sense of satisfaction in knowing that somebody somewhere has read something which we created and found it so riveting that they were compelled to click the “like” button. But is this suitable justification for feeling publishing every thought which comes into our minds.
Inevitably, social networking sites do not advocate privacy. But surely there are some things which we must keep to ourselves. Do we really care that Trevor from basketball practice is “chilling with [his] bro”? Or that our best friend’s girlfriend “need[s] a hug”? It’s not that we don’t want to know what people are up to (we are all naturally – and somewhat dangerously – inquisitive about each other’s lives), it’s just that we really don’t care if they’re doing something so menial as listening to some old school Shaggy on Spotify. Social networking has become an outlet for airing one’s dirty laundry in public, and then expecting people to marvel at the filth on their bed sheets.
Perhaps a status is some kind of preservation technique… so that one can scroll down the page in years to come and reminisce about that pizza that they had on 22 February 2012. But isn’t that what our, erm, memories are for? Admittedly, sometimes it’s nice to look back at photos or times shared with friends or family, but what’s wrong with a good old-fashioned photo album? We treat our ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ as if they are our disciples, hanging off our every word – waiting to be filled in on the latest gossip from their unquestionable leader.
Statuses certainly suit this generation, which likes to stand on the roof and shout at the top of its voice. Most interestingly, the phenomenon of the status raises deeper questions about whether happiness can truly be experienced unless it is shared. And whether there is something inherently selfish about being happy.
All we can say is that there is a cathartic aspect to publicising one’s feelings, to restricting them to one hundred and forty characters. This is not an attack on Facebook or Twitter or any other social networking platform. God knows, we all love them. It’s just an attempt to ascertain why we avid modernists feel so comfortable with them that we can trust them, and all their users, with our deepest – or not so deep – thoughts and observations. I don’t know, perhaps I’m being too old-fashioned or pedantic. But if you have the overwhelming urge to document everything that comes into your head, get a diary – she’ll listen.