They Say The Best Things In Life Are Free, But Facebook Isn’t One Of Them

Facebook Isn’t Really Free — You Pay With Your Most Valuable Currency!

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Image by Geralt on Pixabay
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Photo by Chase Wilson (jiggliemon) on Unsplash

FB structures place tension upon relationships, and create problems, where none would normally have existed.

Facebook creates unnatural and forced connections in other ways as well. There isn’t a natural and healthy boundary of acquaintance, co-worker, past friend, current friend, family, etc.

In addition to this, FB makes actual friendships and true connections lazier and taken for granted, because of the sharing and over-sharing going on. There becomes no need to connect, when you already feel that you know and see everything. The connection won’t deepen in most cases.

Some of the curses of FB — like misunderstandings, unfriending, abuse of invitations, blocking, monologues, showboating, and a junked feed — even when preferences are dialed in — can have long term consequences in real life. Dynamics, relationships, and patterns of relating outside of FB are altered because of FB.

All of this, so far mentioned, are just the trivialities — a distraction from the actual reality of Facebook. The reality of the virtual face book of friends, FB, is that it is not free — not really — not at all.

The proverb goes, “The best things in life are free.” That is true, in a deep, spiritual, and practical way. Quality time with loved ones, true friendship, health, libraries, silence, peace, joy, a compassionate presence when one is suffering; thinking, breathing, feeling, loving; being active, time in nature, and that sort of thing are free and they are, arguably, the best!

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“Friends” by Dario Valenzuela (@darvalife) on Unsplash

Our personal resources are our fundamental, and most valuable currency in life.

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Image by Leo Moko on Unsplash
  1. We pay FB with our presence. FB gives us virtual space, networking ability, and simulates community for us. This is, by far, our most valuable and powerful personal resource — our presence, each person’s presence — also known as health, energy, and being. What is the most real and important gift you can give to another person? Your presence. It costs nothing, yet it is precious. When a loved one dies, what aches more than anything else? The physical absence of our loved one. And when we are ill or scared or hurt, what is the greatest salve? The loving presence of someone who is really there. The energy and being that is you, each of us, is unique and irreplaceable. There is no real monetary equivalent for what our presence is worth. Sharing it with others needs to be considered seriously and consciously. FB simulates an experience for us, which is virtual, not 3D reality. FB simulates the experience of community, company, friendship, and presence. This simulation can act as a replacement for real physical contact with people — it can sometimes end up replacing the impulse to engage in real intimacy, dialogue, and friendship. Seeing someone else’s photos, comments, and shares can take away the natural desire to connect and go deeper. So, as we pay with our presence, spending time, energy, and attention on FB, we are given, in exchange, FB’s dysfunctional simulation of connection, friendship, and community. In addition, what we choose to share on FB can make us seem like our life is something other than it really is. We shut our selves off from real sharing, and sometimes we become depressed thinking our lives aren’t as good as what others are sharing theirs to be on FB. Our mental health can suffer due to social media.
  2. We pay FB with our beliefs. FB helps us to segregate ourselves. We customize our experience according to our beliefs and values. We provide FB with an ongoing anthology of our beliefs. What we believe can be: scientific, logical, religious, political, philosophical, moderate, extreme, esoteric, sci-fi, or hate-based. It doesn’t matter. All sides can be manipulated, researched, and used — all of it is data that can be capitalized upon — by corporate, private, and political interests. This collective data of our beliefs, choices, habits, and preferences allow unprecedented amounts and kinds of information about the psychology of us. Propaganda and advertisers have long based their approaches in the hidden psychological tendencies, habits, and weaknesses of humans in order to profit and manipulate to gain power. FB is no different. FB states an altruistic motive and mission as its operative and public goals. Yet, only when it has been exposed has FB decided to purge accounts that were created to sabotage our political system. Accounts still remain that are openly violent, hateful, and abusive. FB does not close them all, despite the claims of being altruistic. In reality, the currency of our beliefs can be used, manipulated, and may be seen as a greater value of currency than money, for those who wish to dominate in power, corruption, and greed. Paying FB with our beliefs can be tricky, because for those with low income and startups with no capital, FB may be one of the few platforms where they can network and make a way for themselves. Another disturbing trend on FB related to the currency that is our beliefs, is this: there is a general consensus, among even professionals, that there is no need to fact check or for accuracy of statements made on FB — as if we set aside our ethics and standards at the FB login. The seemingly small degradation of due research and verifying information is, in actuality, no small erosion. It leaves the door open for more unhealthy relating, distortion, and abuse.
  3. We pay FB with our emotions. FB gives us ways to express our emotions, all the time. Our emotions are neither good or bad. They simply are. There is no real need to judge them. When we simply acknowledge the feelings we are having, and handle them in healthy and constructive ways, it is all good. Emotions are natural responses to life and living — they are instinctual. Emotions only become bad when we react in harmful ways, hold on to them, and allow them to fester; or push them down and deny them until they explode or implode — harming ourselves or others. Emotions can be directly tied in to our beliefs. If we identify with our beliefs — if we think we are what we feel and believe — then it becomes very easy to be emotionally manipulated, and to become emotionally reactive when we our beliefs/values are being threatened or attacked, or we think they are. Few adults, let alone children are taught how to handle and healthfully channel emotions. We need to, but it doesn’t happen formally, or commonly enough. And that is what advertisers and politicians count on. Emotions and political fights and tirades run high on FB. Is that healthy or productive? If it was a platform that encouraged and facilitated healthy boundaries and relationships, and healthy techniques, paying with our emotions wouldn’t be a problem, really. Paying with our emotions is a drain to our energy. It is energy and time that can be otherwise spent being and doing what fulfills us, and makes a difference in our lives and the lives of others. Sometimes we can do that and share it on FB. Some are doing amazing good, and sharing it there in healthy ways. But, those are the exceptions, not the overriding experience on FB. They are the healthy fish in a sea of plastic waste. Emotions, when healthy and flowing naturally, with a responsible awareness, do not attack, or over-react to what is or isn’t happening. That doesn’t mean that we can’t express anger. It is healthy to express anger. Just not in ways that harm others. Sharing our emotions with one another in an honest, supportive, and responsible way can lead to transformation and growth. If we understand how our emotions work and are responsible for them, then we can consciously choose to withdraw our unhealthy emotional payments to FB.
  4. We pay FB with our self-esteem. FB gives us ego-gratification hits via likes and followers. There are many ways that we pay FB with our emotions, yes. Our emotions and thoughts are directly linked to our self-esteem. Healthy self-esteem allows us to have healthy relationships and self-worth that is neither too narcissistic or too selfless. Positive self-esteem and a healthy valuing of our life and self leads to greater fulfillment and better quality relationships. Self-esteem is a root that our values, beliefs, and possessions take shape around. Healthy self-esteem in such a corrupt and superficial culture is hard won. Many of us who have it, may still struggle with keeping it. It has been found that those with self-esteem issues and low self-worth may be vulnerable to FB addiction. FB capitalizes on our weaknesses in relationships and in our self-esteem. We pay by disclosing our likes, emotions, thoughts, and giving up much of our time and energy to it. Facebook found a way to appeal to all sorts of people with the “like” button. The like button then got enhanced with options for emoji reactions within the like button. This button and it’s emojis are the veritable morphine-like shot of ego buffing that hooks so many. For those of us with low self-esteem, for those of us with big egos, for those with narcissistic tendencies, for those of us hungry for affirmation — the like button and accompanying emojis are both the Pavlovian bell to condition us, and the drug of choice to keep us hooked. Better yet, for FB, the data we provide through our habits with likes, emojis, and our emotional reactions are, collectively, providing studies of human vulnerabilities and thought like never before, while conditioning people to stay stuck within FB’s exacting patterns and loops.
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Image by Reinaldo Kevin on Unsplash
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“Selective Focus” by Rawpixel on Unsplash
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Image by Jacob Ufkes on Unsplash

Written by

C.S. Sherin, MA, is a writer, poet, and artist who creates engaging content across genres; and provides specialized editing services at wildclover.org.

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