Why do we Facebook?

A self-aware selfie. I know. So meta.
A self-aware selfie. I know. So meta.

Ah, Facebook. The virtual zeitgeist of Millenials everywhere.

How (and more importantly, why) has Zuckerberg’s firstborn become indispensable in our daily lives? It seems no amount of negativity or constitutional violations will keep up from posting and liking. In fact, many rail against the various invasions of privacy FB perpetrates, even going as far as to post what can only be described as amateur nondisclosure statements. But here’s the rub: they are still on FB. Sure, we all might know a few people that have actually abstained from FB and its inferior progeny, but while a part of us admires them for doing so, the other part also thinks they’re a little weird.

Allow me to engage in that staple of posts gone viral–The List:

1. You now have agency over how your life looks.

You can fashion a version of life that screams success. You discovered apps that apply a flattering filter to your features. Then you joined the counter-movement of #nofilter. You roll your eyes at those who end every post with #blessed, patting yourself on the back for being subtle in your complacency.

Then there are those picture collages documenting that “crazy” night you had on a perfect buzz, or the new hobby you’ve taken up that makes you seem so adventurous and well-rounded. There’s even the occasional political commentary–with tact, you don’t want to completely alienate those neoconservative followers that religiously hit “like” on the aforementioned genres. Here’s a thought nugget: If you didn’t post it, did it ever happen?

Of course, this staging doesn’t work with your immediate kinsfolk. Only they know the truth. They know it took a series of attempts to achieve that winning “candid” expression, or the countless weekends with nothing to do until finally you did. But isn’t that the beauty of it? For reasons unknown, they still love you, even after your post-workout photo shoot becomes more exhausting than the actual exercise.

So why do we care so much about those for whom regard is held conditionally? That leads me into the next point.

2. We are validation junkies.

FB is the platform upon which we bear witness to our lives. It is a reliable visual/textual record when human memory is fickle. We revel at the sight of double-digit “like” counts, and engage in commentary like it’s an Ivy league panel discussion, though the subject might be your cat’s new hiding spot. To be fair though, not all posts are as trivial (albeit cute).

But here’s where the problem comes in: when a post doesn’t get as many hits, we question its worth. Perhaps even by extension, our own. Upon further consideration, aided by a resounding silence from the virtual community, you re-evaluated the supposed cleverness of that grammar kitty meme.

The Gaze is as important today as it was when the stocks were a social commodity. There’s a perverse affinity to a Roman spectator sport. Sensual, unnerving, validating, silently judging. A symbolic blood lust. But oh, how we love it.

3. The old standby: keeping in touch with the otherwise-hard-to-reach.

This is the ostensible reason people cite for starting their account, though it’s only a matter of time before the dependency metastasizes. However, what if I told you–brace yourself–that maybe those people that are hard-to-reach were meant to stay that way? I’m not taking sides, simply proposing a parallel universe where your social fulfillment is not measured by the quantity of your quasi-acquaintances, but by the quality of your real friends. Ground-breaking, I know.

So we beat on, borne back ceaselessly into social media.