By: Francesco Yepez-Coello
Peole often post facebook statuses or tweets sharing information that is private, or inappropriately intimate for the medium, even outside of a “confidential” place like GMU confessions. The phenomenon is such that doctors Chia Yeng and Bradford Brown conducted a study in which they interviewed a large sample of undergraduate students about their activity in social media, primarily facebook, and asked them about things such as motivations for posts, the way they feel when they post, the content of each post, etc, and their results shed light on the darkness of many students’ loneliness.
Most people who post express a desire to be acknowledged and supported in their struggle. But social media is a poor substitute for human interaction. With no physical contact to catch all the nuances of speech and nonverbal behavior, how could sharing your feelings online as a wall post truly provide the catharsis as sharing it with a friend might? The study showed a severe lack of tangible social support among participants who expose themselves so, which is a serious concern.
Although some relief is experience by people who post like this on Facebook, there are nonetheless harmful effects. Firstly, sitting in the dark, staring at a computer screen, hiding in a sort of cave, cannot provide you with the support that natural human interaction can. Even if a person responds encouragingly to your candid post, that person cannot hug you, laugh with you, or smile to brighten your day. Furthermore, interacting through message boards without perceiving another person’s face makes it less likely that a person will experience sympathy, as Confession #2855 so eloquently illustrates.
This makes internet interactions not only sub par, but harmful; your message will be read under very poor lighting, so to speak, and those who read it may not fully understand your pain. Having a poor social circle is one of the leading causes for depression amongst youth ages 18-25 according to another study (Hammen et al. 1998), most of all during our college years when we are away from hoe and do not have the direct support of our parents.
So, next time you are about to post something for all to see online, think to yourself: “who do I know who would love to hear about this?” And send it to that person instead. You’ll spark up a conversation and illuminate your social circle in a way that is actually meaningful. If you express your emotions directly to people you care bout, whether it’s a joke you thought of, or pain that you need to let out, you will cultivate that relationship, instead of plunging your thoughts into the void of social media, wherefrom you may not receive the same satisfaction and fulfillment of friendship.
Better yet, meet up with a friend and tell them all about it in person. Use social media sparingly, and only when what you need to communicate really merits a large audience, such as promoting some sort of event or making an announcement in a group page you are a part of. If you find upon reflection that there really is no one you would feel comfortable talking about a problem to in person, then consider visiting the Counseling and Psychological Services on campus, located in SUB I two floors above the Chick fil A. Build your social support group guys, and only use social media for convenience, not as a crutch.