Student admits to obsessing over Facebook persona

I am a Facebook narcissist. My account is set up to never log me out, so I can begin every morning by hopping out of bed and checking if I have any new notifications.

I agonize over my Facebook statuses; anything that does not get at least 10 “likes” from my friends might as well be considered a failure of an update.

If I ever have a free moment in public and have no one to talk to, my instinct is to pull out my phone and boot up the Facebook app. Like the Greek mythological character for whom narcissism is named, I might check Facebook again as soon as 30 seconds after I’ve locked my phone, as if I’d forgotten what my newsfeed looks like.

I could be worse. I only post things I believe people will find funny or interesting. I avoid posting selfies, complaints about my day, pictures of what I had for dinner or bland Bible verses. I similarly do not use Twitter or Snapchat. However, I am clearly a whore for Facebook “likes.”

For digital natives like me, social media accounts do not so much reflect our identities as they do help construct them.

In one sense, the persona we broadcast from our Facebook accounts can hardly be considered “real.” We get to pick the most flattering profile picture we want, and if someone tags us in an image where we look particularly ugly, we can simply remove it. We can present ourselves to the world in the most sanitized way possible.

A couple might post a series of photos of themselves looking happier than ever, but they could break up the next day without ever making the world aware of the problems they were dealing with.

And yet, in another sense, we’re allowed an authenticity we could only dream of in face-to-face interaction. Some of the most profound conversations I’ve ever had with my friends happened over Facebook messenger. There is always time to find the right word for the right situation when you have unlimited time to respond.

One day, historians will likely glean the Facebook Chat histories of public figures in the same way they study handwritten letters and printed documents today. It’s striking just how much of ourselves we’ll make visible to the world.

I find it hard to make a value judgment about this phenomenon.

People score all sorts of conversational points talking about how Facebook is ruining our ability to truly connect with those around us, but newsmagazines have been decrying the “pace of modern life” since the Gilded Age.

I know I spend far too much time on Facebook and my life ought to amount to more than winning “likes” from people I barely know, but I consider my account a necessary evil.

What interests me more is what will eventually come to replace it: one day receiving a Facebook message from a friend will seem as quaint as getting a calligraphic letter. By that point I’m sure we’ll have figured out how to upload our personalities onto computer drives and will have formed a unified digital consciousness, with Ray Kurzweil worshiped as the one true God. If nothing else, we might at least obviate the need for selfies.

Bub is a senior majoring in history, English and political science.

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