Point: Anonymity of Facebook is eroding social interaction and encouraging idiotic behaviour

Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and the like were introduced with the hope of connecting us with people we know across the world and with those we don’t who may share the same interests, views and values. In other words, they have fostered greater global connectedness.

Yet with the growing popularity of these websites – especially Facebook – we have been witness to what is becoming social media’s slow but gradual destruction of social interaction.

Throughout its mere six-year existence, Facebook has been the greatest contributor to this unfortunate turn of events. It makes it all too easy for its users to consistently disregard manners and common sense. What’s more, communication via the interweb is, more often than not, fairly superficial.
With Facebook we can now send invitations to friends paperlessly – an unintended eco-friendly result – for a variety of events: birthdays, Bar Mitzvahs and “How I Met Your Mother” TV nights, among others. But, because online invitations are sent with less effort than those that used to be mailed and stamped, RSVPing online is no longer deemed necessary.

Instead, many will not RSVP at all and leave their status as “Awaiting Reply” appearing as if though they do not spend much time on Facebook, even though their Farmville activity would suggest otherwise. Others may choose to spice things up and hit “Maybe Attending,” making any sort of event planning impossible when having to guesstimate how many of those jer-…er people, will actually show up.

The comfort of anonymity, as well as the ability to hide behind one’s computer screen, has given many normally cowardly individuals a sudden ego boost.

Social media websites are often flooded with criticisms, profanity and in some cases, libel, sexism and racism. Yet, let’s bet that over half of these individuals would never think of saying or doing something similar in real life.

So, what gives? Why, with the increasing popularity of social media, has a disregard for manners and norms surfaced? And who decided that this would be the ideal outlet to voice such opinions where, in spite of a user’s anonymity, comments receive greater publicity than they would if voiced elsewhere?

Social media has become the perfect place to not only make asses out of others, but of ourselves too. Often, there seems to be a very obvious blurring of what is considered appropriate and inappropriate. Pictures of individuals urinating, vomiting, passing out after a night out and other events apparently worthy of documentation are posted to Facebook profiles over and over again and visible to countless onlookers.

I’ll refrain from the usual, “future employers may come across your profile” lecture but really, where has dignity gone? Apparently wherever the ability to click “Attending” and show up to a Facebook event is hiding.

The goal of social media creators like Mark Zuckerberg was to connect people across the world and their efforts are applauded.

They have succeeded in doing this, allowing millions to stay connected to a greater extent than they were fifteen years ago. However, how genuine are these relationships? What value exists in a Facebook friendship?

A user with over 1,000 “friends” likely finds it difficult to stay connected with even a third of these individuals, suggesting that a Facebook friendship doesn’t mean all that much.

And individuals who do actually interact online, well, let’s just say I am still waiting to see someone actually laugh their ass off.

Now, the issue is not that Facebook should be shut down, as we’ve all benefited from it; a lot of good has come from social media. But, perhaps we should think twice before we voice an opinion or for goodness sake, before we ignore an invitation to an ugly Christmas sweater party.

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