Excerpt from my upcoming book, Facehooked, due out summer, 2014 through Reputation Books – –
Many of us are splitting our time between Facebook and interacting in the real world, and the two realities are slowly merging. If we share something on Facebook we want to tell our friends about it and when something entertaining happens to us in real life, we feel the need to share it on Facebook. This seems harmless enough until we begin to substitute one reality for another. Facebook has also caused some of our behaviors to change. Aside from feeling a compulsion to check our news feeds and keep posting photos of ourselves, we tend to be more provocative on Facebook. Some of us enjoy the new found courage we feel when expressing ourselves online in a way that we never would in real life. Some people even feel that their truest nature is best expressed on Facebook. In many ways we are creating a new self or a new identity, and this new self is also functioning as a new social understanding.
The ability to communicate with many different people across the globe at record speeds is changing our social interpretation of the messages we send and receive. Interacting with others compulsively on Facebook is changing the deep-seeded and intuitive understanding we have about how to engage with others. Digital communication shelters us from certain human experiences. For example, thanks to our online interactions, we can now avoid the discomfort or anxiety we feel when confronting someone in real life, flirting or breaking up with a significant other. What happens when we begin forming new assumptions about life, love and friendship based on our Facebook reality, or when our online interactions affect our real life relationships? And what happens when the selves created through Facebook don’t match the selves we present face-to-face, or even worse, when they contradict each other? In psychological terms we will experience cognitive dissonance, which is the anxiety we feel from us holding two conflicting ways of perceiving our world. Such a discrepancy between our perceptions and beliefs throws us off balance emotionally, and will inevitably lead us to experience identity confusion, relationship conflicts, changes in our judgment and, at an extreme level, even a psychotic break. When this happens, something must radically change in our perception in order to eliminate or reduce the confusion. We need to discover what kind of meaning we’re placing on our digital relationships and then find balance between our former unwired selves and our new digital interactions.