Side-effects of overexposure

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Facebook is a handy way to keep up with old friends, make new ones and more, but a new study shows that facebook may also put stress on romantic relationships and create jealousy among friends.

Prior to facebook, you had to try pretty hard to be a jealous boyfriend or girlfriend.  You had to involve other people directly, ask a lot of questions, do a lot of driving around; now anytime your boyfriend’s hot ex-girlfriend posts on his wall, it’s there for everyone to see.  This glut of access to information, however innocuous, serves to make people who were never previously jealous start to feel the pangs.  A recent study for CyberPsychology & Behavior* found that facebook may contribute feelings of not really knowing one’s partner, and as one participant put it, ‘‘I have enough confidence in her [his partner] to know my partner is faithful, yet I can’t help but second-guess myself when someone posts on her wall.” (442)

Aside from romantic jealousy, the study also found that the more time people spent on facebook, the more they also became jealous of their friends and the life those people present online.  ‘‘It turns people into nosey parkers…all of that personal information is totally unnecessary, but no one can help themselves.’ (443). The fact that the information presented could be interpreted in a number of different ways depending on the reader, only serves to add to the envy.  Status updates may be misconstrued leading to misunderstandings, and put unwarranted stress on friendships.

In addition to that study, there’s another person exploring the side-effects of being online and exposed all the time.  Christin Norin is currently participating in The Public Isolation Project, which is both a performance art piece and an examination of the effects of living exclusively online with no human contact.  For the project, Norin lives in a storefront window with no curtains and no privacy (except in the bathroom) for 30 days–November 1-30, 2010.  She is not allowed to receive visitors and can only communicate with people online.  The aim is to see what a person loses by eliminating human contact, even though she is still able to communicate freely.

As we trend more toward a world where we are always online and always available, it’s interesting and important to also examine what we may lose.  People are social creatures, as the popularity of facebook proves, but there is a shift in the way we interact now that may be a step back rather than forward.

*retrieved through Academic Search Premiere

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