September 25, 2014

GUEST ROOM: Giving In

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By ELIE KIRSHNER

My relationship with Facebook has become more complex with the onset of college. I have never created an account on the mother of all social networking sites or any other. I dislike it, and verge on despising it for a variety of practical and impractical reasons. I have always felt that Facebook and other such sites are vehicles for societal narcissism and deterrents of positive social behaviors. Until very recently, I had always felt that Facebook was in no way necessary, in no way beneficial and in no way a requirement for my own success.

Allow me to briefly detail my social media grievances. Facebook encourages people to use the Internet like a megaphone rather than a helpful resource. It breeds isolation and unhealthy competition, discouraging face-to-face conversations and intimacy. And, having observed many of those around me, I fear that I would also misuse the ability to so easily compare myself to others. It seems to me that the majority of people who regularly browse Facebook use it for two reasons: to display their own experiences and accomplishments for vindication, and to compare themselves to others doing the same.

Several years ago, in a video ripping social networking, retired NBA star Charles Barkley said: “If you wake up in the morning and you’re worried about what I’m doing, you a damn idiot.” Barkley comes off a bit strong here, but his central point is valid. People shouldn’t always worry about what others are doing. Social networking provides people with extensive access to others’ thoughts and activities throughout the day. It can detract from independence and freethinking. It also prevents people from escaping the ire of Charles Barkley.

By this point, I have probably proven to you that I am not a fan of Mark Zuckerberg’s site. Unfortunately for myself, and the few others like me, it is undeniable that Facebook has become a virtual necessity. Not having Facebook is similar to not having a car. As can be gleaned from my dust-coated learner’s permit, I relied on rides from my parents and friends to many formal and social occasions throughout high school. My lack of Facebook forces another responsibility onto my friends and parents — to keep me informed. Facebook is the means of communication and organization for clubs, parties and even employment opportunities. As with their cars, the Facebook accounts of those around me are the only ways I can access certain events and opportunities. One pertinent example: I only learned of The Cornell Daily Sun’s recruitment thanks to a friend’s Facebook.

At first, this universal shift to Facebook frustrated me and only served to embolden my dislike of the site. Now, as college begins and opportunities become more crucial, I am beginning to accept that Facebook is a practical, convenient and inescapable form of mass communication for friends, clubs and businesses. I remain confident that Facebook is bad, but now I wonder if it is a necessary evil for me to embrace.

In making an account, I would be losing something that I was passionate about, something I was known for, and something I was proud of. I was not on Facebook. These feelings are unfortunate, and should not affect me as much as they do. Either way, this trivial internal conflict is a side story to my larger question: Is Facebook necessary for, or at least a promoter of, success and social growth?

I certainly wish it were not, but I fear it may be, and I don’t think I’m willing to take the chance and continue my inhibiting dependence on others. Which is why I very well may be creating a Facebook now that I am at Cornell. I am loath to make an account, and the only consolation I can offer to myself — to somewhat ease my cognitive dissonance — is a commitment to avoid what bothers me most about Facebook. Most importantly, I will strive to limit my time on the site, and use alternative, individualized forms of communication whenever possible. I will also refrain from any unnecessary posting. What others are doing when they wake up in the morning is none of my concern, and thus my morning should be none of theirs. I will write a letter apologizing to Charles Barkley. And finally, I will strive to recognize that Facebook is a tool, rather than a lifestyle choice.

I despise Facebook; now I will give in to it.

Elie Kirshner is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He may be reached at ek554@cornell.edu. Guest Room appears periodically this semester.