"Yep, it's tearing the fabric of society apart alright. It's creating a generation of self-interested media whores."
But wait, aren't you one of them? Didn't you just post a picture of those tacos you made last night?
"Yeah man, they were freaking awesome tacos."
Yes, it's a little narcissistic. Yeah, it's disruptive to your actual in-the-moment experiences. You can go overboard. You can also strike a balance, and it just becomes a thing you do sometimes, it's not going to kill you, it's not going to actually change the fabric of society. It's going to make some people annoying. Sort of like punk rock or emo or neon colors or television. Whatever. We'll adapt.
And it might have positive effects too. I made those tacos last night (heh, yeah, it was me, and I totally posted them to Facebook) because I saw my friend cook some mexican last week (posted to facebook) and it looked good. That friend of mine posts pictures of food she makes all the time, and it inspires me to cook more. We discuss the food, I ask for recipes. This isn't just narcissism—it's interaction. To ignore that positive effect just because you notice a subtle and possibly true behavioral shift is short-sighted.
My humble opinion is that most people are self-aware enough to know the externalization of their lives is detrimental on the large scale. They know enough to put down their phones or iPads for the important moments, or even the routine ones. We're all collectively learning how to make our lives work with this level of interconnected communication—it's a new thing.
I completely agree with the sentiment of this article, but I think most people do. I think people are constantly going to be looking for better solutions to this problem. I don't know if Facebook will find that solution, but I've said it before and I'll say it again: the social network that integrates with life and human behavior the best will be the one that overtakes Facebook (if you're going to try, please bring on a social psychologist in your first 10 employees).
The internet will not always be like this. It's immature, it doesn't fit quite right yet. But it will get better. And if it doesn't, it'll just continue to be slightly annoying. Not the end of the world.
And it's a really cool experience to upload an album and see everyone instantly forming a web of interaction within a few minutes. Not just liking and commenting, but sometimes 40% of the attendees using your photo(s) as their profile pictures; all identifying themselves through your viewfinder.
But let's not blow it out of proportion. I think that for as long as cameras have existed and been in the hands of the public (which is what, over 70 years now realistically?) there have been horrible, horrible photographers. The fact that it's easy to see everyone's horrible photography now just makes it all the more evident, but that didn't stop people from losing the moment behind a lens even 50 years ago.
And it's important to mention that you don't need to be a professional photographer to provide value to your social circle or area, you just need to take better photos than the people around you... which might not be as difficult as it sounds. You just need a passion for it.
Many photographers are ticked off by the rise of instagram and mobile phone cameras, but I'm glad that the world is getting interested in photography and seeing the value in good photos. It encourages them to learn how to get better photos out of their devices, whether it's instagram or their new DSLR. To me it means that those important moments will be captured. Even with 20+ people with cameras, everyone can miss a split-second opportunity, unless they are talented and anticipating the moment. Better skills, technology, and distribution channels allow those moments to be captured.
An example is at a concert or club where more people are holding devices then dancing.
I've started carefully choosing where to take my camera with, as I'll be completely absorbed in taking photographs, later not having "real" memories of the event at all.
A classical xkcd sums up my feelings about this quite nicely:
However it's also very very scary when dealing with the most affecting topics. Easier to stick to what you had for dinner today...but I do think society is gradually unraveling the barriers as we present new venues and some anonymity online.
I'll use myself for example. I'm not particularly prone to sharing or to envy (at least, that's what I thought). I rarely posted anything to Facebook, and when I did, it was science or news related. I even felt violated when others posted pictures of me. However, after about two years worth of Facebook use, mostly lurking, I was surprised to find that I was angry with just about all of my "friends." It seemed they were so much happier than me, wittier, more liked, more photogenic. Their families seemed so perfect, while mine was in smoldering ruins due to tragedy, divorce, and bitter grudges. Their posts got loads of likes and comments, while mine received few or none. They also seemed, well, so dumb: they wrote "are" for "our" and mixed up "they're," "their," "and "there." And they broadcast inane political rants, which, turns out, is a great way to ensure that I'll never want to hang out with them again.
So, in turn, for me at least, I found it had affected me negatively, so I quit using Facebook, and I think it made me much happier and a better friend. I stopped placing expectations upon my life by what I had seen on Facebook. And, most of all, I was shocked to discover how judgmental I had been toward these people. I'm the guy who is often jokingly referred to as the family shrink. Everyone comes to me with problems because I'm patient, I listen, and I don't judge. Well, on Facebook, I was a different person. I was brutal. And that attitude alienated me because I found that I couldn't like people in real life whom I couldn't respect in digital life, whether it be due to my own selfishness or their poor grammar. Perhaps that's why I rarely posted—I felt that I would be judged just as I had judged them, and I feared rejection.
Now when I talk to my friends, they seemed shocked that they have to fill me in on things that have been thoroughly covered on Facebook. But when we do talk, it isn't infused with the expectation to please. I can be honest, and so can they, and there's no need to feel like we're having a loud conversation while sitting at the center table in a crowded restaurant.
I don't think this applies to everyone. I have a friend who doesn't seem the least bit bothered by this. Maybe I'm emotionally weak, or overly sensitive, or more prone to envy than I would like to think. And I don't condemn Facebook entirely. Like you said, I think we're still working this whole thing out, and we have yet to figure out how to positively integrate it into our lives. Even so, I think for some people, no amount of sharing is good, not if we're only sharing the good bits.
Sure, I miss finding out about some weird events, but generally speaking it means I communicate directly with a subset of friends I care about rather than all-and-sundry.
I was going to write "...and it makes life more meaningful", but that's false. Actually I sometimes scratch my head in wonder .. what are all these people doing?
Yet that feeling has existed since childhood and I have come to recognize it as a part of me, part of what makes me different and strong.
Never give up on your own perspective. Be honest to yourself.
Let the sheep graze and fear not, for others also tread their own path.
If they find value in telling each other about their life experiences but you don't, that's fine. Maybe they enjoy seeing the cool things their friends do, maybe those posts give them great ideas for vacations or what to make for dinner or what kind of dog they want to get.
You can leave the "yeah, what sheep" bullshit for a t-shirt at Hot Topic, where it belongs.
So I quit. I have been happier without it.
I call, text and email my friends more often. I meditate far more often. I keep a diary. Friends know that I quit and tell me when something is posted that I should know about.
Last night I went to an Eric Clapton concert. My friend repeatedly used her camera, zoomed in and out, took lots of pictures, even curated her photos during the show itself. For much of the evening, it felt like I was there by myself. So I did what any reasonable person would have done: I gave myself over to the music and danced.
But it is a very interesting overall trend and could have serious impact on depression or anxiety, especially to people already predisposed to that sort of sensitivity. You're absolutely right, it's something we need to watch out for.