I love to hate people on Facebook. I am judgemental. I am condescending. I am obsessed. And I’m not alone.
My close friends and I are constantly sending texts with screengrabs of the most god-awful updates, selfies and humblebrags one could imagine from people we work with, went to high school with, or somehow have become “friends” with. Each of these texts includes the comments we all wish would we could say— but never could in a public environment. Call it Facebook catharsis.
It is this backchannel amusement is most likely what keeps me tethered to Facebook. Sure I love keeping tabs on my close friends and family—but Instagram is largely taking over that need in a more friendly photo-first environment. For me and many of my peers, Facebook has become our looking glass into the world we don’t really see day to day: The childhood friend who constantly dishes out unsolicited career advice, the former coworker whose unexpected political rants have both made you question your one-time kinship and question your all-or-nothing hatred of those on the other side of the political spectrum; that guy you’re not entirely sure how you know…in fact, you’re pretty sure you’ve never met them, but you do have some friends in common. But unlike your neighbor, who you see every day but are not friends with on Facebook, you can see their pictures, the music they’re listening to, the places they’ve been and yes…quite often…the terrible things they say to an audience they might not realize is listening.
When I read aloud a post I swear makes me nauseous, my wife asks why I don’t just de-friend and/or hide that person’s posts. I wish I knew why I can not and do not. I have no answer, but because I have discussed this same phenomena with friends and colleagues, I believe it is something visceral and something that will keep Facebook relevant for years and years to come. The network’s scale and open-structure will continue to provide the context, via these “semi-relationships,” for more of this voyeuristic revulsion that we all revel in. And as long as Facebook feeds the beast with algorithms that continue to showcase the updates we read, ogle and pass around, this is only going to get worse. Or better.