The Facebook effect

With today’s 24-hour news cycle, sometimes it can seem impossible to get away from the dank and depressing. It’s a cycle I grew up in. Whether it was the Internet or the television when something bad happened, the information was out there. The human race has never had this much access to knowledge before, but my generation has come to expect it.

If knowledge is the most important tool we have, then we, as a society, have more access to it than could even be imagine 50 years ago. Long gone are the days when people sit around and debate the distance from Brookhaven to Starkville, the answer reveals itself with a quick search (180 miles, approximately 3 hours).

The Internet may be wonderful, and with sites like Twitter and Facebook, articles from all across the Internet can be spread with a simple click. And with that it can become a weapon. It’s a weapon that can be used for good or bad. It can be something to raise awareness and push for a change, like the ALS ice bucket challenge. That’s great and wonderful, but let’s be honest with ourselves – that’s not what Facebook gets used for. We use it to spread our opinions, and in the process we forget that the person we’re talking to or about is human, too.

Hate is what gets disseminated more often then it should. Facebook allows us to take the two-facedness to another level. What we would never say to someone’s face gets put on Facebook. How many times have I gotten on Facebook to see someone rip someone else apart? It may feel like we’re talking to our friends, but we’re not. We’re talking to the public. You may as well build a platform downtown and shout it as people drive by.

The old theory goes that everyone in the world is connected by six degrees of separation. How much smaller is that when you just count Mississippi or even Lincoln County? I would hazard to guess that with Facebook, every person has at least one mutual friend with everyone else in Brookhaven. The scary thing with Facebook is that’s all you need to spread your message.

If A and B are not friends but C is friends with both of them, all it takes is C to like or comment on A’s status for B to see it. Nothing you post on Facebook is truly private.

A lot of people got upset when the Facebook experiment to see how negative posts affected users was revealed. But that study showed something very interesting that got neglected. Negative posts are not the only things that affected people’s behavior. Positive posts made a positive impact. Teachers are known for their cheesy sayings, but this experiment proves that old saying I remember from grade school: “Attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching?”

All this tearing each other down over nothing has got to stop. There are real problems out there, and we should be part of the solution.

It’s OK to post things to make people think. But it’s the harsh, unnecessarily mean things I see on Facebook daily that should stop. It’s the things that send people fleeing from Facebook, that tear friendships apart. And for what?

If you can’t find it in your heart to do it for your friends, do it for yourself. Finding things in your life to be thankful for can only make you feel happier, can only lift your spirits. Sometimes selfishness and selflessness really aren’t that different. Sometimes making yourself happy uplifts your neighbor who’s had a hard day.

At the end of the day, life will go on with or without you, and you’re creating your legacy everyday of your life. How do you want to be remembered? Once you know that, work toward becoming that person because everything else doesn’t matter.

We only get one life on this Earth. We might as well make it count.

Julia V. Pendley is the lifestyles editor of The Daily Leader. You may email her at julia.pendley@dailyleader.com or mail a letter to her at Julia V. Pendley, Lifestyles Editor, P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602-0551.