There is a truth universally acknowledged: Facebook is as loathed by its users as loved by them; it is in equal parts a useful and revolutionary tool, capable of reaching out to people otherwise distant, as it is a medium of creating distance. Make no mistake – if logging on to this “social” network makes you feel lonely and alienated, in this feeling, you are (ironically) not alone.

In a world of false faces, masks of contentedness and deliberate illusions of success and happiness, Facebook is yet another implement in our toolbelt of social constructions of a life of triumph. Increasingly, in a spirit of social competitiveness equal to “quantity equals quality”, we are coming to measure ourselves by a little number that tells us not only how many “friends” we have, but the subtle inference that this little counter implies a social value. In this we are mistaken: cacophony is not community. And the number of “likes” a Facebook status receives is about as useful a measure of self-worth as the amount of money we make is an accurate measure of our success in life. Which is to say, very inaccurate indeed.

If Facebook is a means of connection, then it is not one that is concerned with the quality of that connection. This, in spite of the fact that quality of connection, or depth of connection, is the very thing that makes living in this world worthwhile. If artists (writers, painters, film-makers, musicians) are not trying to forge a deep connection with those who consume their art, then I misunderstand their purpose. Everything in our lives that is not about accumulating wealth or day-to-day getting by, (so then, anything that has real meaning), is about finding a sincere moment of common ground with another living soul. A moment to thrust away the artiface of society and convention and say in equal parts trust and fear: “This is me. This is who I am. I am you.”

This is a moment that Facebook, sadly, encourages us to discard. A moment that it does not know how to value. A moment so genuine, this technology of disingenuous, shallow connection throws away in a crowd-pleasing fury of “fucking loving” science, misusing the apostrophe, or sharing a particularly “clever” pun. Facebook values chatter over connection.

Claims have been made that enjoyment of the social network is simply a matter of knowing what to share or what not to share, as if that were the question. Whereas what is more important when it comes to true connection is who am I sharing with? This is the question that we do not always have an adequate answer to. Our inability to choose who to share what information with online is problematic to say the least. What Facebook lacks is nuance, and the flexibility to allow me to be a multi-faceted person who has different types of interactions with different types of people. And in a world where we are increasingly demanded to interact with a wide variety of people, who do not always share our experiences and ideologies, we have become adept at being a multitude of characters.

When in real life would I share some facet of my liberal belief system with a friend (or group of friends) I knew was resolutely (and combatively) conservative, if I did not wish to embark upon a lengthy discussion (or outright argument) of political beliefs? In practise, I would be far more likely to avoid a conversation of politics altogether with this person. Online (and on Facebook specifically), to do this would be remarkably time consuming and difficult, if not altogether impossible.

One could argue these are examples of topics best avoided online, as well as in real life. I disagree. I believe that online is an excellent and powerful forum for sharing ideas, information and beliefs. And I believe that Facebook’s lack of social controls over sharing are leading to people discussing less and less these vital topics and more and more to creating a persona of performance designed to be uncontroversially entertaining, and unthreateningly un-confrontational. A Facebook persona is not honest. It is a false projection of an idealised, charismatic, agreeable, attractive version of you. And more importantly it is flat and shallow, not allowing us more than one facet, one projection, of our self.

This is the funhouse version of your life: it’s shots of you at the beach with some friends, it’s the status update that tells people that you got a new job (but almost never that you lost one), it’s that profile pic where your hair looks just right and that pimple isn’t showing. Of course this isn’t your life – it’s a show reel, a best of, only the highlights (and never, never the lowlights). No one sees that you had a fight with your boyfriend last night, no one sees you struggling to pay the rent.

This is okay if it is not also now a huge part of the way our generation communicates regularly. But it is. This is okay if we do not conflate “friending” with friendship and you do not believe that those who have the most friends have the most important things to say; although we tend to. This is okay if we do not confuse numbers with value – a thing our society as a whole does rather indiscriminately. And this is okay if we understand that the photos and status updates we see are only a tiny percentage of the picture, and one that largely misrepresents the whole; something that unconsciously, many of us struggle to see.

And these confusions and fusions (combined with the terrible addiction of the instant gratification that is the internet) have served to make many users of this unsocial social network feel alienated, isolated, and envious of this funhouse mirror which we use as a representation of our lives online. This is not new information, I believe we all know these things. But like unhappy 1950’s housewives, most of us try to medicate ourselves against it, by creating rules for its use, or barriers to overuse, thinking unconsciously that the problem is us.

You are not the problem. The problem is a system that tells you and others that we are this collection of online performances, a program that does not allow you the real flexibility of truly social interaction, and a social mindset that informs a belief that growth and inflation can only be positive. This is a social network that is totally unworthy of the generation that has created it. It is this social network that helps us talk, but not communicate. It is a social network that values numbers but never quality. It is a social network that does not understand that people are more than meets the eye. It is this “social network” that is broken; not you.

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