Facebook: Where You Can Be Your Most Unauthentic Self

Caffeinated Thoughts
8 min readApr 29, 2024

You could drink, smoke, or get laid. Or you could just make someone’s life miserable on Facebook.

Photo by Firmbee.com on Unsplash

Countless studies have documented the detrimental effects of social media on people, especially youngsters who are yet to fully grasp the harsh realities of adulthood. As someone who’s just turned 18, your honeymoon period on this planet is over, and you now have responsibilities to take care of; the house, the car, parents, spouse, kids, siblings, bills to pay and bosses to report to. Most new entrants to the adulting game flock to social media to socialize with their peers and take the edge off in this new reality full of sudden surprises at every turn. However, a study has found that social media indulgence has a detrimental effect on some of us, making us more anxious and stressed out than before. Besides, even for the general population — those not particularly predisposed to anxiety or stress from social media — the more time one tends to spend on such sites, the more susceptible one becomes to feelings of depression, sadness, anxiety and the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO).

“Seeing all of the great things your Facebook or Twitter friends are sharing online may make you feel left out or inadequate. A similar effect is at work while checking how many “likes” or comments others get on their posts compared to your own.”

Psychologists and mental health experts actually advise us to do the opposite; to reduce our daily scrolling time or to avoid social media completely. Contrary to the assumptions about social media we’ve been holding on to all along, these studies reveal that an overindulgence in social media leads to increased feelings of loneliness and depression. And so you find people getting onto the next big trend, the “#socialmediadetox” or “#digitaldetox”. Akin to detoxes taken up for excessive drinking, smoking, or junk food consumption, social media is the next big thing that requires detoxing and withdrawing from. Makes sense.

“Ironically for a technology that’s designed to bring people closer together, spending too much time engaging with social media can actually make you feel more lonely and isolated — and exacerbate mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.”

But why exactly “detox” from something that was created to foster relationships and bring people closer to each other in the first place?

This was the very intention behind which many popular social media platforms were started with, right? The answer to this isn’t straightforward. It is a multi-dimensional one with many subtle and not so subtle contributing factors all playing an identical role in mentally draining you out as you scroll social media.

Here’s a few of them:

Inauthenticity

The number one gripe many people have with social media is the kind of anonymity it affords its users.

You don’t have to be your real true self on social media. You can say whatever you want and get away with it now that your true personality is blurred by the algorithm. You can subsume a totally different personality online, an alter ego if you will, and unleash a reign of terror (or stupidity) on unsuspecting victims.

The sheer amount of negativity and brutal character assasination, which is hallmark component of social media once one starts interacting with strangers through comment sections, has made many weary users drastically reduce their social media usage or exit these platforms altogether.

Since its inception, millions of people have realized that getting on to such platforms opens them up to abuse, harassment, and humiliation, something they’re just not ready for or even think that they deserve. Users can report harassment, but social media platforms take action only if their respective content moderation teams deem the particular post or comment to be life threatening to the victim. Anyways, it really doesn’t even matter as one can always create another fake identity to continue posting offensive content or harassing someone online if they wish to do so.

Another huge matter of concern for government officials is how Facebook manipulates its users into believing everything they see online is real and authentic.

However, nothing could be further from the truth when a test conducted on the site revealed just how dangerous the algorithm can be for new users with no friends added online:

“Within three weeks, the new user’s feed turned into a maelstrom of fake news and incendiary images. There were graphic photos of beheadings, doctored images of India air strikes against Pakistan and jingoistic scenes of violence. One group for “things that make you laugh” included fake news of 300 terrorists who died in a bombing in Pakistan.”

An expose made public by whistleblower Frances Haugen reveals startling facts about the integrity of the algorithm running the social media giant:

“Facebook’s algorithm picks and chooses content that’s likely to create the most amount of engagement and make you angry.”

The biggest issue with getting into heated debates with other users on the platform is being unware of their intentions. You never know why someone is replying to you in a specific manner over a certain topic. You don’t know if their comments are genuine or have been written in bad faith in order to further certain hidden agendas. You don’t know if they’re there to personally win the argument or to get you to reply in a certain way to frame you for something you didn’t do.

It’s all smoke and mirrors out there.

Fake accounts

The next big headache for Facebook happens to be fake accounts. These accounts are created by pseudo-users for ulterior motives, such as spreading fake propaganda and hate speech, impersonating celebrities or government officials, to bad mouth or spread false information about a political rival, to spread misinformation to the general public, to give fake product reviews, to cause communal disharmony and incite riots, and to indulge in online theft and cyber fraud.

There’s clearly no dearth of reasons to create fake and troll accounts on Facebook.

Check out this story of how a 16-year old kid impersonated his teacher to get back at her after being reprimanded in front of the whole class:

Truly insane!

Fake accounts could either be those impersonating existing users, accounts of those who exist in the real world but do not have an online presence, or accounts of people who don’t even exist in the real world. Fake photos, user names, and account names are fabricated to create such accounts by unscrupulous individuals in order to portray a certain community, religion, company, organization, or faith as bad and evil. You don’t know who’s arguing with you on the other side, whether its an individual, an organization, or a group of individuals dedicated to spreading misinformation, lies, hate, and causing suspicion amongst the general public towards a certain community or individual.

“Most fake social media accounts are “bots,” created by automated programs to post certain kinds of information — a violation of Facebook’s terms of service and part of an effort to manipulate social conversations. Sophisticated actors can create millions of accounts using the same program”

Troll accounts

A subset of the above, troll accounts are simply set up to troll a particular brand or person in order to malign their reputation or defame them for something they might have done in the past. Troll accounts can be set up for the very same reasons fake accounts are, some of which are mentioned above. But what sets troll accounts apart is the fact that they might sometimes not even have an ulterior motive. Sometimes the only reason people create troll accounts is to satisfy hedonistic urges and feel good about themselves. Trolling is their primary and only motive!

Some of them do it just to get a kick out of it as they might be unemployed and have nothing else to do with their lives.

As per this Hootsuite blog there are a few markers of a troll which sets them apart from the general crowd of netizens on social media:

  1. They make you angry.
  2. They act entitled.
  3. They exaggerate.
  4. They make it personal.
  5. They can’t spell.

So now you know exactly what to look out for!

Kiddy accounts

Yup, that’s right. There’s kids on Facebook. How, you ask? Simple. All they have to do is put in the wrong birth date, have access to a mobile phone from an elder sibling or guardian to validate themselves, and voila, they’re in! The next time you think your kid is watching cartoons at the dinner table, think again. He/She could just be online scrolling social media and getting wrongly influenced to do all kinds of things not appropriate for his or her age.

Solutions

There has been some progress on the safety front when it comes to Facebook. From small measures like deleting and blocking, to the more novel and effective ‘profile locking’ with the ability to turn off friend requests, it sure has made some great strides in protecting users and keeping them safe from trolls. Women users stand to gain the most from such measures due to the epidemic of stalking and harassment that is so rampant in the online world where they form the bulk of the victims.

Old flames trying to sneak into your friends list to see what you’re up to, an ex-employee trying to get even with his boss, heartbroken lovers running after the approval and validation of their crushes, a person looking to defame someone else after a fight and business deals gone sour; Facebook has seen it all and much more in just the last decade.

However, the new profile locking feature comes with its own set of drawbacks. One of them being the inability to verify a persons authenticity. Previously, as an ordinary netizen you could get into a profile you think is fake, do some digging around looking for those distinctive red flags that signal a fake account, and then take the decision to continue interacting with them or not based on your findings. Now that everyone can lock their profiles, who’s to say who’s genuine and who’s fake? We can’t even look for those red flags anymore!

Ironically, Facebook just made it easier for troll accounts and fake accounts to exist. Previously, the trolls at least had to do a bit of work to appear authentic. Now they have to do absolutely nothing. This couldn’t get more ironically comical.

On the flip side a social media giant such as Facebook might reject or avoid any real solutions that exist out there for all these separate issues for fear of alienating or sidelining their target user base.

As Facebooks creators busily weigh the pros and cons of each decision with their safety teams, what do you think is a great way of keeping Facebook authentic, and troll and fake account free? Do let me know in the comments bar to the side.

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Caffeinated Thoughts

No niche in particular. I am a keen observer of society and gain my inspiration for new articles from observation.