Social Spheres in Facebook

Are you still in contact with your high school friends? Maybe even your middle school ones too? Even though they’re at other colleges, do you “comment” and “like” their posts when they come up? It’s a little funny to think that ten years ago, when all of us left for college, we would’ve had drastically less communication with our former classmates than we do now. They had no cell phones, no social networks; go back a decade and email would have been gone too!

Contrast that to today, where anyone can now log onto FAcebook or Twitter and immediately see what their friends are doing, wherever they are in the world. We don’t have to pick up a phone to communicate, or type out a more formal email message. We can see what songs they’ve listened to, what interactions they’ve had with their new college friends. And we’re able to remain in contact with them, no matter where they are.

However, this trend has spawned a arguably negative side effect. With more ways to stay in contact with old friends, there is more pressure for people to keep up their social standing. No longer do people only have to keep up appearances and actions with the friends they see every day in college; we now have to manage how our high school friends, middle school buddies, and even parents see us online. Managing ore social spheres is a difficult task, and most people only present one view of themselves on their profile at once. I mean, how many people have you met who tailor their posts stories to their different lists on Facebook or circles on Google+?

A recent study done in the UK concluded that the more connections people have with their past friends, the more of a source of stress those connections will be. While rather logical, it shows the dramatic effect social networks, especially Facebook, has had on people’s personal lives. The researchers write that users “are more likely to feel socially anxious as it will be difficult, if not possible, to meet the expectations of all audiences simultaneously.” In essence, social networks are where different social spheres converge (when previously they were, sometimes purposefully, kept separate!), and that convergence puts more pressure on the individual to “fit” into standards accepted by all of the social spheres.

Consequently, most people end up falling into one of two extremes. One typically stops caring about what different social groups see about them, while the other posts on Facebook so infrequently such that the only posts about them are too vague to draw any conclusions. I have seen very few people tailor themselves to different social groups, regardless, the fact that people have to manage multiple social groups still seems to complicate their lives.

People may say that Facebook is great and all for connecting with old friends, but that in itself might be a bad thing. Sometimes a fresh break from the past is what people need in their lives: to not have to care about how people they know in the past see them as they are now. Facebook prevents that from happening. No longer will friends remember you as you were when they knew you, they’ll also know you on what your’e like now, whether you like it or not.


PS. I have seen some people unfriend [practically] everyone in their contact lists when they go to college, which sounds like a effective, if not extreme, way to mitigate this.

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