By Brittany Gonzales
Do any of us remember the days we used to get letters? Or in school when we’d get super excited to see our friends the next morning? Or when communication was actually a treat or a really special sign of affection instead of an obligation? There was a day when all of your relatives and friends would call you on your birthday and special holidays and you actually had stuff to talk about because…you hadn’t stalked one another on the internet their whole lives. It was a time when news was exciting! Other people were exciting! A conversation was a little gold nugget of sunshine because it was rare, sweet, and special. Those were good days. So what happened?
I’ll tell you what happened. Facebook. Facebook happened and then everyone became boring, milliseconds made interesting-life-news old news, and conversation became an obligation. Oddly, this specific episode of South Park; You Have 0 Friends, in season 14, describes and explains the reality of Facebook in a way that has never felt more sincere.
In a very brief summation of this episode, Kyle makes a Facebook profile for Stan, who clearly wanted nothing to do with Facebook and is adamant about not having one. Once the profile is up, however, Stan becomes pressured to interact with family on his page, as well as friends, and even people he doesn’t know. There’s a really humorous part in the episode where Wendy, Stan’s girlfriend confronts him in the hallway at school after seeing that he hadn’t added her and more importantly, hadn’t updated his ‘relationship status’ to ‘in a relationship’. The first words out of her mouth are, “Am I a joke to you Stan?”.
People began replacing their actual relationships with others for the internet-associated ideas of those people. Uncle Jimmy could send you a birthday card every birthday for years but when he’s the only family member that didn’t post “Happy Birthday” to your wall, he’s loves you the least. It’s a very common and sad phenomenon that’s spread through society just as quickly as Alex from Target and Cat videos on Youtube.
Kyle, in this episode, gets so obsessed with how many Facebook ‘friends’ that he has that he can no longer acknowledge his friends in real life and shows up on Stan’s doorstep crying. Though obviously exaggerated for comedic effect, this kind of false self perceptions run rampant on real life middle schoolers, and even elementary students now that Facebook is a household tool. How many times did we ourselves feel this way, or see others feel this way since these social networks were created? How many girls out there had fights with their friends in their youth because their best friend chose some other girl as the first person on their Myspace ‘Friends List’? We can only imagine that the emotional turmoil has increased tenfold since then with the influx of social media culture.
This observation is not life threatening, or totally culture threatening, or even particularly relevant to anyone without preteen and teenage kids. However, I feel it’s imperative that these flaws with social media are noted, understood, and eventually addressed because the problem will only escalate as social media becomes more and more popular. For the youth’s sake, it might be helpful to address the effects of social media in assemblies, so that as the younger generation understands all aspects of these sites at earlier ages, they may become less detrimental to self awareness and their perception of life