Facebook is Death’s Salesman

17 Mar

ImageThe famous Death of a Salesman is back.  Unfortunately, I’ll have to travel to New York to see it, but a wonderful New York Times reporter went on to say how timely its return is because it is a play about a middle class man’s self-worth and how he bases it on his salary.  It’s a play about how people cannot always keep their homes when they don’t earn the money that they’re supposed to, and it’s a play about how a person can put years of their life into hard work that doesn’t pay off.

Still, there is another layer to this complicated American drama.  It’s about the importance of being liked – not only liked but well-liked.  In the tragic Willy Lohman’s eyes Bic, his golden son, should be a success because he once possessed popularity.  His other son just works hard.

What does this mean for us in a 21st century context?  It means this:

“Thanks to the explosion in social media, being “well liked” has become practically a profession in itself. Adults as well as teenagers keep assiduous count of their Facebook friends and Twitter followers, and surely are inwardly if not outwardly measuring their worth by the rise or fall of the number. People are turning themselves into products, both for profit and for pleasure, and the inevitable temptation is to equate the popularity of your brand with your fundamental self-worth,” Charles Isherwood.

Recently, I had lunch with a co-worker and she said that she had deleted her Facebook account because it was making her unhappy, causing her to spend hours online comparing herself to others.  Wondering if what she was doing in life was enough if all of these other people were doing (what she perceived as) more.  She is not the first person that I’ve heard this from, and I must admit I’ve become a victim of that kind of thinking.

All new creations or technologies both give and take, nothing is either/or.  Life is more complicated than that; it is not an endless day nor is it always night.  However, I think that too little thought is put into the consequences of creation, as well as what it does to our humanity.

At the very pit of us is a vacuous need that yearns to be filled by others validation, and I don’t see this as a negative.  Its part of what makes us caring, considerate human beings – we’re just trying to be liked.  Though the truth is some people are more likable than others, find social interactions easier.  Some people can never stare into the mirror because it’s too frightening and create pseudo-online identities to meet the lack they feel inside.

The problem is that this need is a sandpit, and if you put others in it, they’ll sink.  Only the I, or your own self, can provide that inner nourishment that’s needed to feel content without throwing others into that inner pit.  It is our responsibility to cultivate our own happiness and this journey often takes a lifetime and sometimes death can seem like the only solution.

I’m not being a Facebook hater because as much as I’ve experienced its negative side (the endless hours of staring at people I no longer care about or thinking about the mistakes I’ve made), I’ve also experienced connections with people I’ve lost touch with or enjoyed the power to easily share my writing.  But I have taken a step back to question how I’m interacting with this technology – is it being a constructive or destructive force in my life?

If not used properly these social media technologies can turn us into adolescent monsters who are obessesed with popularity and likeability, but very few people share, “ had a terrible day are work, might get fired!”  Or, “gee, I really hate myself, do you too?”  Or, “I’ve gained 20 pounds, hooray!”  Very few people broadcast their own internal darkness because who wants to free their monsters?  Yes, occasionally they can cause some entertainment but they often cause unwanted chaos.

Death of Salesman in a way is now representative of us all.  Every person who has a Facebook and Twitter is essentially selling their identity, I know I am.  So please like me, but more importantly like yourself, regardless of which button is or isn’t clicked.

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