Traverse City Record-Eagle

Generation Why

June 4, 2012

Facebook buries the true person

Until around the age of 6, I was completely convinced I was a robot.

I was an inventive toddler who loved to dream up new worlds in which I could hide away from all problems and lose myself in my imagination. Not only did I use these worlds as a personal escape from reality, but I used them to escape from people.

I had difficulties communicating with others — to the point where I felt disconnected and different. I convinced myself that because I couldn't speak to others something was deeply wrong with me, so naturally, my childhood brain dreamed up the idea that I was a tin man. It was easier for me to believe that I was actually part machine than a girl who simply lacked communication skills and was painfully shy.

I often dreamed of ways of communicating with others without actually having to face the humiliating repercussions of a conversation gone sour.

My prayers were answered at the end of my freshman year in high school when I was coaxed into trying a website that would allow me to put a computer screen between me and the person I was conversing with: Facebook.

When I first signed up for Facebook I didn't realize what a colossal impact it would have on my life. As soon as I hit the confirm button and my social networking account sprang into existence I was addicted. I soon began feverishly sending out friend requests, updating statuses every few hours, and messaging people who I was too afraid to talk to in person.

Facebook became my personal voicebox, a way for me to scrape off the rust that had built up on my steely façade and communicate with others as I never had before. I was always enthralled when I logged on and saw the message icon glow red which signaled another person to converse with. I was slowly becoming more and more sociable without ever opening my timid mouth. Soon, however, my social butterfly wings were ripped off as reality came crashing down on me.

Facebook consumed me. My communication skills began to progressively worsen as I held a majority of my conversations over the Internet. I became just another part in the mechanism that is Facebook. My face soon became my profile picture, my voice morphed into the keyboard that sent my messages, my brain became my statuses and the statuses of others on my newsfeed, my eyes became glazed over from the sight of it all.

I had thought that Facebook was my saving grace, a way for me to interact with other people. But the truth is, it stripped me of my ability talk to others. My shyness pushed me into creating an identity for myself online, but in all reality, I was isolating myself from the world.

Facebook was a way to interact with others, but a computer screen can never take the place of an actual feeling, breathing person or the way you feel around them. Facebook can never act as a replacement for human interaction, because that would be as impossible as trying to turn a pile of tin into a human being.

By my seventh birthday, I concluded that I, in fact, was not a robot. But I was wrong. I am still a robot. We all are.

Facebook crafts us all into robots. Not the kind I envisioned myself as when I was a child, but the kinds that are cold, calculating machines that suck in information and then spit it back out without a second thought. The kinds that hide behind computer screens because they can no longer speak for themselves. The breed like me, who conform to society by creating a website account that steals your very voice and turns you into a cold, hard shell of a being instead of the people you truly are.

Maggie Marshall is graduating from Elk Rapids High School this month.

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