Do Not Trust the Terrible Video That Tells You Not to Trust Facebook

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
June 25 2014 5:32 PM

Do Not Trust the Terrible Video That Tells You Not to Trust Facebook

FT-140625-Facebook
"What's on your mind?"

Still from YouTube.

You know what is a shockingly accurate representation of reality? Facebook. Said no one. But don’t worry, that hasn’t stopped HigtonBros—a trio of brothers from Norway—from creating a video warning people that, when it comes to social media, appearances can be deceiving.

The 2 ½ minute short follows a sadsack guy through a series of depressing setbacks: His girlfriend cheats on him, they break up, he loses his job, he gets drunk alone in his car. After each bummer, he posts a #blessed-style status update on Facebook (“FINALLY SINGLE!!!” “Quit my dead-end job!!! #followyourdreams”) and watches the likes pile up. Finally, overcome by the emptiness of his existence, tears in his eyes, he types something honest like “my life sucks” into the update bar, and his friends hide him from their feeds. The end! We have learned that Facebook slurps the authenticity out of human experience, that people are terrible, and that happiness is an unrealistic dream.

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Per Sploid, this “piercing short” will inspire you “to focus on your present reality,” because “the circus of social media” is “a lie.”

Ultimately, Facebook is a narcissistic playground where the best, the funniest, the most charming aspects of our lives are publicized and the shitty stuff, the boring stuff, the beige that is most of our daily grind almost never gets posted. All those walls are edited at some level and that makes them, at best, a deformed mirror image of real life or, at worst, nothing more than a fictional movie of how we want people to see us.

I disagree! Facebook is where weird metaphors about mimesis go to die convulsively. A deformed mirror image. A fictional movie. A re-enactment of our day by trained professional ice-skaters in spangly tutus who sing their lines to the tune of “Someday My Prince Will Come.” A SeaWorld production where you are the orca and your friends are otters with wings and your adversaries are the chopped-up fish. A looking glass made of cotton candy and YOLO, except it also traps your soul until the next person looks into it, which only happens every hundred years, because you’re in an enchanted castle deep in the wilds of Zuckerbergia. Your turn!

But anyway. I would like to suggest that despite all our FOMO and You Didn’t Eat That and general airbrushing, Facebook is not that inaccurate. Few people actually lie about what they’re up to, pretending to skydive when they are in fact, say, binge-watching The Bachelor. Yes, we may turn up the volume on the good news, and indeed, one 2013 study suggested that reading others’ “glowingly positive” Facebook posts might have a negative effect on self-esteem. But we may also post cryptically melancholy status updates in an effort to get our friends to comfort us after a bad day. We may share an article that delighted/outraged/intrigued us. We may even have read it!

The terrible, awful, no-good, very bad truth is that some people—including some people on Facebook—are just happy. It stinks, I know. They are the worst. But you can’t blame technology for everything.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Katy Waldman is a Slate staff writer.