Unfiltered Commentary: The “Follow-Back” Friend

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Alexandra Strausman

BY
COLUMNIST

My grandmother has six Facebook profile pictures. They are all the same picture, but each is cropped differently. She has employed and unemployed herself at a job called “Self-Employed” a dozen times. Her Facebook “likes” vary from PetMeds to sculpting to quilting to gardening. She has repeatedly posted videos of animals on her own wall captioning all of them “worth watching” and now has a total of seven tagged photos and twelve friends that she has accumulated since she joined Facebook Dec. 13, 2008.

The elder demographic in America did not grow up in our infectious social media culture. Despite this, the structures that mass media has established still appeal to them.

The sarcasm in a recent Esurance commercial comments on how the “friending” generation has sought to control our most important “social circles,” which in actuality are no more than virtual concepts. It features two elderly women arguing about who saves more on insurance while one woman posts printed photos to her living room wall. At the height of argument, the woman with Esurance says, “I unfriend you,” mocking how Facebook operates while showing that she is readily available to dispose of friends. The other woman replies, “That’s not how it works! That’s not how any of this works,” acknowledging the falsely created virtual friendships.

The friending generation has become a sign of status in high schools, college campuses, Hollywood and other groups of people. The amount of accumulated followers on social media outlets has worked to redefine social standings and has created a type of “looking up” behavior. This behavior has taken the friending generation to a new level with the amount of likes followers can reward pictures and comment on, which can reshape one’s popularity level.

It is no longer about knowing who is following you or who is your Facebook friend. It’s the number that counts. “Follow me” seems like the most common catch phrase of our generation because why wouldn’t we want to follow the person we met five minutes ago and learn what they’re always doing?

commentary A screenshot of Instagram hashtags that show just how obsessed social media users have become with who views and comments on their posts.

The preoccupation with that phrase has allowed for the creation of follow-back spam accounts on Instagram and allow Instagram users to buy more followers for the sole purpose of having more followers for the likes.

Media is often thought of as a place to “be yourself,” but does being yourself mean being that objectified figure that society wishes to perceive you as?

Remember in seventh grade when you forgot to upload a sign of life onto Facebook and a search team would declare you a missing person? It seems that since then, our media craze has only increased.

Facebook has demonstrated a sense of online community as well as the sense of danger that comes with exposing daily thoughts, pictures, etc. The friending generation has become a catalyst of our collective behavior commenting on the virtual realities that we deem as our most important reality even though it is untouchable.

Trapped deep within media confines, sometimes, just sometimes, it’s comforting to hear: “I’ll follow you back.”

The views reflected in this column do not necessarily represent those of The Review.

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