I feel like this piece nicely summarizes some of my reflections on the psychology of Facebook
…Rather than eradicate shyness, Facebook seems to generalize its pathology to all its users. In this, it serves a broader project of institutionalizing a kind of subjectivity suitable to neoliberalism, that is, to socioeconomic conditions of pervasive risk in which isolated individuals are expected to be perpetually flexible, unattached to any particular identity, and willing to bear much more responsibility for coping with instability. Whereas it was once plausible to talk of orderly and predictable stages and roles in one’s life, economic destabilization has rendered such a course unlikely for most people. Instead, most face precarity — economic insecurity as a structured and permanent component of life rather than a temporary anomaly. Because work conditions are subject to change without notice and work itself is not guaranteed, the distinction between work and nonwork blurs. One must adopt an entrepreneurial attitude toward the business of life, identifying opportunities whenever they come and cultivating resources to replace what was once offered for merely adhering to the standard life pattern.
The shy person’s fear of social failure once seemed disproportionate to what was actually at stake ; it seemed a strictly personal matter with few economic ramifications. But now they shy person’s apprehension of social risk seems entirely rational, as who you know and what they are willing to do for you may be the key to one’s economic survival. Social capital has never been so important, seeming to dwarf the significance of the unexploitable aspects of friendship. This is a reason more and more social interaction registers as inconvenience. Social media allows us to feel we can draw on a huge wealth of information while participating in social life at our own convenience, controlling it to our advantage as a way of managing risk without having to make any compromises or sacrifices to partake in a community, which recedes as a utopian ideal.
Older media forms once offered vicarious entertainment in exchange for our passivity. We could escape from ourselves by projecting into fictional worlds designed to welcome us and to reinforce our sense of the rightness of the roles tradition forced upon us. The refuge for the shy person, beyond the illusion that entertainment addresses us directly and renders us less alone, was in the rigidity and pervasiveness of such standards. One could disappear into conformity, unthreatened by the sense that everyone else was leading a more exceptional life. But now traditional roles have been discarded, and individuals are instead expected to develop original lifestyles, aspects of which can be appropriated to drive an economy that increasingly relies on stylistic innovations for growth. Social media is at once the field in which these lifestyles are deployed and where they harvested for economic advantage as marketing information. Facebook demands interactivity and does not tolerate passivity. It promises not escape from the self but immersion in it. Under such circumstances, when total self-involvement serves as a perfect substitute for gregariousness, shyness becomes irrelevant. Eventually, it will become nostalgic.