This week’s readings involved discussion around Facebook, loneliness, online anonymity and identity, and refuting arguments that make sweeping generalizations and claims without citation of consistent evidence, if any.
Regarding the two articles arguing whether Facebook makes us lonely, at first, I thought that the initial Atlantic article defending that claim made some interesting points I agreed with. For example, I thought the author’s point about Americans spending money to achieve loneliness under the guise of individualism seemed perfectly reasonable. After reading the refutation to the initial article, I then realized that there were many problems with the reliability and validity of the piece. The refutation’s author notes that the Atlantic story’s author used highly inconsistent evidence to back up their claims, compared to other research in that field. The Atlantic author makes a vague claim that “various studies have shown loneliness rising drastically over a very short period of recent history,” but never provides any citations or references to these articles. There is even evidence presented in the refutation piece that found that there has been little change in the quantity and quality of Americans’ relationships over the past 40 years. Overall, the refutation argues that there is not enough well-supported evidence in the original piece, or the sociological research field in general, that suggests that Americans are more detached or lonely than ever before. I appreciated reading both pieces because it reminded me that I need to be more critical of the articles I read and the sources they use so I don’t end up misled or misinformed.
In addition to the two articles surrounding Facebook and loneliness, I also was intrigued by the article about anonymity online. I agree with their point that “the idea of Facebook as a good time ended when the well-intentioned relatives and co-workers arrived,” and that it became “everything oppressive about identity”. I have created and used pseudoanonymous social media accounts in the past as a way to escape from the workplace/family-friendly way I present myself on Facebook. I’m not saying I’m a completely different person than what my profile suggests, I just appreciate the occasional break on social media from the persona I typically reserve for job interviews and discussions with my grandmother. On platforms where I have more control over who can follow me or see my content, and I don’t have to appear as I am on a legal ID (relating back to the article about drag queens on Facebook), I enjoy using a semi-anonymous profile to share my thoughts and opinions on topics that interest me. This way, I can be more honest and open online without worrying about how my professional acquaintances or distant relatives may judge me based on insignificant matters like my movie opinions or food preferences.