psychobabble

Facebook News Feed IS The New Soap Opera

Wikipedia says that soap plots and storylines make it distinct from other TV programs, for these reasons:

The main characteristics that define soap operas are “an emphasis on family life, personal relationships, sexual dramas, emotional and moral conflicts; some coverage of topical issues; set in familiar domestic interiors with only occasional excursions into new locations”. Fitting in with these characteristics, most soap operas follow the lives of a group of characters who live or work in a particular place, or focus on a large extended family. The storylines follow the day-to-day activities and personal relationships of these characters. “Soap narratives, like those of film melodramas, are marked by what Steve Neale has described as ‘chance meetings, coincidences, missed meetings, sudden conversions, last-minute rescues and revelations, deus ex machina endings’ “.

Just so you know, I don’t often go to Wikipedia in an attempt to answer life’s questions. Okay, I do, but only sometimes and for objectivity, and that’s not the point I want to make in this entry. What’s with these soaps that they cause both homemakers and career women to eat early dinners and be on first-name basis with the characters?  I asked around, and some prime-time TV aficionados told me that beyond being entertained, they get hooked on soaps, because these allow them to live vicariously through the characters, relate to the motivations of both the protagonist and antagonist, and know that despite the twists and turns, the final episode would always tie all the loose ends together. If art imitates life, then soaps are a safe concoction of reality and fantasy. Not a far cry from online social networks.

Being the reformed fb addict that I am, I put my research skills to use once again and lurked online for a couple of days. That means, initially,  I didn’t create my own posts or do anything that would stimulate a response. All I did was observe and read other users’ posts. (Hey, I read your mind; I wasn’t stalking!) Here are the initial results of my observation:

  • From status updates alone, you would have to have an EQ of 10 for you not to be able to tell the difference between someone making a random post about a crappy day in the office  and one whose lovelife seems to be falling apart.
  • Status updates can double as blind items and open letters. A college classmate once said, “Alcohol allows you to do the things you can’t when you’re sober.” Well, status updates allow you to say the things you can’t when you have to say it to that other person’s face.
  • If you don’t comment on somebody’s post (which that somebody somehow feels should merit a response), that somebody is bound to think that you have something against him/her.
  • The relationship status is placed under “highlights,” so you’d know when your ex (assuming he’s on your fb friends list) has gotten engaged (boohoo or hallelujah?) or when your crush is single again (woohoo!).
  • It is my arrogant opinion that some Notes and fb stats are meant for a particular somebody in some users’ friends list.
  • There’s an option to “publish” or “skip” posting on the News Feed, so yes, we’re calling attention to ourselves when we do publish.
  • Most people who opt to hit “publish” usually post something about their lovelife (or lack of?)
  • Most posts are bound to elicit responses, such as “aw…” or pity (Some posts are outright pitiful).
  • Some posts appear to be written by fb users who channel hybrids of literary/suicidal geniuses Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath, the misogynist Schopenhauer, and the philosopher Friedrich “Tragedy is an affirmation of life” Nietzsche.

Needless to say, I need to squint sometimes just so I can keep in touch with my friends and relatives on Facebook without having to read the News Feed and watching some of them embarrass themselves. It’s like bringing your best friend to a party hosted by an international honor society that you belong to and listening to her gush at how much she thinks Robin Goodfellow’s poetry rocks (Of course, you know she means Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, but she’s still fixated on high school Stage and Drama that she forgets Robin Goodfellow is a.k.a. Puck of the donkey head fame). But then again, if you’re cruel or simply a gossip monger, then the News Feed is a smorgasbord where you can have your fill of the funniest melodramas, the saddest comedies, and the most mortifying proud moments. If you think that I’ve gone overboard with my antitheses here, then you’d think the brewing conflicts in the fb plot are insane. Therefore, I conclude, without a shadow of a doubt, that the Facebook News Feed is indeed the new soap opera, and in soaps, the most pitiful girls always get the most eligible bachelors in the end. Oooh, so that explains everything? Hmm, I should pre-heat my oven for the popcorn (oh right, I don’t have an oven)… or I can open a bag of potato chips and plop down on my bean bag and see what’s on for tonight. And don’t you judge me. I’m doing this in the name of research. And this is my blog.

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