The voyeuristic side of Facebook

Anthropologists who spend years studying human behaviour are wasting their time.

A couple of hours on Facebook would do the trick.

We're addicted to the gossip on that damn newsfeed.

In essence, Facebook reminds me of my mother gossiping with her friends - minus their occasional complaints about haemorrhoids. Having said that, I've just checked and there is an actual haemorrhoids Facebook page and it has 220 likes.

Who the hell likes a haemorrhoids page?

Now I'm not questioning the community value of a haemorrhoids Facebook page.

Actually, I am. It's a risky business to seek online treatments without professional advice.

I hope no one walks into a doctor's surgery room with flames shooting from their backside, saying: "Well Doc, there is this homemade treatment on the haemorrhoids Facebook page. All I used is some moisturiser, a splash of petrol and a box of matches. Now, do you have a bucket of water?"

When we visit the doctor, we do not prance around his waiting room and give all the patients a thumbs-up because he gave us an anti-itch cream.

But 220 people did on Facebook. They gave a tick of recommendation to a page on haemorrhoids. That's Facebook at its finest and weirdest.

Our best and worst traits are revealed by our postings and replies - especially those infuriatingly cryptic status updates.

You know what I'm talking about. Those titbits of juicy information, those little morsels of gossip dangled in front of us like a worm on a fishing hook.

These people can't share the full story on Facebook. Oh no. They must tease us first.

Earlier this week, I spotted one on my newsfeed.

The post simply said: "I've had the worst day EVER!"Just six words and his friends were hooked. Their addiction to pointless gossip reeled them all in. They were falling over themselves to offer fake sympathy to find out more. Here are some of the replies:

"Ah, sorry to hear that, can I help?" (In other words, what happened? Give me the gossip.)

"Yeah, I know how you feel, it's terrible, isn't it?" (I don't care how you feel. I want the gossip.)

"Hey, honey, why don't you send me a private message?" (You're not just a name I found on LinkedIn. We actually know each other, so give me the gossip or you're blocked.)

"I'm having a really bad day myself." (I'm actually surfing for porn and thoroughly enjoying myself, but I thought my made-up bad day might encourage you to share.)

Of course, I am above such petty mind games.

But the untameable questions broke free: Why did this guy have the worst day ever? What happened? Should I investigate?

His previous post was a photo of a bowl of fishball noodles. He had to let me know what had passed through his digestive system (I would not have been able to sleep had he not told me).

Was it the fishball noodles? Did they poison him? Did he fall in the soup? Did he drown? At least, I'd be spared his daily food photos.

Suddenly an hour had passed and I'd trawled through his entire Facebook feed and requested his medical records.

And that's exactly what he wants. That's the voyeuristic side of Facebook. He was desperate to reveal all about his bad day, but he wanted an audience first.

A month ago, my wife sat sulking in front of her laptop because her status update hadn't garnered many replies.

I asked: "What did you write?"

She replied: "I said that I'd just got back from the hospital. Hardly anyone asked what happened."

I said: "They're being sensitive. They don't know what's wrong. It could be something really personal like a death in the family, or a pregnancy, or haemorrhoids."

"It's none of those things," she said.

I replied: "But they don't know that."

My wife said: "Well, if they're not going to ask, I'm not going to tell them."

This is how we spend our lives - releasing the latest gossip on Facebook in coded snippets, holding back on full disclosure like we're working for the CIA.

But I'm no longer willing to play the game. There should be no more tantalising titbits. When it comes to gossip on my newsfeed, it's got to be all or nothing. That's only fair.

In return, I promise to provide detailed updates on my haemorrhoids page.

This article was published on April 6 in The New Paper.

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