You have probably seen the meme that compare sunglasses to Facebook. The meme suggests that the two are similar in as much as they allow you to stare at people without getting caught. There is a lot of validity to that statement.
The point of this post is to explore the psychology behind the sunglasses-Facebook meme. Below the surface, it tells us something about human nature. It tells us that we are all undeniably curious yet equally private at the same time. We desire to maintain our privacy even while knowing the entire world is staring. It’s a strange juxtaposition.
Our Voyeuristic Tendencies
We human beings tend to be a very voyeuristic species. Perhaps it’s because of the way our brains are wired. We are interminably curious about the world around us, sometimes to our own detriment. Our insatiable desire to want to know everything can lead to a certain amount of voyeurism even in the most innocuous settings.
Think about the rubbernecking that goes on following a motor vehicle accident. Traffic can come to a complete standstill even when you’re dealing with nothing more than a minor fender bender. Yet that’s the way of life. Similar things happen everywhere you go.
You are on the beach and you notice a couple sitting a few dozen yards away not getting along. It would kill you to not watch them, so you do. But because you’re wearing a pair of oversized designer sunglasses from Olympic Eyewear, you need only turn your head slightly and look through the lenses. They will never know you’re watching them instead of your kids playing in the water.
Facebook lets us similarly pry into other people’s lives without them really knowing. Let’s say one of your friends has an impressively large friends list consisting of hundreds of different people. You could follow every single post that person puts up and he or she would never know the difference. That says nothing of all those people whose posts you see even though you’re not friends.
The net effect of Facebook’s posting structure is one of near anonymity. Yes, you may be locked out of certain Facebook profiles with security settings locked down, but there are millions of other people whose private lives you can peer into with very little effort on your part. And yes, we all do it.
Hiding What We Are Thinking
The other side of the voyeuristic coin is being able to hide what you’re thinking. Fashion guru Anna Wintour immediately comes to mind in the designer sunglasses arena. In early 2018, she took plenty of heat from the fashion crowd when she was spotted wearing sunglasses in the presence of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth. That’s just something you don’t do.
Wintour was honest in admitting that she makes a practice of always wearing her sunglasses because she doesn’t want people to be able to read her facial expressions. She purposely hides what she’s thinking and feeling so that she maintains an edge.
You can do the same thing on Facebook. Every one of us is free to post whatever we like. If we are having a miserable day, no one else has to know. We can post sunshine and roses with just a dash of rainbow and unicorn. And when we look at other people’s posts, we have to be careful not to read too far into them. A lot of what appears in social media is fake anyway.
The meme is true. Sunglasses and Facebook are similar in multiple ways. Maybe that’s why the meme is so funny.