The Facebook facade

Story by Emily Gresbrink

 

The standard routine of a college student – “checking their e-mail and studying” – goes a little bit like this: log on, check Facebook, check e-mail, hop onto Twitter, maybe blog a bit, and eventually get around to doing homework.

Sound about right? That’s how it was for me too. That is, until I gave up Facebook.

(This is the part where dramatic music plays in the background, lightning strikes and there is a stereotypical high-pitched horror movie scream.)

Recently, I decided to have my roommate change my Facebook password and hide that password from me until I said otherwise. I figured this was wise because during this stressful period of midterms and general apathy towards the semester, more effort is needed to, you know, pass your classes and not fail at life.

Needless to say, I’ve gotten a lot of crap about this ‘hiatus.’ People assume you’ve fallen off the face of the earth when you leave Facebook for more than six days. “Did you see that on Facebook,” they ask. “No I didn’t,” I say. “I was doing homework.” Then come the snide looks and the “oh my God she’s SOOO out of the loop, she’s not cool anymore” vibes.

Last spring I did the same thing, but that time it was my mother. She thought I was depressed, antisocial and was apparently unaware of my well-being. Her teary phone call telling me to “please let me know you’re alive!” was a wake-up call: I use Facebook way too much.

And, up until recently, it stayed that way. Hours and hours of my life compulsively checking those notifications and tagging pictures, creeping the latest breakups and occasionally putting up ‘meaningful’ song lyrics as a status. Those hours are gone forever, time I could have spent boosting my grades, or reading, or walking a dog, or something actually productive.

I’d be a liar to say I don’t use social networks at all. I tweet like a mad woman, but I feel like Twitter is just somewhere I can speak those stupid thoughts not blog or Facebook-worthy. You can’t really converse over Twitter, unless it’s through mentions. And besides that, what else is there to do besides follow celebrities? It’s simple, and gets boring much more quickly than other sites. Therefore, it’s not as big of a waste of time.

But at least I can take comfort in knowing I’m not as bad as others. Social networking and online gaming are starting to become legitimate addictions that medical facilities around the country are treating in rehab-type settings, similar to the ways that people with addictions to chemicals are treated. These people seriously start experiencing withdrawal from not signing onto their networks.

Now that’s downright terrifying! To think that your brain can become dependent on the mini-adrenaline rush received from getting a friend request? That’s just sad. What happened to making friends in real life? What happened to going and talking to someone in person, even on the phone, as opposed to wall posts or chatting?

It’s also slightly terrible (yet somehow hilarious) that people post drunken Friday night escapades all over Facebook, tag them, have potential employers find them, and lose the best job ever because of a keg stand. What I’m starting to wonder is why would you want to consistently pay attention to and enjoy something that very well is ruining your life in a lot of ways?

In a roundabout way, I’m trying to say we need to learn to prioritize our time better and use social networking in moderation. Don’t make it your pastime, make it something special. It takes some discipline and self-control, and perhaps a lot of crap from your friends because of your absence from the ‘book, but trust me: your GPA, future employers, and low stress levels will thank you.

Plus, you don’t want to run the risk of a full-blown addiction to the Internet. That’s money spent on getting professional help, a lot of time (that you won’t know how to prioritize!), and honestly … kind of embarrassing.

Sure, I see the benefits of social networking. I get that it connects you with people you don’t see a lot, such as classmates from high school or distant family or someone living far away where phone calls and in-person correspondence isn’t possible. But my point here is that it’s gotten to the irreversible and unfortunate point where we can’t get off these networks because we’ve gotten too far into them to get out.

I challenge you all to deactivate your Facebook or addictive social networking sites for just one week (I would say MySpace, but who really uses that anymore?). You might find that your mind is clearer and focused, you have motivation to get out and move forward with life, and stay connected in ways different than before.