Saturday, April 14, 2012

What are you? Stupid?

This is what I asked myself this morning when I thought about going to Facebook.  Even after being away from that site for about a month, the villain still pursues me.  Facebook, my readers, is a serious addiction and one that is incredibly hard to fight.  There is no denying it.  It is, in every sense of the word, an addiction.

Wikipedia states: 
Addiction may be defined as the continued use of a mood altering substance or behavior despite adverse consequences.  Alternatively, it may be defined as a neurological impairment leading to such behaviors.
Facebook is definitely a 'mood altering substance' and has intense adverse consequences.  Wasted productivity.  Wasted time.  Wasted youth.  Wasted health and well being.  Entering into arguments, competition that leads to few if any 'rewards'.

What would happen if I went back to Facebook?  Well, first, I would revert to my old self and my old ways.  I would have to start over again, that is, if the gravitational pull of Facebook was not too strong to keep me from pulling away again.    I fear that if I ever do go back, I may never again be able to leave, and that scares me.  In fact, it chills me to the bone.

When an alcoholic goes for a drink of whiskey after a few months sober, does he have a hard time giving it up again?  What about a vegan who reaches for a slice of cheese after six months of abstaining?   It can not be denied that Facebook is an addiction, and if it was not, people would easily be able to walk away.

Yet people ARE NOT easily able to walk away from Facebook.  They make countless excuses to stay on that site, often times feeding themselves lies such as "I could leave, but don't see a point.  It's good to be here.  Everyone else who I know is here."  Some may even say or think that there is something wrong with you if you are not on Facebook.  Well, perhaps we have an epidemic on our hands then, don't we?

To the few people out there who never jumped on the bandwagon.  Don't!  It is not worth it.  There are other ways to contact friends and be a part of society.  Other ways that are actually beneficial.  Why restrict your social life to a computer?  Why enter into a world of arguing and bickering on the internet?  Why become obsessed with checking what people are doing?  Do you really need to share with the world that your new child has a dirty diaper?  I imagine the pull of Facebook is INCREDIBLY strong for new parents (more on this in a future post).

Addiction often has a low effect and a high effect.  Facebook is no different.  For example, the high effect on Facebook are the 'strokes' a person receives when they post something funny or interesting.  A snide comment can get you the 'likes' of many friends and family.  In fact, it could be argued that the 'like' feature is merely a mechanism to create addiction.  Notice how there is no dislike feature?  Pictures posted and shared of a vacation to a remote paradise become the envy of those who you were always uber-competitive with.   Yet another high is the pride of creating something, such as a profile, and making it distinctively yours.  The self-expression of making who you are known through that profile, and showing that to the world is again another.  If you are shy or feel invisible, perhaps the idea of people noticing you is too much to resist.  I was always a shy individual and was once thrilled that people were able to see all of my accomplishments in life.  Indeed these were the highs of Facebook. 

The lows are extreme.  Realizing that you spent a whole day on Facebook.  Being fired for spending too much time on it.  A post that was too controversial and started a 'Facebook War'.  Realizing that your grades and relationship are suffering because of Facebook.  An illicit relationship brought to you by not just a predisposition to cheat on your spouse/significant other, but through the ease of doing so on a site that is a vehicle for easy infidelity.  Not spending time with your family and children who are all around you, and instead being glued to a screen hoping that your friends will notice your latest status update.  The shame you feel when you post something embarrassing.  The feeling of being ignored when you post something and nobody notices it.  The jealousy of other people doing the things you worked so hard to do, such as buying a house or getting a great job or even going on a vacation to somewhere you have always dreamed of.

As with any addiction there is also a withdrawal stage.  You may find yourself angry, irritable, with intense cravings to go back (I feel these, and no doubt you will feel this as well), and possibly sadness.  You may think that you somehow left your friends behind.  You may think that the rest of the world is having fun except for you.  They are not though.  Some of them are fighting and arguing amongst themselves.  Many of them are spending inordinate amounts of hours glued to the site while producing little of value for society.  It will be you that is enjoying your life.  It will be you who is growing as an individual, and being able to foster real relationships that involve more than a short message. 

Facebook is, in no doubt, an addiction.  To call it anything else is kidding yourself.  I won't be going back today.  Like any addiction, I must take this one a day at a time.  For each hour you find yourself not on that site, congratulate yourself.  It is hard to let go.  It's hard to take the initial first step and deactivate it.  Facebook has made it easy to return, and the creators made it to be addicting.  After all, it would not be worth billions of dollars if it was not (some say that Facebook is worth over $100 billion, although that is questionable).

Make yourself a spreadsheet or take a notebook or journal and keep track of the day you left Facebook and what you have done since leaving.  Every once in a while look back and see how long you went.  Feel proud!  You will notice that the longer you are away the more you will have accomplished.  If you feel the urge to rejoin the site, look back at the notebook.  Keep it close to your computer as a reminder of what you have done.  This is a greater accomplishment than anything you ever did while on Facebook.  Take each minute at a time.  Each day tell yourself you made it a day and you can make it another day.  You don't need Facebook.  I promise you that.  You are so much better without it.  It is an addiction that has taken the world by storm in mere years.  It's going to take serious time for people to leave it, but like many other fads, it won't be around forever.  When it's gone people will look back to the time they wasted on it, and you can say "I did so much while everyone else was pacified."

14 comments:

  1. Great blog! I am a graduate student and, with the hand of a friend, we both simultaneously deactivated our facebook accounts over two months ago.

    I joined facebook on December 3, 2004, when it was still thefacebook (I have the confirmation email to show). I often go against the grain and dare to be different, in a positive, motivating, inspirational way in hopes to better myself or a goal. In the present day, the decision for me to de-activate my Facebook was a combination of 1) expectation of more time for graduate studies; 2) to see who my 'real' friends are (that is worthy of a blog in and of itself- the transition from no FB took a toll not only on me, but also friends); 3) to see if I could make it, unlike the handful of my friends who have deactivated at some point and re-activated shortly thereafter; 4) to be an early adopter in the fleeing of facebook.

    Leaving facebook was somewhat difficult at first; I regularly missed out on some events (not that I would have gone anyway, as a grad student and full time worker my time is tight, but being invited is always nice) with friends giving an excuse of 'if you were on FB, you would have known.' It took a good month until some people started to invite me via other methods (text, call), but the information flow was minute compared to that on FB.

    Now that it has been over two months, it feels great. I still feel that I am missing out on much that is going on (looking at friends photos, keeping up with peoples lives who I don't see in person due to geographic boundaries, etc), but I feel exultant that I am one of the very few of my network of friends who has left facebook and lasted more than a few days or a week.

    In short, I feel more validated by being different from everyone else, and not being on facebook, rather than being one amongst hundreds of millions. I am contemplating if I will re-activate at the conclusion of the semester. At this time, I have no idea. It is perhaps a 50/50 chance. I know that, if I do return, it will either be for good, or I will go through the ordeal again as the fall semester approaches.

    Leaving FB has been an exciting roller coaster. However, after the initial bumps, it is quite a relief and burden off m shoulders. I look forward to your future blogs!

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  2. I'm liking your blog a lot. I've been de-activating and re-activating FB since last summer. Re-joining the site just reminds me of how little I get out of it, and how good it feels being away from it. Good luck with law school.

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  3. Hilarious u can share this on FB

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    1. I don't think that there is a way to take that off, and at first I didn't like it, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that if this gets shared on Facebook, some of the users will see it, and they may think deeper about their presence on Facebook. Hopefully some good will be brought about as a result.

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  4. I'd love to read your take on parents that post embarrassing details about their children.

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  5. I don't get how facebook can be addictive though. What exactly does it have that no other social networking site have that makes it so attractive to people? I personally wouldn't know since i've never had an account nor wish to have one in the future but God if only i'd created facebook then i'd be making millions!
    Here's a tip to stop those fb urges: Everytime you feel like signing in, just picture the owners recieving thick wads of cash! You lose, they win. Is that motivation enough?

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    1. It's not the site itself that is addictive. It's the thought of being able to be the center of attention in other people's lives. Facebook helps make the mundane things about life, such as what you ate, or who you saw in traffic, exciting. You find that others 'like' what you say. Further, you find that the people who you obsessed about in high school and college are more interested in what you have to say than you thought (or so it seems). It's a way to keep tabs on your competition. If you graduate from college, you get to announce that to people who otherwise would have not known about it. And that feels good.

      Further, the more your develop your profile, the more you 'invest' in it. In many people's minds, it becomes a part of you. The more you say and post, the more you feel that others are following your life, even enthralled by it. I believe that this is what makes Facebook so addicting.

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  6. It's been 2 months for me officially today, and I read this post again to mark it. It has been encouraging to read your blog throughout the process. Since I've been off the site, the positive changes in my life have been many. Mostly, I feel a freedom that many, by their own choice, do not get to feel. I'm not a slave to the opinions and approval of others. I'm in no way accountable to a large group of strangers who have no bearing on my life or future. I'm no longer feeling the sick anxious feeling I would get from "casually stalking" people on the site. I used to think it was just normal and I was weird for feeling that way. But spending hours looking at a computer screen/phone trying to fill a void with a virtual life is not healthy, it's maladaptive. I have so much more time for things to help me get ahead now, I'm not worried about what anyone thinks or how clever I am. That spills over into the rest of my life. I can concentrate better at work...I really could go on. But this really has been a journey for me. Facebook was part of my life since 2007...that's a long time to be filling a void with more emptiness. I don't even want to know how many hours were wasted, I'll just take it as a life lesson learned.

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    1. I am very glad to hear that your experience leaving Facebook has been so life changing. I was surprised myself to see the positive changes that were taking place. I recently took a trip to visit my family on the west coast. Many of them are still knee deep on Facebook and obsessed with it as ever. The topic came up constantly. "Did you see x's Facebook?" "Your sister's Facebook mentioned that she is..." I cringed at first hearing the topic mentioned, but as time passed, I realized just how much better off I was. Sadly, my family refuses to visit this site, instead spending inordinate amounts of time on Facebook. Certain members have multiple profiles which in itself is troublesome.

      Further, I found that Facebook held me back motavationally. I thought that due to other people's troubles with job searching, the economy, and life, that I would have the same problems. It held me back from even trying. Now I don't have to listen to any of the negativity (and it all got so negative right before I left). Instead, I can focus on my own life and what makes me happier and a better person.

      I am glad you found out that leaving was better for you at this point in life. Some people will spend many more years on social networking, spending hours upon hours a day hooked into it as if it was the point in life. Sadly, that's no way to live.

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  7. I'm very glad I read this blog before ever going on facebook. I'm an older individual so was always skeptical. My skepticism has been confirmed.

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  8. Thank you for your blog! I enjoy reading your posts, this one in particular. It IS hard to leave facebook, but I did and your insights into how stupid it is have helped me in the process. It truly is an addiction, especially for people in their 20s. But within 5 days of leaving facebook I had called friends and family much more often, gotten a new job, updated the blog, took pictures that I didn't have to show off and revamped the budget. I hope more people leave facebook soon. It gives you your life back!

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    1. I'm glad you have enjoyed reading this blog. I have found that it's easy to get your life back on track when I am not distracted. Facebook is a massive distraction. It is very hard for a person in their 20s to give up Facebook. It is an uphill battle to resist the urge to log on when everyone you know is on the site. But, I keep reminding myself of the accomplishments I make every day without it, and the stagnation that existed in my life when I was a Facebook addict.

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  9. My experience, regarding people that are addicted to the internet, is that they need to feel recognized or praised, show people they are somebody. I see many habitual Facebook users posting ridiculous trivialities about themselves in hope of a glimmer of a "like" or the receiving of complements.

    It's sad, but I am glad the internet contains such uncultured people, so that I see less of them in the real world, better their egos are absorbed into the net than thrust into the faces of the unassuming, Or even better still, I hope for a world of selfless good values, rather than materialistic individuals.

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  10. Here's something I noticed about fb. At the top of the fb page there is that section in a faded blue. It's a very blah and almost fuzzy color. Gloomy. When a notification pops up the red color is very pretty and stands out nicely. I think it makes the brain produce dopamines. Once I changed my colors online. I went with a black background and variously colored texts. On fb, with the black background only a white number showed up. No pretty red against a faded, sad blue. It did not produce dopamines in my brain. They've got it all figured out, don't they? Even the colors are out to get us.

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