Thursday, March 28, 2013

Do you have an incessant urge to check up on the lives of others?


One of Facebook's draws is that it allows you to be a real life spy.  Once you sign up and collect some friends, you can constantly follow their lives at the push of a button.  The more people you know and find, the more time you can spend tracking their every movement.  Of course, such tracking comes at a cost. 

Every human is bound by the constraints of time.  Using any resource requires skill, and with practice, many get better at it.  Time is just another resource, one that requires some thought in order to use wisely.  Facebook costs people a great amount of time.  Almost every person has some kind of goal they are going after in life.  Many have dreams of doing something with their lives.  Something that is seen as special or that makes them more unique.  However, with Facebook, a person can, for a while, feel unique or different.  However, saying something on a computer does not mean that something is necessarily true.  And people tend to exaggerate on the internet.  Why?  It is very hard to prove something is not necessarily 100% true when you are not anywhere near that person.

But there is another sinister factor that lies deep within the underbelly of Facebook.  People oftentimes feel an incessant urge to check up on the lives of other people.  We like to know how we are doing.  However, Facebook is a poor method for gauging one's successes in life.  By using Facebook, we sell ourselves short by comparing ourselves with mere fiction.  Yet, we feel that we just have to see what our friends, our siblings, and our parents are doing in life.  Perhaps we can prove that something someone said about us in the past is wrong.  Maybe you did get into that school everyone said you would never get into.  And now is your chance to brag! 



Such bragging comes at a cost, and it's a cost that every Facebook member shares in.  We feel like trash when we log out.  We feel that our lives are somewhat of a failure.  If one of our hundreds of friends does something that we wish we did, it is easily to feel down in the dumps.  And with hundreds of friends the chances of one living an envious life is high.  Even if they are not truly living an envious life.  The truth is, nobody seems to want to say anything negative about themselves or their perfect lives on Facebook.  Lives that are full of vacations, achievements, and endless good choices.  We see our lives as being both good and bad, but few people would share the bad on Facebook.  When we compare our lives, the good, and the bad, with what we see on the internet, we invariably feel that we have somehow failed.

I have known people that refuse to leave Facebook because they have a need to check up on the lives of others.  They do not realize that by giving rid of the urge to follow people that are no longer a part of their life that they could accomplish their goals.  Many of these people are depressed and angry with how their lives have turned out.  Many are constantly envious of what they see on the internet.  Yet, they refuse to step back and take the reins on their own life.  They feel that Facebook really is giving them something in life.  They feel that being on Facebook makes them a better person.  But, science has been uncovering the fact for a while now that Facebook is full of negative attributes that affect people for the worse.  There is, in sum, very little one gets out of Facebook.  In the end, there is heartache as a result of using Facebook.  Whether it's the envy you feel when logging off, that wondering if you said something wrong or something that is somehow offensive to another, being exposed to negativity and angry political discourse, feeling ignored, or having spent hundreds of hours maintaining a profile and scouring for likes, Facebook makes one's quality of life go down.  As a rational human being, would you choose to be involved with something that reduces your quality of life and how you feel?  I know I will not.  Yet society and Facebook's investors, who represent multiple companies and news agencies want you on Facebook.  Facebook, for many, is a way to advertise.  Advertisers can tell a lot about you based on what you like.  A lot more about you than you want to share. 

For example, a recent article, entitled "Is a Facebook 'like' too much information" stated:
"Researchers got more than 58,000 volunteers who use Facebook to take a psychological and intelligence test and share all their profile information and likes. Then they ran some complicated algorithms and checked how likes correlated with what they knew about users (from their profiles, pictures, the tests, etc.)."
While such testing is in the early stages, the reality is that people share way too much information on the internet.  Recently, while talking to a family member, I was told that many people she knew do not want to get a passport because they believe the government can track such things.  Yet, these same people all have cell phones and Facebook accounts.  Even conspiracy theorists can't stay away from the site!

Is the want to check up on the lives of everyone you know or once knew worth the cost?  We oftentimes do not think about what something will cost us when we do it.  Sometimes something seems harmless, but over time it can do great damage to our lives.  Facebook use does cause damage in people's lives.  It's not just a harmless pastime, and society is starting to realize that.  But, is it too late?  Are people too addicted to the site?  Are you?  

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Returning to Facebook for a Good Cause



The following is a guest post from one of my readers.  If you are interested in submitting a guest post on your thoughts about Facebook, please e-mail me at fbdetox@gmail.com

Returning to Facebook for a Good Cause

It’s been almost a year since I deactivated my Facebook account. From the beginning I was convinced that this was a very good decision. I was reaffirmed in my belief when I recently returned with disastrous results.

Even before I deactivated my account, I wasn’t using it very often. I didn’t care for how I felt after I spent time on there. I enjoyed the idea that I was a part of my friends’ and relatives’ lives, but would end up realizing that all I was doing was essentially spying on them and offering a few useless comments here and there. I tried to keep up with everyone, but found it to be too overwhelming. I had too many “friends” to actually be real friends with. Not only that, there were many times that looking at all of the highlighted accomplishments would make me feel depressed about my own life and lack of similar accomplishments. I wasn’t finished with school, starting a family, buying a house, etc. I had been doing things with my life, school, traveling, working, but it always seemed to pale when compared to others. I also couldn’t stand the “religious” bigotry, racism, or repeated ignorance that I saw in every other comment on there. It all got to be too much. I realized that I could keep the real relationships and make them more meaningful by not being on the site, so that it what I did.

Then came St. Baldrick’s Day at my university. It is a day in which people either shave their heads in support of fighting childhood cancer, or donate their hair to locks of love to make wigs for children in treatment. Part of support is the raising of donations to help fund research. Since I was taking part in this event this year, I wanted to help out as much as I could. I created a donation page on the St. Baldrick’s Foundation website and gave in to the advice to ask for help on Facebook.

When I reactivated my account, my first post made it clear that I was only there to get help for children in need and that afterwards I would be leaving again. I made a few updates giving the link and encouraging my friends to donate. I posted two pictures that showed how long my hair was, that would soon be donated, in order to try to get extra attention for the cause. I felt that the pictures may get the attention that the comments were missing out on. I was excited at the possibility of many of my friends and relatives contributing to such a worthy and relevant cause. With all those people, I thought that reaching my small goal of $100 would be a cinch. After all, that’s only asking for about $1 from most, not even everyone. However, my hopes came crashing down when after almost two weeks the only people who donated, or even mentioned it, were my husband and mother. Those were the two people that I asked in person. 

I tried to temper my disappointment with reason. Perhaps there is just so much noise on Facebook that they did not really see my posts. Maybe people get asked for donations so much that they didn’t see it. Maybe people didn’t notice that I was back for that short time. However, when I returned to deactivate my account, I saw that one of my friends had reposted my picture with an excited comment about how I had returned to Facebook. No mention of the fact that I had stated that I was only back for a short time in the name of curing childhood cancer. While I appreciated the appreciation, I was saddened that all my efforts fell by the wayside. People liked my pictures, but no one even commented on my request. It was as if my words were gibberish. Is that what Facebook is reduced to? Are we merely our pictures taken out of context? These issues rudely reminded me of why I left in the first place.

While my Facebook was reactivated I was mostly able to ignore the temptation to check in on everyone. I have to admit that I did scroll down a tiny bit when I saw the newsfeed. My eye was caught by a few things and it was hard to resist: I admit it. When my husband offered to help me deactivate it again, (they tend to hide it), he couldn’t resist the urge to check a friend’s wall. Here again, we were upset by Facebook. This is where I saw that my purpose was lost, but also that another person’s private matters were being discussed with everyone on the site. While I understand that this person and others had strong feelings about the matter, my husband and I both felt that this was unfair to the person who it mattered most to. We did not feel that they should have their business all over the internet if they were obviously not ready to tell other people about it. Before Facebook came along, this probably would still have been told to some other people, and even it was appropriate to do so. I acknowledge that. The problem is that Facebook allows hundreds of people to now know with one simple comment. It is like putting personal business on a billboard for all to see. This is not good for relationships as it takes much of the respect for other’s feelings out of the picture. Everything becomes news, and people forget that sharing isn’t always appropriate.

Looking back at all of this, I was sadly disheartened. I thought that it would be a simple thing to merely utilize Facebook for a good cause. I thought that I could make a difference with it. I was wrong. I find that this is the case with many people’s experience with Facebook. People are very quick to extol the virtues and possibilities of Facebook, when in reality it is only a place for shallow gossip. The only way that we can change the world is in our day to day lives. My time would have been better spent calling people or asking them in person. At least then I would have been seen as a human being, instead of letters on a screen and pretty face in a picture. Now I feel that I have learned the full lesson. Facebook is not only a waste of time, it is detrimental to society. People are fooled into thinking that they are actually doing productive things when it is all an illusion. It is time to stand up and say no to Facebook and yes to living real lives. That is how we will make a difference in the world.

***


Author: The author wishes to remain anonymous, but uses the pen name of Little Fawn.  For more information on the St. Baldricks foundation, please visit their website at http://www.stbaldricks.org/.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

One Year Without Facebook


It was about a year ago when I gave up Facebook.  Many people thought I could not do it.  In fact, many thought it was just a phase I was going through (some still do).  I never understood what was so crazy about the idea of giving up Facebook.  I lived most of my life without it.  Yet, giving it up irritated people.  In fact, many are still irritated by this blog that I created shortly after deactivating my profile.  Many people refuse to even look at this site as they know that they could never give up Facebook.  The truth is that they are addicted to it, no matter what they say to the contrary. 

I have always believed at looking and considering information that I do not agree with.  In fact, I have found that, after looking at something I was against, my thoughts on that matter would sometimes change.  Being open to differing opinions is something that allows one to grow.  Of course, there are some differing opinions that I will never agree with.  That does not mean I should ignore contrary information or challenge my views and beliefs.  Even the most ardent supporter of Facebook may realize that the site is not everything is it cracked up to be if they considered some time away from it.

With that being said, I am immensely glad that I gave up Facebook a year ago.  I have accomplished a great amount without Facebook.  These things include progressing through graduate school, writing a book, creating a travel blog, gaining work and internship experience, writing a great deal of short stories, saving and investing money that I earned from my own projects, and visiting a few new areas of the world.  I have focused my attention on school and my professional life instead of focusing my attention on Facebook.  I found that instead of spending time worrying about what others thought of me, I was absorbed in my own goals and family.  Instead of spending time on Facebook, I spent time with my wife and pets.  I do not say this to brag. Instead, I say it to show that I accomplished much without Facebook -- and I know that anyone can do the same.  A year ago I spent most of my time looking at Facebook and comparing myself with others.  I wondered what others were doing.  I wondered if something I said would somehow offend someone.  And it often did.  I lamented that people would often say things, sometimes horrible things, that were contrary to who they held themselves out to be.  I cringed as political discourse turned ugly and individuals started attacking each other merely for their own beliefs.  I had little time to focus on my own life when I was literally wrapped up in the biggest waste of time that has perhaps ever been created (with the exception of the television, but even the television can provide something of value and be quite educational).

One year ago I had an "aha! moment."  I didn't make a big deal about leaving the site.  There was no, "I am going to leave Facebook, so say your goodbyes."  I just deactivated it without telling anyone.  The questions and comments from others eventually came to my e-mail or to my ears.  That's right.  People actually talked to me through means other than Facebook.  However, as a whole, I lost contact with most of the people who I was friends with.  Even certain family members.  I realized that I was only seen as a friend by certain people through Facebook.  Although that was somewhat hard to get used to, I was better off knowing this and getting used to that fact.  After all, before Facebook came along, I talked to very few people who were on my "friends list" and life was fine.   Once I left, I realized who my true friends were, and who those people were that wanted to stay in contact with me.  It was a very small number of people.  

However, being away from Facebook made me less popular with a select group of people.  Some people looked at me as if I was strange.  As if I had horns growing out of my head.  "Why would he leave Facebook?" they would question.  "What is wrong with him?" some would say.  "Is there some devious purpose to all this?"  Some people would try to get me on LinkedIn, but I resisted at all costs.  In fact, I found that I was able to gain a great deal of work experience even by not being on LinkedIn (more on this later).  I realized that (a)social networking internet sites (and such sites are asocial in every meaning of the word) were largely a pointless and useless endeavor (with very few exceptions).

There exists so much more beyond Facebook.
Learning to not care what others think of me has helped me a great deal in life.  It was once very hard for me to get by in life wondering if others would think of me in a negative light, or if someone would be mad at me for something I did.  I used to be coerced quite easily into doing things.  Things that made others somehow happy but left me feeling nasty.  Facebook did not make me feel good.  Logging off of Facebook after hours wasted on it was not something I felt proud of.  Even though it upset people that I left, I realized that it was my choice to leave, and mine alone.  You see, in life you truly own only one thing, and that is yourself.  Those people who are the happiest in the world are those who take control of their lives and of themselves and do what makes them happy.  This does not mean purposely hurting others (and leaving Facebook is not purposely hurting others, despite what some may say).  Instead, this means moving towards a lifestyle that makes one feel closer to who they want to be.

After a year of being away from Facebook I cannot say that I feel that I am missing anything.  I am constantly reminded of the site by others.  Generally these are people who seem unhappy with their lives; and I believe that part of the problem is their addiction to the site.  While not everyone who uses the site are addicted, I would venture to guess that a majority of the users of Facebook (those who maintain a profile and keep it current with their lives) are addicted.  Addicted is not something that people want to be labeled as, but the reality is that Facebook is addictive.  It is a virtual world where one can literally be whatever they want to be.  One has access to the lives of many people.  One can make themselves seem as great as they want to be.  That in itself is a very powerful idea.  There is no wonder that such a thing can be addictive.  Some people will spend hours a day on Facebook and come away somehow believing that they are not addicted.  Instead, they consider their behavior normal.  Sadly, such behavior is normal for many.  It was for me, and I knew that when I left over one year ago.  To reactivate my account would be to tread on dangerous ground.  Luckily, each day I am more and more sure of my choice to have left.  This blog, as a journal of my life without Facebook and as an observer of (a)social network addiction is a testament to that.  I only need to review what I have written to remind myself that my life without Facebook is more full than it would be on the site.  If I can help even one other person find the freedom and joy of a life without (a)social networks, then this blog has served a greater purpose.  I look forward to spending another year free of (a)social networking. 

Have you recently left Facebook?  Have you considered going back?  If so, did you give in to that temptation?  If you are considering leaving Facebook, or have given it up, post your thoughts below. 


Serious about giving up Facebook?  Check out our new checklist of Facebook achievements and goals for making giving up Facebook and (a)social media easier for you to achieve. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Facebook and Parenting




Parenting is said to be one of life's greatest challenges. Some people choose to put the challenge on "hyper mode" by combining parenting with Facebook. Sadly, few who embark on this foolish endeavor succeed. Like ketchup and dirt, Facebook and parenting do not mix well.

I have been appalled on my journey through life by watching parents ignore their children while absorbing themselves and their attention toward their phones and computer screens. Many parents sit alone, oblivious to their children who are nearby, as they wrangle the perfect status update on their Facebook page. Sending out a picture of one's child seems to replace being there for the individual.

Contrary to popular belief, one is not a good parent merely by creating a child.  Parenting requires a great amount of time, and most of that time should be spent with that child. Sadly, I have witnessed my fair share of parents who think that being there for the child is a chore instead of a delight. Yet, many of these individuals possess a small army of children. If being there for your child is such a chore, why keep having them? A child is not a status symbol, it is a human being. Yet, with Facebook, everything becomes a status symbol. If something can garnish a certain number of 'likes' through Facebook, then it is Facebook gold. For some, their children are seen as a way to increase their internet popularity. A child is often seen as a vehicle for the attainment of more 'likes'.



If one is somehow compelled to spend time on Facebook, then that time should not come at the expense of being a parent. I have touched on the fact that Facebook gives back very little in exchange for the amount of time people spend on it. In fact, many people state that Facebook brings them feelings of envy, sadness, and anger. Many people, myself included, believe that Facebook takes away time that could be used towards other pursuits. Pursuits that result in greater rewards. One example, in the parenting context, is the bonding time that one can spend with their child. Children grow up quickly, and almost every parent has some regrets when their child reaches adulthood. There are few parents that do not wish they spent more time with their children when they were younger[1]. Even parents who are blessed enough to stay at home with their children instead of working outside of the home often feel this regret. Sadly, many stay-at-home parents are the biggest culprits in using Facebook instead of spending time with their growing children.

Many parents believe that it is the school's job to educate their children. This is a faulty way of thinking. Education begins in the home. A child who is not educated by their parents is at a huge disadvantage in life. Children who have parents who spend time educating them not only do better in school, but also are better psychologically prepared for the trials that are ahead of them in life [2]. "While both school and family involvement are important, the role of family involvement is stronger when it comes to academic success."[3]. Yet, many parents are not involving themselves in the child's studies. Instead, like many others, parents feel the need to be on Facebook. It is a burning obsession that constantly nags at the individual. Facebook addiction, after all, has many of the same addictive properties of drug addiction[4][5]. 

Parents, like others, are not able to easily walk away from Facebook. Many see no reason to. In fact, many parents who ignore their children while on Facebook do not see it as a problem. Yet, this is a huge problem. If animals ignored their offspring in the wild, the offspring would likely die. Just as in nature, when a parent ignores their child, the child's development is hampered. Parents have an obligation to help their children thrive. If you are ignoring your child to spend time on an (a)social network, your child is not thriving.You may be a parent who has spent time with your Facebook account to the detriment of your child. That does not mean that you are a bad person. Part of changing is realizing that there is a problem

The next step is moving towards a solution. The solution that I strongly recommend is leaving Facebook. Of course, many people think that the idea of leaving Facebook is devious. Many people are literally terrified of leaving their Facebook account behind. Some are scared of a world without Facebook. However, a great amount of people have found that leaving Facebook is an incredibly beneficial step into taking back their life. 

 Many people are astonished to find that they spend hours a day, and hundreds of hours a month on Facebook. Many people look at magazines of lives of those who live their dreams and wonder why they have not attained the same. Many people wonder where the years of their life are going. During their youth they had dreams of achieving some kind of success, whether it was being a writer, a doctor, a pilot, or something else that is attainable. However, they find those dreams beginning to wane as time progresses. Those dreams do not have to disappear. 

Ask yourself how much time you spend on Facebook a day. Multiply that by a 365. How much of that time that you spent on Facebook could have been devoted to another endeavor? How much time could you have spent with your child? The reality is that your child will grow up. One day you will die. Will you have any regrets as you look back on your life? I understand that it is often hard for people to look so far forward. Many of us live for the moment. If you could do something today to improve the rest of your life in profound ways would you consider doing it? If something is coming between you and who you want to be, then you owe it to yourself to alter your course in life. For many people Facebook is a barrier to a better life.

What could you gain by leaving Facebook behind? The chance to spend more time with your child and family? The chance to move towards the attainment of goals. The chance to read those books you have been meaning to read? The chance to work and save up towards something great? The chance to learn a skill or improve your abilities? Life is limited by one thing for everyone: time. Time is the most precious resource people have. Do not waste your life staring at a screen and tying your self-esteem to that endeavor. Nothing is worth that.

***

Sources:

[1]http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2203025/Spending-time-work-children-young-parents-chief-regret.html
[2]http://www.medicaldaily.com/articles/11651/20120821/children-parents-time-teenagers-psychology.htm
[3]http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-19923891
[4]http://www.facebookdetox.com/2012/04/what-are-you-stupid.html 

[5]http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/8436831/Student-addiction-to-technology-similar-to-drug-cravings-study-finds.html