Saturday, January 4, 2014

Facebook Detox: Is Facebook Good For You?

The Fountain of Love by Francois Boucher
A world without Facebook?
Facebook Detox's mission is to create public awareness that sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Friendster, Myspace, and other (a)social media (called such because the user is generally forgoing social activities by using such websites, and such websites are often used when alone) are detrimental to a person's enjoyment of as well as the fulfillment one gets out of their life.

Individuals consume a huge amount of time hooked up to the largely fantasy world of Facebook and other (a)social networks. Many people have a huge emotional investment with such sites. Feelings such as jealousy, anger, self-hatred, and pessimism are often the result of prolonged use of Facebook. This is because users can not help but compare their lives to the lives of other users, especially those who they have on their “friends list.”

While many compare their lives to their friends, many do not take the time to consider the fact that very few people share both the positive and negative attributes of their lives on the internet. We compare what we know about ourselves, the good and the bad, to what we see – which is only the good aspects that other individuals choose to show. Invariably, we are apt to have negative feelings and often feel apathetic upon processing this in our minds.

Comparing ourselves to others and the resulting jealousy is not the only problem with (a)social media. Spending large amounts of time on these sites costs us in other areas of our lives. For example, almost every individual has goals and wants. Many people want to create something, whether it is writing a book, create a short film, finish a degree, find a job, spend time with a family member who may not be around much longer, keep a journal, improve one's property, start a project, open a business, learn a language, exercise, begin investing, read a novel, or something similar. However, many people put their dreams on hold, sometimes spending hours a day on Facebook instead of working towards their goals. Apps have been developed that wake a person up in the morning and open Facebook for them. Yes, that's right. Many people check Facebook first thing upon waking and before going to bed. Facebook is the first and last thing that they look it in a day!

Perhaps excessive Facebook use is something you struggle with? Perhaps you gave up Facebook a while back and feel left out because everyone else seems to be using it? Maybe you have read that some people view those who do not use Facebook as being mischievous or psychotic in some way? Perhaps you reminisce of a time where people were not glued to a smartphone and actually spent time engaged with the environment around them? I know that I do.

The reality is that at any given time, there are millions of people all over the world viewing Facebook. Many of these people do feel the negative side effects that come with Facebook, yet few even acknowledge that (a)social media, like many things, has negative attributes. Many people view Facebook as a way to keep in touch with loved ones. However, that view is highly questionable. On the surface, that's what Facebook and other (a)social media claims as its purpose. However, when one digs below the surface, there is a multi-billion dollar industry that wants you to be hooked up to the site at all times.

Websites like Facebook and Twitter are advertised heavily on news programs and in the media. Many companies have a huge financial interest in getting you to spend your time engaged with these websites. Stories of how Facebook, Twitter, and (a)social media is addicting or causes emotional and psychological damage only gets cursory media attention. Very few people even take the time to consider the damage that Facebook may be causing them or their children. Many see such negative attributes as a necessary evil in giving them the opportunity to keep in touch or track their friends and loved ones. Such companies thrive on this popular idea.

There are many people, however, who are beginning to ask, “is this type of 'social networking' healthy?” Many people are deactivating their accounts and seeing that there is a better life for them outside of the addicting and debilitating world of (a)social media. Ask yourself:
  • When was the last time you felt jealous of one of your Facebook friends?
  • Have you ever felt irritated or hurt by what a person said on Facebook?
  • Do you feel that you or your friends share far too much about their lives to the rest of the world?
  • Do you ever feel that you waste too much time on Facebook – time that you could have put to better use?
  • Has it ever irritated you that people around you were glued to Facebook or similar websites?
  • Do you know people who seem to exaggerate how great their lives are?
  • Have you ever exaggerated about your life on Facebook?
  • When you look at the lives of those who you know, have you noticed that those who live the most impressive lives do not spend time on Facebook?
  • Does getting likes make you feel good? Have you ever felt angry that you didn't get a like for something you posted?
Exaggerating about your life on Facebook

If you could trade your life for the life that you claim to live on your Facebook profile, would you? Chances are, almost everyone would. Exaggerating about one's attributes and lifestyles is common everywhere, but on Facebook, such exaggerations are made even more apparent. For example, academic achievements, status in one's job, socioeconomic status, and life achievements are routinely exaggerated on Facebook.

Although it is well known that people exaggerate on Facebook, that does not stop others from becoming jealous of the exaggerated lives of others. Even if you acknowledge that there is excessive exaggeration on Facebook, perhaps you have felt that your life did not even come close to measuring up to the lives of your friends. How did that make you feel? Perhaps you felt angry or depressed upon logging out. Did you think about that person throughout the day? Longer? Many users of Facebook feel incredible dissatisfaction about their lives when they spend hours comparing themselves to others.

If you assert that you don't compare your life to others when using Facebook, you may want to reconsider that assertion. Facebook was created as a means in which to compare the looks of Harvard students. Now it can be said to be a resume of your perceived life. Humans, by their very nature, compare everything they see. It is how we process information. We make value judgments and decisions based on comparison. Such comparing is integral to how we function and live our lives as humans. Such comparing is how we process information on Facebook. When you are looking at another person's profile, you are comparing that individual to yourself. One could go as far as to say that being on Facebook is almost masochistic. When we log in day after day to compare our lives to the perfect-seeming lives of others, we are slowly destroying our own self-esteem.

Facebook's currency is the like. Many people measure themselves and their lives based on how many likes they get. Many will post something in the hopes that they get a like for saying it. We oftentimes compare how many likes we got versus how many likes one of our friends received. Have you ever felt upset when something you said did not get liked, even though you were proud of it? Did you ever spend time posting pictures or writing something that seemed to be ignored? How did that make you feel?

Be honest: How does Facebook make you feel?
Facebook users also compare the amount of friends they have. Some individuals go quite far in getting as many friends as they can get. It has been said that a huge percentage of Facebook users are duplicate or otherwise fake accounts. Many people have duplicate accounts, whether it is for their pet, their child, or for an imaginary version of themselves.

Deactivate, Unplug, Empower

These are the three steps to ending an addiction to (a)social media. The first step, is, of course, realizing that you have a problem. Are you addicted to (a)social media? Only you can answer that question, but chances are, if you are reading this, you probably are at least considering that you have a problem. I would venture to say that a majority of Facebook's users are addicted. If you are logging in at prescribed times of the day, you are most likely addicted. I have known people who feel the insatiable urge to log onto Facebook immediately upon waking up as well as right before going to bed. It is not uncommon for hardcore Facebook addicts to spend time in bed surfing Facebook nightly before sleeping.

This is a problem, especially when it begins to interfere with real life. Anything that gets in the way of one's priorities in life and their goals is problematic. For example, when asking yourself if you are addicted to Facebook, consider:
  • Do you use Facebook immediately upon waking?
  • Do you use Facebook immediately before going to bed?
  • Do you feel irritable if you don't get your precious time with Facebook?
  • Do you spend more than an hour at a time on Facebook?
  • Do you use Facebook at work or school or any other time when you should be engaged in something else?
  • Do you use Facebook while walking outside?
  • Does it anger you if others do not have a Facebook account?
  • Do you get an update on your phone every time someone updates their Facebook?
  • Do you feel the urge to check Facebook while driving?
  • Do you feel sick or on edge if you have not checked your Facebook for a certain period of time?
  • Does the idea of going a weekend or a week without Facebook make you feel uneasy?
  • Do you find it hard to imagine a life without Facebook?
  • Do you get irritable when others insinuate that you may be addicted to Facebook?
If you notice that many of the above points apply to you, perhaps it is time to deactivate Facebook. Deactivating is the easy part. Anyone can turn off Facebook for a few minutes. However, the problem emerges once one has the desire to go back on Facebook. It's often a powerful, nagging desire. It can be quite strong at first. If this is the case, and if the pull is just too strong, you are likely addicted.

Unplugging is the step that happens the moment after you deactivate. It means staying off (a)social media sites. It means not going back. It means trying to forget about them. There is no doubt that you will hear from friends and family that you are missing out by not being on Facebook. You may be labeled as a societal pariah or as somehow devious for not being a part of an (a)social network website. Others may be offended that you left. There is no doubt that some may think that you are making a judgement against those who are on Facebook. However, the reality is that this step is needed if you are to be free of (a)social media.

Unplugging doesn't just happen over a day or a week. It is a constant process that keeps chugging from the moment that you free yourself by deactivating whatever (a)social media presence has been draining your time. Unplugging means exactly what it sounds like: Unplugging any and every connection from (a)social media and not going back. If a crack addict was to go a few years without snorting and then inject just a wee bit into his buttocks, would that somehow be OK since he had gone so long without a fix? Or would such a fix cause the once addicted crack fiend to be back at square one? I tend to think that most agree with the latter answer. The (a)social media addict, therefore, must unplug and unplug for life. Addiction can easily resurface. It's ugly head emerges back when a taste of the previous addictive stimuli comes back into the picture.

Once you unplug you have to constantly empower yourself. If you just sit around and think about sites like Facebook all day long, you are going to do nothing for yourself in the long run. Eventually you are going to feel the constant nagging want to log back in. And you will probably give into that incessant urge. Instead of just sitting there like a bump on a camel's back, why not do something that has some positive impact in your life?

I have noticed that many Facebook users are at a point in their life where they feel that they are stagnating. Sometimes it looks like Facebook users are making huge strides in their lives, but the reality is that when someone merely talks about something, someone is rarely actually doing things. Take a moment to ask yourself: “Of all my friends, who are the most productive? Who would I really want to be?” Do they have a Facebook account? How often are they on Facebook? I have found that of the people who I know, who I would like to be more like, few of them are on Facebook. Ask yourself if your heroes in life have a Facebook account. Do they use it constantly? How much do they use it? I am guessing not too much. I heard the pope perhaps tweets, but is he locked on Twitter 24/7? I am guessing not. I heard that some movie stars have Facebook accounts, but I can not help but wonder how much of the updating is done by PR agents and the like. In other words, are the big time names in the world locked into the world of (a)social media, or are they just keeping the masses pacified?

Empowering is the step that will do you the most good in life. It is the part where, instead of posting on Facebook, you start to make strides towards the life that you really want to live. For example, I wanted to finish school really bad. At the time, before I started law school, I was inundated with a life full of Facebook. I talked about my future and the things I would accomplish. Yet, when I logged off every day, I felt that I was doing nothing with my life. Sometimes I feel like a true failure having burned through hours of daylight while looking at other's profiles and comparing myself to them. Sometimes I felt like the biggest loser in the world when I went to bed because I was seeing my friends buying homes, cars, making babies, raising babies, and going back to college. I would see people that were entering their careers well before 30 and I was still working in the realm of fast food. I wanted more out of my life and sometimes posting something funny on Facebook was enough to make me feel happy. In fact, when someone liked my status it made me feel good enough to keep going in life. There was no need for me to do anything else because I got a few likes now and then. I must have been doing something right. Right?

Fairest City - The Anger for Enemies by Nicholas Roerich
What has Facebook given you?
Wrong! The truth was, each day I wasted on Facebook got me nothing other than a like that was quickly forgotten. When I left the computer (for example, to go to work), I began to imagine the life that I really wanted. When I would see people living lives that I wanted, I felt jealous and angry. I was getting older every single day, but what was I doing with my life? Instead of writing or going to school, I was sitting in front of a computer screen rearranging pictures of trips that I took in the past, hoping that someone would like them. Instead of losing weight and exercising I was trying to say something snarky enough to get me a like or perhaps even a poke. Instead of spending time with my wife or making real life friends, I was stuck in the past, with people who I probably had nothing in common with now that high school had been over for about a decade. In short, I realized that I was, through Facebook, becoming more of what I perceived to be a loser. And I hated it!

What was I to do then? I could quit Facebook, but that was a silly idea. What then would I do with my time? I was so busy with work and Facebook was such a nice little diversion for me when I got home. I had no addiction, I told myself. I only spent about 2-3 hours a day on Facebook. And even though I had it open on a browser tab whenever I was on the internet, it did not mean that I was actively using the site. And I knew people who used it more than I did, and they said they were not addicted. And if they said they were not addicted, it must be the truth right?

Wrong! I started to wonder, how much could I get done in a couple of hours a day? Could I actually do something meaningful in that time? Sure, I was exhausted after coming home from a tough day at work, but did that give me an excuse to let my life come to a halt? Did I truly want more out of life, or was I happy being a pawn? I knew I wanted more out of life, but it seemed too hard. To give up Facebook would mean to give up all my friends and loved ones. It would mean to enter the world all alone. To leave Facebook would mean saying “goodbye.” And I have never been too good with goodbyes.

Sometimes we must say goodbye, however, in order to start fresh. Saying goodbye to Facebook meant saying hello to a new life. That was somewhat exciting. I have always liked change, and giving up Facebook and putting the time I spent on Facebook towards something else really made my heart race. What would I do with all this new found time? Would I create a Twitter account? I have not been on Myspace for a long time.

No, if you give up one addiction, you can not replace it with another. Unless, of course, it's a healthy addiction. I decided that, instead of using Facebook, maybe I should focus on school. Maybe I should write more. Maybe I should create a blog or save up some money and travel. There were books I wanted to read. There was body mass I wanted to get rid of. I could really improve myself without Facebook, I thought. But, then, who would I show my improvements off to?

Do you struggle with Facebook addiction?  Do you want help quitting?  Do you feel like your life has stagnated since you made yourself a Facebook profile?  If you have a story to share, please share it in the comments below.