Sunday, November 21, 2010

Social networking: are you addicted?

Before going to see The Social Network, I was expecting it to be a film that somehow or other promoted Facebook. But the impact it had on me was quite the opposite.
Apart from falling in love with the underdog, Eduardo Saverin, I came away from the cinema convinced that I currently spent far too long on Facebook; that it was often a complete waste of time, which I could have been using to read a book/do callanetics/write a novel/attend a yoga class/whatever; moreover, far from being enjoyable, my time on Facebook was more often that not, an unsatisfying unpleasant experience.
Yet, it dawned on me that despite being unpleasant, it was also addictive, in the same way that coffee, nicotine, alpha male non-committal boyfriends, Twitter, and chocolate, can be addictive.
Whenever we get an addiction, it always seems to be for something that is a bit good for us, but also quite bad for us. When was the last time anyone got addicted to going to church, doing a tax return or eating apples, for example?
So, ironically the film, whether intentional or not, highlighted to me the potential pitfalls of Facebook, which I had till then, barely contemplated.
At the beginning of the film, (which is of course semi fiction), the lead character, Mark Zuckerberg, ends up getting dumped and then sidelined at college because he puts up pictures of girls and asks men to rate who is the prettiest. That concept ends up being the precursor to what we know as Facebook.
I too am finding that the bitchiness of the real world merges with Facebook nowadays. You have men trying to make ex girlfriends jealous by flirting with other girls online; you have something which I can only describe as ‘Facebook rage’ when someone posts a comment on their status that outrages others, and a huge argument ensues; you have people defriending you and you defriending others; you have ex’s new girlfriends spying on you and more.
In The Daily Telegraph recently, there was a story about how social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are to blame for pupils’ poor grades. The story by Andy Bloxham can be seen here.
He refers to research that claims that children who spend too much of their time online are “finding it harder to concentrate in class, are permanently distracted and have shorter attention spans.”
The research also states that these children fail to complete their homework on time or to the standard required because they are in such a hurry to finish it at night and then go back online.
Many are even carrying smart phones to school, thus remaining connected to social networking sites during lessons.
I am extremely glad that Facebook was not around when I went to school. Back then we didn’t even have mobiles. I would get home from school and sit in my bedroom doing homework for four hours every night, with the only major distraction being the cat. I can’t imagine how distracting social networking sites and mobiles must be for school children today.
But it seems many adults too live in the virtual world, not the real world. There are people, I have discovered, who seem to be on Facebook day and night, constantly updating their status and commenting immediately on yours, the minute you post a comment up.
Immediately after watching the said film, I posted on my status that I had come to conclusion that much of what I did on Facebook was a complete waste of time. A friend responded that it depended on what I meant by “waste of time” as the only social interaction he ever had nowadays was on Facebook, as none of his friends met up for drinks anymore – those days were over, he wrote. The only fun he had with his friends was on Facebook, which was better than no contact, he stated.
I can say with conviction that any time I spend with friends in person far surpasses chats (or spats) on my status.
I have been examining people on Facebook recently and I have discovered there are two types of people: those who are on it all the time and those who are never on it. I am convinced that those never on it are having a far better social life than we realise. Just because they are not posting up pictures of themselves at parties looking like they are having the time of their lives, does not mean they are not at parties doing exactly that. When was the last time you took a camera to a party? I always forget mine, and if I remember it, am enjoying myself too much or have had too much white wine to remember to use it…It does seem as though many people deliberately take pictures with the sole purpose of being able to put them on Facebook to show others they are living an amazing life.  But in reality, are they? Or is it all a charade?
As for Facebook rage, well this is similar to swimming pool lane rage when swimmers crash into each other or have blazing rows in the middle of British swimming pools, because one is too slow or fast.
Similarly, you can start to see really nasty sides of some so-called friends on Facebook – sides you never knew they had: snide comments, acid remarks and so on.
It might be that one person is making their opinion heard about a news item, or a book they’ve read and whatever they have said outrages another of their so-called friends so much, that a huge online row ensures…Hardly fun each time each person longs on to read abuse about them in their news feed.
I had an incident where I posted an innocuous opinion on someone else’s wall, really directed at that person, who was a friend and I knew would get it, only to get a friend of that person who I had never met, who held a different view on the subject to me, write acid remarks back.
We all have those friends in our list that write something crazy or controversial on our wall. And what I have found is the worst offenders are people who I’m not even friends with at all. But beware if you defriend someone. I recently took someone off, on this occasion, because we were not in touch, never emailing or phoning and I did not see why that person needed to be on my Facebook friends' list. The minute, literally the minute, I removed him/her, he/she send me a message asking why I had removed him/her as a friend. I have no idea how he/she knew, but presume he/she spotted his/her total number of friends had gone down. How do you reply to a question asking why you defriended someone? Are people not being too hypersensitive?
The other day my Dad asked me if he could remove me as a Facebook friend. I wasn’t the slightest bit bothered.
The reason he gave was that he had no interest in what I was doing and it annoyed him that I kept constantly coming up in his news feeds. Fair enough. I was the only one of his friends posting anything, so whenever he logged on, he was faced with a series of trivial posts about me or my cats.
If you are a boss, and an employee removes you, then fair play too. Why would anyone want their boss as Facebook friend? LinkedIn yes, Facebook, No. The point is you are not removing these people in real life, only on Facebook, so it means nothing.
Random characters also track you down from your past. Sometimes this is good, but sometimes not. An ex boyfriend from years ago, whom I have no interest in whatsoever, tracked me down on Facebook and asked me to meet him in London.
I was complaining about this to my Mum and she said if Facebook didn’t exist he would never have been able to find me. "Forget it. Don’t meet him," she advised. And I didn’t.
There are other curiosities too: I have some married male friends that do not state there are married on their status, in fact they don’t even state they are in a relationship, which I find odd. But equally I have married male friends who state they are married and yet are having affairs. There are also many men who have serious relationships with women, but still keep their relationship status up as single. Why is that?
Of course, Facebook has many advantages, not least helping people throw parties, without having to send formal invites; sharing good news with friends such as marriage, a new child, or a promotion; reconnecting with old friends you want to reconnect with; keeping up with the news and movements of friends in an increasingly busy world where people often live geographically apart. But for some people, it sucks up too much of their time at work and home. If it’s affecting your work, you can only hope your work firewalls it. 
There is now a reocognised illness called Facebook Addiction Disorder. Those afflicted are so obsessed with their virtual activities that they are willing to forego their meals, sleep, responsibilities, work, friends and other leisure activities to be on the site. Many stay up all night to be on it and are connected 24 hours. 
Below is an article about symptoms of Facebook addiction.
Having read that and a bit worried I might be on it too much, I have recently decided to detox and limit my time on Facebook to once a week.
Last night I made the decision and logged out.
Straight away I came out in a cold sweat. How was I going to remember anyone’s birthday? I can’t remember anyone’s except my own. What if it was someone’s birthday before this Saturday? My cold turkey began...but I resisted. Tomorrow I am buying a birthday book. 


Mick said...

You are so right about Face-book, i only use it when I want to send a message, which is sensible. But really it was started by a bunch of juveniles so they could show off with how many friends they can get. A self help org in the states got my name etc from my friend and asked if I could be a friend. I am a self taught artist of sorts and my philosophy is YOU can do anything if you believe in yourself.
This was what I thought they wanted having spoken to my friends, but no this was an attempt to get in a record book by getting as many friends as possible in a given time I think. When i looked at their page there were hundreds of comments about how many each person had got. This isn't what I want from this but there's no way to stop it.

Naomi very few addicts ever lose their addictions. Talking of which when I was ill recently I lived on chocolate (lots of calories no bulk)and I am totally addicted to Asda's white chocolate spread. I managed to keep out of the isle it's in last time I shopped there but I really don't know how long I can stay away from it.

As for face-book well I reckon it will eventually die.

FobVille said...

I deleted my FaceBook account last year and couldn't be happier. It really was a waste of time and got to the tipping point when random peeps (uncles and aunties) started adding me. The last thing I wanted was family drama on FB. I enjoyed it more when it was just restricted to students and before they started messing with the privacy controls.

Mick said...

Tesco have started selling money for net things i can't remember which one it is but can anyone explain why someone should use REAL money to buy pretend money, still I suppose if you can have imaginary friends you can have imaginary money.
Or do you think I should take naomi's advice and get out more.

Mick said...

addiction to facebook is really no more than was experienced by letter writers when postmen would deliver a letter and wait for a reply as near instant as possible at the time. I think it's the novelty but I do hate these one line comments etc but then I like letters, slows things down a bit