Escape from Facebook obsession

Social networking Web sites can keep you well-connected, but don’t let them consume your life.

This summer, I canceled my Facebook account. Yep. I clicked âÄúdeactivate account,âÄù and I was free. Free from the status updates letting me know my ex-girlfriend from ninth grade was eating a tuna sandwich. Free from invites to groups called âÄúGirls that wear UGG boots are responsible for the spread of STDs.âÄù Free from annoying quizzes telling me which Final Fantasy VII character I would be. Facebook had become just too big a distraction for me. I could literally spend all day looking at friendsâÄô pictures, taking quizzes, sending gifts, playing Scrabulous, commenting on posted links, commenting on friendsâÄô comments, commenting on comments made about other comments âĦ you get the idea. Instead of taking occasional breaks from writing school papers to check my page, it was the other way around. Self-control was nonexistent. I browsed for an hour or more. Like a heroin addict, I knew what I was doing was destroying me, but I was unable to stop. I also slowly began to feel a social isolation from my fellow living, breathing humans. My mother, who uses Facebook, expressed her amazement one day: âÄúWow, you have 600 friends!âÄù Sheepishly, I had to tell her, âÄúYeah, but Mom, that includes the kid who sat next to me in freshman history and my 12-year-old brotherâÄôs friend who has a crush on me.âÄù So I had plenty of acquaintances. But what of friends? And so, Mark Zuckerberg be damned, I quit, like Odysseus strapping himself to the shipâÄôs mast to avoid the temptations of the Sirens. I went into detox, removing Facebook from my bookmarks bar, sent texts to my friends with my revelation and even blocked the page on my Internet browser. Immediately after, I felt uplifted, like a man whoâÄôd found God. I found peace, began to live with less social clutter and, most importantly, began to put a larger stake in real relationships. My thought was that when the veil is removed, when we no longer have a custom-made page to present to others how we want to come off, the focus returns to genuine experience and genuine relationships. I had definitely lost this in the age of Facebook, Twitter, Blackberry and iPhone. As time went on, I began to have doubts, not about what constitutes a well-lived life, but about how realistic it is as a college student in todayâÄôs world not to have a Facebook. Plus, Facebook hooks me up with people I would have no idea how to find otherwise, including my old best friend who moved to Texas in fourth grade. I can invite, all at once, old friends from a past study abroad experience and my closest contemporary comrades to a reunion party at my house. I can easily gather volunteers for an October canned food drive. After assessing its positive values, I did restart my relationship with Facebook, but only after making a serious pact with myself. I would only use the social networking platform for, well, social networking. I would do my best to avoid time wasters like quizzes and reading incessant status updates. And I would take time for my real friends âÄî the proximate ones in flesh and blood âÄî not profile pictures or Mafia Wars rankings. It is still possible to live in the technological golden age of 2009, enjoy the beauty of life and have a Facebook page. One just has to be realistic and honest with oneself about the benefits and costs of Facebook. Now, back to my Scrabulous game. This column, accessed via UWire, was originally published in the Daily Kent Stater at Kent State University. Please send comments to [email protected].