|So, there you are, on a Saturday morning with your favorite cup of coffee caressing your senses and relaxing your brain, sitting at your desk and browsing on Facebook. You have 34 new notifications since last night that you logged out, 5 group invitations, 1 suggested page, 2 cause invitations and 3 friend requests, one of which is of an unknown person.|
You are not new in Facebook. You’ve been using it for almost two years now. And what you do this Saturday morning is what you’ve been doing nearly all Saturday mornings since Facebook joined your life. When the weather is nice, you ignore half of the invitations for new apps and you quickly accept the group and the cause invitations so that you go out and enjoy life. Only later, when the weather is bad and you have to stay indoors, you start deleting apps, causes, groups and people. And this goes on and on, relentlessly. Whether you have realized it or not, Facebook is a real part of your life, is a real partner whom you have to see for good morning and kiss for good night. What changes over time is your degree of addiction; as it happens with all love-hate relationships.
So, what’s the deal between you and Facebook? Some days ago, you felt cornered by it, like it was damaging your real relationships, like it was chocking your real life. So you bid your 546 Facebook friends goodbye with one last poke, stating mood unhappy and left the virtual world with a swift click of your mouse. You did it for the sake of your marriage, for the sake of your life in general. The virtual death of your Facebook profile, of a profile you had been creating for so long, systematically and methodically, was peaceful, yet abrupt. But so was its resurrection. Less than two weeks later, you were active and sound again.
You don’t think you are a Facebook addict. Social networking is just a part of your generation that feels more comfortable with text messaging, chatting and online communication. But, hey! Your generation counts nearly forty years already, while Facebook is around the last five. Supposedly, social networking is mostly addressed to younger people. You and your children have probably contacts of similar agein your friends list. The generation gap is bridged when it comes to Facebook. Facebook can be used for personal or for business reasons. However, most of the people use it primarily for personal reasons because Facebook has so many applications, games and tools that anyone can join for free and lead a ‘social’ life perhaps at a cost.
Your account has been hacked into last month. You’ve lost valuable files from your computer and you had to format your disk and upload all your files, programs and applications from scratch. You lost money, time and above all, your nerves. You felt so insecure that the first three, four days, you swore you would never use Facebook again. But, here you are, at your desk, doing the usual stuff.
Some of your students have discovered that you have a Facebook profile and have spread the news at the college. Immediately, your popularity, and mostly your credibility as a professor decreased because students saw you as less professional after viewing your Facebook profile. They considered it is not appropriate for a college professor to have a profile in a social networking website.
The daughter of a colleague has been stalked three months ago. She met someone on Facebook, someone who was a common friend of a friend of hers, they started chatting on msn, at first it was in the morning, then it became at night, until she told him where she lives at and one night, there he is outside her home. He had been watching her for about two months until he attacked her. She was lucky enough not to be raped. When you heard the story, you thought ‘she should never tell him where she lives; this is what I tell to my daughter’.
Your son’s grades have been deteriorating since he joined Facebook. He is spending too much time on it, more than what he used to spend on video games and there is not much you can do because he sees you doing the same on Saturday mornings. While you could be doing more important tasks, you surf and browse on Facebook. You cannot teach your children by example if you do not follow one.
The truth of the matter is that as soon as Facebook came into business, you deliriously engaged into a new way of communicating. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Tasting new things that evolve in the world is a sign of progress. However, with Facebook your behavior has changed dramatically.
Everything that happens in your life, you feel like sharing with your contacts on your status line. You post your thoughts and you expect the comment and when the comment comes, you smile if you like it or you frown if it’s not what you expected. All of a sudden, completely strangers are important to you and their comments leverage your value as a person. And unconsciously you classify people into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ without even knowing them. Obviously, as it happens with real friendships, you don’t have the same degree of communication and contact with all online friends, but you cannot really tell who is who since you have never met them. Still, you value them like real.
Every time you go out with your family, friends or colleagues, any time you shoot pictures of a special event of your life, you need to upload them on Facebook so that your contacts see where you’ve been and what you’ve done. And from the 200 pictures you’ve shot, you upload only the 50 that you look really good, beautiful and sexy. Obviously, this is what your contacts do too. So, this is another reason why you cannot tell who is who until you meet a person for real.
Your profile page is full of information about you; who you are, where you work at, what is your favourite music, your favourite movies, books and TV series, what are your religious and political beliefs, your studies and your interests. As a matter of fact, you share too much information with other people, who are totally strangers. Some Facebook users take higher risk than you and put on their home addresses and phone numbers on. This is probably how stalkers find their way home without needing to chat first.
Your defense to all the above is that social networking websites cannot replace your real friendships. You don’t really communicate with people online as you communicate with real people whom you can see, hear and touch. However, if you think back during these two years, there have been times that real people were not available in your times of need, while online people were there and supported you; and you did communicate with them.
So, it’s not everything wrong about Facebook. In many cases, you can catch up with old friends, find valuable information, promote your work and your business, support really important causes and meet people who can be real friends in the process. What is wrong with Facebook is because its relationships are developed at a distance are by default weaker than the real relationships, lacking physical and emotional conduct. This leads to a ritualistic involvement that turns into addiction and belligerently deprives you from your real life by triggering you to log on several times a day.