Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Facebook Addict Goes Cold Turkey

I joined facebook in the fall of 2008, and since then, I have become more attached to it as time goes on. I was one of the holdouts because I knew I’d be an addict. I finally caved when I heard the words, “Are you on facebook?” more than once in the same day. Before that, I merely looked at my sister’s myspace page every once in awhile to see what I was missing. I never signed up on myspace because I was trying to bypass what has now happened to me with facebook.

The first wall posting I received when I joined facebook was from my sister’s husband: “Lurker sellout.” He was wrong on one count: No one could ever accuse me of being a “lurker.”

You know the type. Lurkers are online all the time in the chat menu, but they never utter a peep. They read, observe, and lurk. They are so quiet that you sometimes forget they’re there. Every once in awhile, they make a comment, and you feel like you should throw a damn parade in their honor.




That’s not me. I participate. I have a habit of changing my status at least once a day. I comment on other people’s posts. I post weekly “Self-Portrait Tuesday” photos and join groups my friends start as inside jokes. I am a facebook admin’s wet dream.

Except for the time I was banned from commenting on any posts because I set off the automatic spam alert with the number and frequency of comments in one day. Oops.

I also don’t do apps. I don’t play Mafia Wars and I don’t till a fake Farmville farm. I don’t send people “gifts”, and I don’t have sports stats posted on my wall because, while I’m a huge hockey fan (go Kings!), I am not one of those crazed college football types who knows the stats of every player and calls the team “we,” as if they have something to do with wins and losses.

However, facebook is now my primary source of communication with my friends and family. It is where I receive invitations to parties. It is where I go to chat. It is where I find out if friends are having babies, getting engaged, dating someone new, angry, tired, elated, sick or just drinking coffee. (And really, do we care if you are drinking coffee? It’s something you do daily, right?)

I have also now learned of two friends' deaths there.

It is where I put my current and old scanned photos. It is where I send birthday greetings. It is where I spy on train wrecks and envy people who just went to Hawaii. It is a weird life line, and it needs to stop.

It is really quite sick how we’ve all (read: me) become obsessed with social networking to the point that we (read: me) don’t want to miss anything anyone says or does, even if what people are saying and doing is not important, which is usually the case. (No offense because that goes for me too.)

Side note: If I read anything else about how the horrible government is and how horrible its policies, or lack thereof, are, or if I read one more inspirational quote, I might go on a deleting spree. Again. I once deleted 30 people in one day. I thought, “Who never participates, and whom do I never need to speak to again?” I since then have developed “deleter’s remorse” on a few occasions, but I’m not one to “re-friend.” My current list of friends stands at 312. Yes, I know the exact number. I also know when someone deletes me or their entire page. (Thank you, Greasemonkey add-on.)

In the last year-and-a-half, I haven’t gone more than one day without looking at my facebook news feed, except for when I was banned, and for that week in June last year when I was out of town and not near a computer for most of my vacation. I spent seven days not even checking email, and it was glorious. I spent time on lakes in Wisconsin swimming, kayaking and generally enjoying nature with loved ones.

But that was easy to do. I wasn’t sitting on my computer, and I had plenty of people to talk to in the same physical space. Plus, I gave all my fellow facebook-obsessed friends a heads-up that I was “going off the grid.” They knew I had “left the building.”

That was not the case in March.

March 29, 2010
Day 1:

This morning before I started working from my home office, I changed my facebook status to a quote from a novel I started reading for a second time last night: High Fidelity. It’s a fantastic book and an amusing film. I can relate to the music and the relationship troubles in both.

Two hours later, by 10:00 AM, no one had commented on my status: “If you really wanted to mess me up, you should have got to me earlier.” That doesn’t happen to me often. Usually when I post a status, I get at least a three or four comments within the first fifteen minutes. If I don’t get at least ten total comments, I feel slighted. Silly, right?

I once posted something innocuous that started a chain that reached 120 comments. My page is popular in Cyberland, which is funny because in the history of my 37 years, this is one of the loneliest times in my life. I guess it shouldn’t be shocking then that I spend so much time online.

This latest post was for all the movie buffs who would then add their own John Cusack quotes, or would make some comment about me being messed up, but that didn’t happen, and I got antsy. So I deleted my most recent posts, and started thinking, “What would happen if I didn’t log into facebook for a whole week while I’m sitting on my computer anyway? Would anyone notice? Would my eye incessantly twitch? Would my head explode?” Probably not.

I have to remind myself that I didn’t have email until 1997, after my undergraduate years were over. How did I live without email in high school and college? It was easy, actually.

Nowadays, there is no way I could do my magazine editing job without it. We only live without modern conveniences because we don’t know they exist yet.

So at 10:30 AM, I decided to prove to myself that I’m not a slave to online social networking. I can do without it for a week because I did without it for 35 years. I’m not going to tell anyone that I’m not there. I just logged out.

I will check my email, but I don’t plan to respond to anything posted on facebook. The delete button will be my friend until next Monday morning before I hit the road to Vegas. I will even skip facebook on my CrackBerry, which I turn on while I’m still lying in bed in the morning.

It is my own little private experiment. Let’s see how long before someone writes on my wall, “Where are you?” if anyone does so at all. Piece of cake, right? So far, in the last five hours, I have felt a kind of sweet liberation. Let’s see how long it lasts.

4:54 PM – Incident #1 – Mom yells from the other room, “Did you see Nicky got into NYU?”

“Nope.”

March 30, 2010
Day 2:

I woke up to a facebook dilemma. Already. I received an email stating I received an invitation to a BBQ that will take place this Saturday, before my week-long experiment is over. To find out the details and RSVP, I have to log into facebook. See what I mean about being too reliant on it? So, I’ve decided in the next day or two, I’ll go just to the page with the invitation, RSVP and log back out.

Dilemma number two was easier to deal with. I received a FB email from a friend who would probably worry about me if I didn’t respond for a week. I responded to her through our regular email addresses. What a concept. I told her I was taking a facebook break. She said, “Oh good! I thought maybe you were on vacation. I noticed you weren’t on there much.” Hey, look! Someone already noticed.

Other than that, it has been quiet. I have deleted a few photo comments that have been sent to my email, but no one has asked of my whereabouts yet. They are too busy talking to each other, and won’t notice my absence for at least another day or two. Maybe. They really shouldn’t. In the grand scheme, my comments on facebook are not important. It’s a complete time suck.

So why do I already feel left out of whatever is going on in social Cyberland? It’s like missing a 24-hour party with 300 hundred of your closest friends, and by “closest,” I mean, I’ve met most of them at least once.

Today I will go to the gym and the grocery store and watch my favorite show, Damages. I may even update my blog or read a book. Last night I had a nice dinner with one of my oldest friends, and all the while, I was not thinking about what my next status update was going to be or how clever I think I am. It’s refreshing.

Oh, I also received a friend request from my friend’s dog today. The dog can wait.

March 31, 2010
Day 3:

This sucks. I’m starting to negotiate with myself: “You don’t have to do this week-long thing. It’s not a big deal if you just go back on and check it out for a minute.”

Maybe I am in need of a facebook anonymous 12-step program. Is there one available yet?

I just went to the page where I needed to RSVP for the BBQ, and it took all my will not to click on my notifications at the top of the page. Those little numbers are so tempting. Instead, I closed the site down again. Like I said, this sucks.

12:00 PM – A friend of mine told me she logged out of facebook for three months once. A week seems like kid stuff now. She said she also puts herself on a twenty minute timer every time she’s on facebook. Ding! Times up.

I guess I’m not the only one with a problem. Hey, I don’t have three kids like she does. At least my excuse is loneliness. Okay, okay, her husband went to Iraq for the better part of a year. Twice. She wins.

3:00 PM – You know what? In the last three days, I have realized that the number of facebook email updates I receive is directly proportional to the amount of time I spend there. Today I have received none. Zero. Zilch. That never happens to me.

I also chatted with a buddy today who said my week-long absence from facebook proves nothing if I then proceed to “binge” when I get back. He’s right. Note to self: Don’t binge.

April 1, 2010
Day 4:

I’m too tired to care today. My 20-minute-timer friend said she’d be my facebook sponsor if I were to show any signs of weakness. I probably won’t need her. I’m starting to get used to being without it, actually. Detox seems to be complete. Sustaining my newfound FB sobriety will be the true test this weekend.

My sister said she went on my facebook page yesterday, and was dumbfounded that I had no new updates. She said, “I thought facebook was broken.” I laughed.

Man, my life is pitiful.

I’m missing all the April Fool’s Day jokes I’m sure. Meh. Whatever.

2:27 PM – It took three days and four hours, but someone finally wrote on my wall, and I knew it would be Pam: “I’m not enjoying the silence. Where are you?”

I also received an email from Amy stating, “I notice you haven’t been on facebook much. Are you okay?” This from someone who’s never on facebook.

Amy #2 wrote on Pam’s post saying she knows where I am, and I’m “freaking out.” Oh wonderful. Now everyone is going to worry about me. I’ll be doing damage control next week. I instant messaged her from Gmail, where I received both of their updates, “Freaking out about what?”

She was talking about a mammogram I had this morning. My first one. Welcome to old. At least it’s over. I’ve had worse things done to me.

Like living without facebook for a whole week, for instance.

5:03 PM – I’m now receiving virtual wall hugs from everyone because I’m “freaking out.” I sent an email to Amy #2 to tell her to tell everyone I am just fine.

I logged in to let people know I’m okay. Pam was legitimately worried about me. She said an addiction in which one talks to their friends every 22 seconds isn’t such a bad thing. I suppose.

April 2, 2010
Day 5:

I caved. *Shrugs.* Five days is good enough. I can learn to lessen my need for facebook. I don’t need to go completely without it. My 20-minute-timer friend is not happy with me.

Summer 2010 update – I have started deleting information and photos on my page and no longer feel the need to update my status all the time. I also have gotten good at skimming almost everything in my news feed. I also gave up posting Self-Portrait Tuesday photos. With more than 600 photos of me on my page, people know what I look like.

I do think, however, that more and more people are using facebook for events, so it’s almost a necessity to be on it if you want to get invited to in-person occasions.

And god knows we all need to spend more time face to face.

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