By Neha Neelwarne, OSU Student
Have you ever sat in a lecture and pretended to take notes on your computer while actually Facebook-ing with your friends? Maybe with a friend who was sitting right next to you? More often than not, I’d say the answer to those questions is “yes.” Many of us might have even tried to evade any feelings of guilt by calling it “multi-tasking.” Practically every person I’ve talked to about Facebook has conceded that it is one giant time suck. However, many of us believe that Facebook is indispensable when it comes to maintaining a social life in spite of our super busy schedules. After feeling uncomfortable with just how much energy I was expending “managing” my Facebook account, I decided to deactivate. Some of the changes which followed were predictable, but the majority were totally unexpected.
Unfriended vs. Deactivated
It was surprising that the majority of my friends who noticed that I wasn’t on their Facebook thought that I had unfriended them because I was upset with them. They didn’t even consider that I deactivated my account. I got dismayed texts from my friends inquiring what they had done to make me so upset as to unfriend them. Some even apologized for whatever they thought they had done to make me mad. I definitely didn’t see this coming. Was I so into Facebook that my friends thought I would unfriend them before I shut my account down? Or was it that we have begun to consider deactivating our facebook accounts as something unthinkable?
What do you think your friends would think if you quit Facebook today? Would the first thing they think be that you unfriended them?
Challenging Long-Held Political Views
Another hard fact to swallow after getting rid of my Facebook account was that I was responsible for getting my own news on current events. With Facebook, I relied on other people posting news articles to find out what was happening around the world. Unfortunately, this meant that I only read about the issues and the perspectives which I was comfortable with since the majority of my friends and I share the same political views. But in my post-Facebook world I established a few websites and apps I could skim to get my news, and I began to recognize my bias. I now generally get my news from a few different sources so that I can carefully consider different angles before I can make up my own mind. This has definitely helped me think more critically about issues rather than defer to my friends’ judgments.
The most unexpected change post-Facebook has been with my social interactions. While I had expected that I wouldn’t have a social life anymore, it was actually quite the opposite. I found myself arranging more coffee dates, movie nights, dinners and lunches to meet up with friends. With Facebook, I always thought I knew what was happening with my friends, and when I passed them on the street I’d just say “Hey!” and carry on. I used to think, “Well, I already read on his facebook that he got a good job offer, and he got a good night’s sleep and had a waffle for breakfast, so I already know he’s doing alright.” More often than not, I thought I knew how people were doing through their Facebook and didn’t feel like I needed to connect with them personally when I met them. But post-Facebook, I find that I stop and talk to people much more often and I tend to get a lot more details about their lives too. After all, do status updates really update others on how we are doing, or are they more like personal press releases we send every hour?
A recent study by Dr. Larry Rosen of California State University found that teens and young adults are more likely to suffer from narcissism, antisocial behavior, anxiety and depression if they spend too much time on Facebook. While these reactions sound extreme, the study may confirm that Facebook-ing every ten minutes can not only have negative consequences on your GPA and your job performance, but also on your health.
I miss Facebook!
I am not suggesting that everybody should shut down their Facebook accounts. If I am to be completely honest, I do feel like I miss out on quite a bit by not being on Facebook. I miss a lot of engagement announcements from high school friends, I miss baby announcements and pictures of friends’ new born children. When I can’t be at a friend’s wedding, I appreciate experiencing it through pictures and descriptions on Facebook. It is also hard to find out about certain events when I’m not on Facebook. But I do ask you to consider what effect Facebook is having on your relationships, on your academic and job performance, and your critical thinking abilities. Personally, I find that I am getting a lot more done without Facebook, and am instead investing time in the relationships which are important to me.
I believe that I will probably be back on Facebook when I can commit to doing it in a healthier, non-obsessive way. As of now I feel like my energy is better spent elsewhere, but when I am ready to commit, I will be trying to follow four rules. If you struggle with managing your Facebook use, maybe these four tips can help you gain better control as well.
1. Remove temptation: When you need to concentrate on something else, close the Facebook tab. In fact, if you don’t need to use a computer to do your work, shut it down. Make sure to put your phone away as well.
2. Set boundaries: Assign certain times when you can use Facebook, and stick to those times. Make sure that you are clear about the times you should not be on Facebook (lecture, meeting, work etc.).
3. Moderation: Just because you are assigning certain times for Facebook doesn’t mean that you should go overboard. Allocating 6 hours a day to Facebook isn’t going to help either.
4. Go outside and play: Don’t just sit at a computer all day long. We get more than enough of sitting down in classes and at work. Find something else to do with your friends. Many people find playing a team sport to be a good time to socialize while getting exercise. Balance socializing through a computer, and socializing in person.
Technology has created some amazing opportunities for all of us. However, to quote Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Using Facebook and technology in excess can cause our lives to spiral out of balance and start affecting our productivity as well as our health. I am trying to establish a healthier way to use all the amazing tools I have access to, like Facebook. I hope you will join me in this effort as well. Feel free to share your thoughts and your journey on the Be Well blog.
 Adapted from Patrick Shiner, First-year Student, Disney College’s article “How to Stay Plugged In Without an Electronic Overload.”