Why are you addicted to Facebook? And don’t think that I’m not talking to you. Unless you’re my dear old mom whom I’m actively seeking out a Facebook private tutor for (my contact information’s at the bottom of the article) or you don’t have an account, you’re probably addicted to some degree. If it’s any consolation, it’s not really your fault though. Zuckerberg may have been a computer geek, but I’m sure he aced his psychology classes. Let me break down the cycle this shrewd gentleman put into motion.
So you wake up on a Saturday morning in your dorm and you’ve got nothing to do. Papers are already written and the roommate’s passed out cold from whatever shenanigans he got into last night, leaving you utterly bored. You decide to check out what’s happening on Facebook and become lost amidst adding “liked” pages to your timeline that probably no one will acknowledge and checking if there’s any slight chance you missed any of the 341 of your crush’s tagged photos. I know this college student I just made up sounds kind of like a creeper, but believe it or not, we’re all creepers on Facebook. We have no way of being held accountable for our browsing, so can you blame us?
Before the age of Facebook, when you had nothing to do, you found something to do. You didn’t just stare at walls; you went out and learned a new hobby, or you may have stayed in and heard a World War II story from your grandpa. But with Facebook and all its temptations, you effectively accomplish nothing. Maybe that’s why the youth of this generation are very much unskilled. No wonder no one wants to hire us.
Let me give you an example. I once found myself standing in a seemingly indefinite, swirling line at the DMV (it was so long that it actually attracted street vendors). At the time (and till this day), I didn’t have a smart phone, and so I was forced to people-watch as my sole form of entertainment. Eventually this watching turned into talking, and as soon as they were calling my ticket number, I had met some interesting folks who had given me some unique perspectives into the world. The bottom line is, I accomplished something! Don’t tell me the same outcome would have resulted if I had been cruising on Facebook at the onset of my boredom.
But I’m not the first to realize that Facebook may be the mother of all timewasters. A counter-revolution has emerged that flat out calls for a boycotting of Facebook. I call the infantry of this movement “Deactivators.” You know you’re dealing with a deactivator when she is constantly re-adding you and disappearing, claiming that her break from Facebook is over and she has finally seen the undeniable role of Facebook in her life. But I doubt that quitting Facebook, either transiently or permanently, is the answer to breaking the addiction. Facebook is not the enemy; your obsessive-compulsiveness is.
Facebook has become an integral part of how we communicate and express ourselves in the 21st century. On the micro-level, your friends may be using Facebook’s nuances to plan you a surprise birthday party. But on the macro level, Facebook has been used to mobilize Egyptian youth activists to Tahrir Square in a moment’s notice. So it’s hard to call Facebook useless, knowing it had an undeniable role in the toppling of a 30-year autocrat’s regime and an irreversible remolding of Middle Eastern politics. We need to not only accept that Facebook has become a part of our culture, but that it needs to be managed responsibly on an individual level if we ever want to get the best bang for our buck out of our youth.
But you’re asking yourself, without Facebook, what would I do for study breaks? Studies show that the best kind of break to take when faced with mental fatigue is to change to a different cognitive task or even to a physical one. So if you’ve been on the computer studying lecture slides, go downstairs for a walk. I personally prefer a few push-ups or pull-ups to get my blood flowing. But don’t do them in the Student Center Study Terrace and ease the awkwardness by explaining that I coerced you into it.
My advice to you is this: check Facebook only so much as it needs to be checked for you to stay updated with social and global events. There’s really no legitimate excuse for checking it every hour. Events don’t materialize and dissipate within that hour, so don’t think that you’ll be missing out. Because in the end, it’s life that you don’t want to miss out on, and Facebook is just a means of telling you where and when life is happening.
Faisal Chaabani is a fifth-year neurobiology major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.