Facebook: Harmless Fun or a Farce? The Rise of Facebookaholics Anonymous
My name is Sarah and I am a facebookaholic. It has been three hours since I last checked my timeline. No, I’m not really a facebookaholic and I know that addictions and other mental health issues are no joke. I am somewhat of an ‘all or nothing’ person, and have been (up until now) a rather prolific user of facebook as many of my facebook friends will attest to. I tried the ‘facebook diet’, cutting down on usage, but like many diets, it didn’t really work and so I decided to go cold turkey by deactivating my facebook account. This has not been a spur of the moment decision, it is something that I have come to over a period of time. I got my affairs in order over the last week before I committed what a friend refers to as ‘social networking suicide.’ I still have an admin page so that I can link my blog and Gracious Design pages to facebook, but other than that, I plan on taking an extended facebookation – a vacation from facebook. I hope to keep in touch with friends via this blog, twitter, email, and heaven’s above, even via phone or face to face over a coffee. I may experience withdrawal symptoms over the next few weeks and I may require some support with this!
There are many aspects of social media that I have enjoyed, such as keeping in contact with friends who live in other places. I have been genuinely interested in the lives of my friends and I have enjoyed reading their stories and viewing their photos. Being a stay at home parent, facebook has enabled me to feel less isolated, and more connected to the outside world. Facebook is like a little community. However, I have questioned recently whether facebook really represents an authentic community, or whether it is in fact a pseudo-community. There are many ways that facebook can enhance community. Take one example, when we had a ‘custard crisis’ recently and I couldn’t get to the supermarket (a first world problem I know), I posted this on facebook and several local friends even offered to drop by with custard powder! How kind.
But when I consider the pros and cons of facebook, the cons for me at the moment, outweighed the pro’s. I’m not saying that facebook is evil or that using facebook is wrong. Please do not feel condemned if you are a prolific facebook user. Anything can be used for good or evil. But many people are waking up to the not so positive side of facebook. I’ve never had an addiction, although I was concerned that I was spending too much time on facebook and that it had a hold on me. Like any addiction or potentially addictive activity, whether it is alcohol or technology, shopping or sex, it is not always the activity that is the problem, it is the impact on one’s emotional, social and occupational functioning that is the issue in question.
Recently I have become a little weary of facebook, and here are some of the concerns that I have pondered regarding facebook and social media in general:
- I have questioned whether the facebook ‘community’ is really quite impersonal.
- We know that body language plays a large part in the communication process. However. when using social media, one cannot read someone else’s body language, and so it can be difficult to know how one’s status updates come across. One has to be careful what one writes, especially when one has a diverse group of friends. Sadly I have heard of many examples of friends who have fallen out due to facebook altercations. While this hasn’t really happened to me, I can see how offences can happen. Sometimes facebook can give others ammunition for destructive gossip too.
- The dangers of oversharing. Sometimes I didn’t feel that I could be real on facebook, especially when many of my fb friends were folks that I didn’t know super well.
- Using social media can clutter our already busy lives. As I have discussed in a previous post, are we psychologically suited to keeping in touch with 200+ people?
- Facebook can lead to unhelpful social comparisons and envying. I’ve written about this before. Sometimes it can be hard to rejoice with those who are rejoicing, and when we see pictures of someone’s holiday overseas or their new home, or pictures of their wedding, it can be hard not to compare. But we are often content until we compare.
- In general, facebook is ‘no friend to mental health’. In can undermine an individual’s emotional well-being. as many studies have reported.
- Security concerns. Recently I have had several friends who have had their accounts hacked and their identities stolen. I also had a friend who I noticed had ‘unfriended’ me. I was a little concerned and I emailed her. As it turns out, she hadn’t unfriended me at all, her account had been hacked and this had deleted some of her friends.
- Some of the photos that facebook has allowed on it’s site have alarmed and disturbed me, such as the photo of a murder of two young girls in India.
- A recent article discussed how the facebook scientists manipulated he news feeds of their clients in a psychological study of over 600,000 facebook users without informed consent. You can read more about this unethical study here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/charliewarzel/facebook-data-scientists-manipulated-news-feed-to-perform-a
Would Jesus use Facebook?
As a Christian I have considered recently whether Jesus would use facebook. I think of the WWJD movement that was popular in the nineties and is now making a come back. The ministry of Jesus was a very personal one. From the gospels, we don’t see that he even wrote letters. He was a fan of one on one heart to heart communication. However many christian ministries do use social media and their influence to uplift and encourage others, and to be a blessing and a light.
I am unaware whether there is an organisation called ‘Facebookaholics Anonymous’ however psychologists have created a Facebook Addiction Scale, and some studies have found that social media is more addictive than other addictive substances or activities. Perhaps there is a demand and scope for a ‘Facebookaholics Anonymous’.
So is facebook harmless fun or is it a farce? Or does it lie somewhere in between? Let’s have a blogversation.