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Just over a month ago, while I was sitting with the other Lazy Zipper improv comedy team members at dinner, they decided it would be fun to start a rumor that I was engaged. They yelled the news in the dining room, and people looked around, but my crossed arms and sunken figure probably dissuaded them from being tricked. However, immediately after the meal, several Lazy Zipper members updated their Facebook statuses about how happy they were I was getting hitched. They also left comments on my Facebook wall announcing their joy.
A few hours later, after returning to my room from a night class, my Facebook was brimming with activity. Friends current and past had posted their support on my wall and even more people had written me messages and e-mails asking just how the whole thing had happened. For the rest of the week I also received various phone calls and text messages from people I hadn’t spoken to in months. I tried to stamp out the lie by posting my own Facebook status as “Alice Stanley is not getting married!” Still, I dealt with confusion as the joke was already out. People jokingly congratulated me at dinner, and then bystanders would congratulate me as well. Just two weeks ago I ran into a friend working at the Upper School who gave me a big hug and looked for the ring. The incident taught me that Facebook can be terrifying.
So, last week I decided my column was going to be an account of a week without Facebook. Now, a week is not too much time, so while I am and always have been fully aware of the many implications of social networking, I figured the results of this experiment would be interesting but less than life changing. Frankly, I am shocked by how difficult my endeavor was.
No, I wasn’t shaking in withdrawal, nor did I break down and cheat. However, the difficulty of the experiment existed on many levels. First of all, not being able to use it made me realize how much Facebook was a hardcore habit of mine. I don’t consider myself someone who spends too much time on the Internet – let alone social networking. I would say I probably spend about half an hour a day on Facebook, split up over about five visits to the site. If I get into a conversation with someone via Facebook chat, I might spend a little more time on any one visit. Still, I rarely have those conversations unless I would have spoken with that person in some other form soon. For example, if I know I need to call someone about a class question, and I see that person online, I ask via Internet instead.
That said, it was completely instinctual to visit Facebook anytime I opened my computer. I follow a little pattern – walk into room, check phone messages, check Prinmail, check Gmail, Facebook, continue on to other business. The whole checklist is so habitual that I can do it all without getting too sidetracked. But, regardless of how involved I get with Facebook on a regular basis, I am still accustomed to checking in often. So, after I read my Gmail, I found myself very frequently beginning to type Facebook’s address into my search bar before stopping myself.
Then, after I stopped myself, there were several times I was legitimately a little disappointed by my inability to use Facebook. One reason I realized I enjoy Facebook is that I enjoy being a productive person. Especially at school, I feel like it is almost my duty to be productive all the time. But sometimes, I cannot do homework anymore for whatever reason. Then, I like to do things I can pretend are productive. Facebook is a perfect example of my false productivity. On Facebook I can feel like I have accomplished things (“okay sent that funny message to so-and-so, accepted some invites, wished that guy a happy birthday…”) but I don’t actually do any work. It’s gratifying and relaxing at the same time. It’s better than unwinding with a video game, because although the site is virtual, I am connecting with reality on the other side of computer screens.
On that note, sometimes when I am working in solitude for a while, it feels good to have interaction with other people – even if it is online. Although everyone tells us we are very similar, my sister (five years older than I am) and I have very different social trends. For her, college was all about being surrounded by people, and in general, she enjoys company. I, on the other hand, am not bothered by whole days without any interaction with other people. Honestly, I think because I grew up with the Internet as a device to communicate with friends, it is hard for me to feel lonely ever. If that statement doesn’t sound sad, I don’t know what does. But I can’t deny its truth. Since I missed the interactive nature of Facebook, I banged out several letters and cards I had been meaning to send out. I’m sure you can argue which is better, cards or cyber chats, but it is just an observation I had about myself.
I also found myself missing Facebook because I haven’t memorized other people’s personal information (phone numbers, birthdays, etc.) because it’s all on the site. Also, because others have similar communication habits concerning Facebook, I started to get antsy by the end of the week that if someone (including a future boss) tried to contact me and never got a response, I would look rude. Lo and behold, once the trial period ended, I found a message about my summer job, some social plans I had missed, and information about a concert my friend wanted me to buy a ticket to. Although there are other ways to contact me (because clearly I had not responded to these people), they figured the ball was in my court, and that was all they needed to do.
I didn’t miss the gossip and rumors on Facebook. However, I couldn’t help but wish I could look up someone’s page when I heard some news about him or her. For instance, I heard about a recent hook-up and immediately wanted to see if the girl or guy would have anything interesting and cryptic as their statuses. I guess I won’t ever know, but I really didn’t need to. I think Facebook has definitely over-emphasized my interest in other people’s petty life choices because, frankly, I find it fascinating that I can hear about something happening to someone and immediately see that person’s response to it. However, as I well know, information on Facebook isn’t always true.
I have wondered if I would ever give up Facebook completely after I graduate, but I really doubt it. I do recognize that I sometimes substitute bare interactions on the Internet for quality time with others. I also know Facebook can perpetuate rumors that might not be true, which probably aren’t my business in the first place. I still enjoy some aspects of Facebook too much – like a running log of information I don’t have to keep, ability to contact all sorts of people so easily, and the ability for others to contact me. So, the Facebooking continues!