The Online Journal of Writer Kate Sykes
Within the first 24 hours it began: panic spiking through the calm of my daily routine, random thoughts about Facebook, filling me with doubt, breaking down my resolve, tempting me to log back in.
What if I need to reach my cousin in Florida? I don’t have her phone number or her email. And the wife of my former boss, she always has the best book recommendations. What about all of my friends from elementary school, each one a memory-keeper. They have the power to fire synapses in a part of my brain that hasn’t lit up in 35 years. What if my Facebook interactions with them are saving me from dementia in later life?
Was it a mistake to not download a copy of my Facebook data before requesting deletion? What if Russian hackers steal all my digital photos and extort me for bitcoin to get them back?
How will I ever find out what the Japanese characters on my favorite miso soup bowl mean in English? Wait. Maybe those characters aren’t Japanese. Maybe they’re Chinese, or Korean. I have Facebook friends in all three countries. I should’ve posted a photo and asked for a translation before I left. Now I’ll never know.
Oh, no! I can’t log in to MeetUps! What other secure websites did I link to my Facebook login? How do I retrieve my login information? Can I? Or are those accounts now dead to me, too? In what other ways have I inconvenienced myself but won’t know it until it’s too late? Okay…How much time is left? I should mark my calendar so I know exactly. I don’t want to cut it too close.
When I called my sister-in-law to tell that I’d nuked myself on Facebook, I mentioned that they gave me fourteen days to change my mind. She laughed and said, “Of course they did. They know you’re addicted.”
Addiction is a term we throw around a lot when we talk about technology. Like the word ‘crazy,’ we often use it without much thought about what it actually means or if it really applies. An addiction medicine specialist will tell you that use, abuse, dependence and addiction are different animals.
Anyone who enjoys a glass of wine with dinner, or has woken up with a hangover after a night of over-indulging knows what use and abuse are all about. Dependence is defined as use that includes tolerance to and withdrawal from a substance. Addiction can be defined as continued use despite negative consequences.
Okay so how does my relationship to Facebook stack-up?
Do I use Facebook? Yes.
Do I over-use or abuse it? For sure. As a writer, any time spent surfing the net or noodling around on social media is a distraction from work. I can say without question that Facebook makes it easy to procrastinate, and it encourages lazy reading habits by funneling my attention away from the long-form articles and books I used to read regularly. So yes, I think I abuse Facebook.
Am I dependent on Facebook? Just four days into this experiment it is already clear that Facebook fills certain needs for me that I might not be able to easily replace, such as interacting with friends who live abroad or casual acquaintances with whom I wouldn’t otherwise keep in touch. I’m dependent on certain writer friends’ Facebook posts to keep me informed about goings on within the publishing industry. I also rely on Facebook to keep my calendar for certain group meetings, such as my mountain bike riding club and a virtual critique group. Then there’s the whole “login with Facebook” debacle, which is one of the more insidious ways Facebook makes itself invaluable to people. It’s going to be a major hassle to create new accounts for those portals.
But am I really addicted? In truth, I don’t know. I’ve never tricked to kick the habit before, but I guess we’ll find out.
What’s your relationship with Facebook? And what is my soup bowl trying to tell me? If you know, post me a comment.
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