As I transition from laying out my whole life for "friends" to see on Facebook to selectively sharing aspects of it I feel might actually benefit someone, I want to post my senior speech from high school. Written in 2007, I spoke and warned of a situation that was newly consuming me and my classmates: Facebook.
Due to this recent worldwide phenomenon, TIME Magazine has made “you” the 2006 Person of the Year. This phenomenon is social networking. Social networking, according to Wikipedia.com, is a social structure that indicates the ways in which individuals or organizations are connected through various social familiarities. Wikipedia also states that, in 2005, MySpace, a popular social networking website, received more page views than Google. To compete with MySpace, Facebook, a networking site previously only for college students, opened its URLs to everybody who had an e-mail address. However, it has remained mainly popular with college students, and now recently high schoolers. In fact, Facebook is the 7th most visited site on the World Wide Web.
For the few of you here who are not aware of the ways of Facebook, I will take a moment to quickly define its key terms. Your “profile” is your homepage, which allows you to list your interests, activities, current relationship status, and post a default picture. The “wall” is a public place where people can write personal comments to you. My favorite aspect of Facebook, “tagging photos”, is a process in which you can identify and label yourself in any photo by clicking on your head, or any other body part for that matter, and having that photo show up in your profile. Your “status” makes sure people know exactly what you are doing at any given moment. For example, currently my status is “Devon is writing her senior speech.” More common ones are, “Devon is eating pizza.” or “Devon is a fool.” The “news feed” appears when you first log onto Facebook and gives you an update on the lives of your friends. For example, an excerpt from a January 16, 2007 “News-Feed”: Carl Skarbek is finally free, Evan Carmouche commented on my photo, Caroline Lovett joined the group, “because I’m a second semester senior, that’s why!”, and Kimberly Spatola added Panic!At the Disco to her favorite music.
Facebook has become a social necessity. It keeps you updated on people’s relationships and statuses, allows you to make and join groups, reminds you of your friend’s birthdays, and reconnects you with old classmates. Unfortunately, all this access to personal information has caused some unrest. I don’t mean unrest in terms of the dangers of befriending Scotty from Arizona who claims he’s a 6’4 body builder, but turns out to be an obese pedophile. I mean the unrest that arises when you realize the importance of your friendship to someone by your placement in his or her MySpace Top 8. People begin to develop a false sense of popularity, because honestly, who has more than 300 friends?
However, one of the most dangerous aspects of Facebook is that it is highly addictive. “Hi. My Name is Devon Byrne, and I am a Facebook addict.” Though I feel ashamed in saying that, admitting I have a problem is the first step to recovery. After all, I am not alone. Many of you are thinking the same thing, and like me, eagerly await the moment you first log onto Facebook after being separated from it all day. Signs that you may have an addiction include: the highlight of your day is uploading and tagging those pictures from last night, you add movies to your favorites right after you see them, your profile says “displaying 30 of 75 groups,” and you are tagged in at least 200 photos. Facebook addicts, myself a prime example, experience withdrawal symptoms of uneasiness and possible violence when their Internet is down or their name hasn’t shown up in the News Feed for days. Why do we become addicted? Why must we dive into other people’s lives? Why do we enjoy broadcasting our own lives? To answer these questions we must thrust ourselves into phase two of addiction recovery—evaluating yourself and your problem.
Like any other addiction, my Facebook addiction started off slowly; only using once a day. However, gradually it grew into an overbearing monster, demanding at least 5 log-ins per day. Facebook is like a drug, in that it disconnects the abuser from the real world. A major downfall of Facebook addicts is that they become reliant on the “News-Feed” to update them on social gossip. People have begun breaking up over Facebook, and within days everyone knows about it.
With Facebook, I can show people who I really am by what kind of music I listen to and which groups I have joined. For example, by looking at my groups one can tell I care about saving the Platapi population, I am a member of Dumbledore’s Army, and I enjoy watching Disney movies. However, the act of describing who you are through your actions on a website has created a pathetic dependancy on Internet communication. I attribute most of my terrible social skills to the fact that in my early years, I relied on AIM Instant Messenger to have my most important conversations. Facebook has created a false feeling of personal relationships because you can communicate with little to no human contact. This lack of face to face communication can lead you on the dreaded path of becoming a “Facebook stalker”. Nearly all addicts have done something to qualify themselves as a stalker, because Facebook has made it too easy to investigate the life of that boy you wish you were dating. You can look at every picture he’s tagged in, know if he’s broken up with his girlfriend yet, and even “poke” him, which is the act of merely sending a message saying “you have been poked”. It is considered by some to be the Facebook style of flirting.
So why do we become addicted in the first place? Why do we ever reach that point where we can’t function unless we get a high from a Facebook log-in? I believe we become infatuated with the idea that somone else is interested in what we have to say or do. We become very curious and interested in our friend’s interactions with each other. Facebook allows us to look at these interests and interactions of other people and see where we fall in line. We are so willing to publicize our lives and become an intricate part of that social network because it gives us a chance to show who we are and see if our lives are as interesting as others. But, I urge you not to waste time on Facebook doing things that really don’t matter in life, because you will miss out on the world you live in when you are not signed on and logged in, because after all, life doesn’t happen on a computer screen.