When Facebook started getting popular my freshman year, I didn’t get an account because I didn’t want to get obsessed like I had been with MySpace. In sixth grade, I would waste an entire day on MySpace, spending an hour deciding which song to make my profile song and constantly checking to see if I was still on my friends’ Top 8s. I never felt like I was missing anything big not being on Facebook, just small things, like when everyone would be laughing at photos they saw online or some kind of funny status, which is something you write that everyone who’s friends with you can see.
Then one day in April of sophomore year we were supposed to wear pink to support teachers who had gotten pink slips, which meant they might get laid off. I was one of the few people not wearing pink, and when I said I didn’t have a Facebook and that was why I didn’t know, everyone looked at me like I was some weirdo stuck in the past. So I caved in and got a Facebook page.
That summer, I started going on Facebook every day. I would post a status of song lyrics that I liked or something witty, then happily respond to any comments I got. I would browse through other people’s photos, watch videos and read statuses. When I saw photos of people hanging out, I felt like I was there. But sometimes I’d wonder why I wasn’t invited. One Saturday afternoon, it seemed like everyone had a great time at a get-together the night before. There were pictures of them at a restaurant, the park and more. Other people seemed to be having a lot more fun than I was. I thought, why am I not more social? I also had fewer Facebook friends than other people. I had around 150 friends, while most people had more than 300. It made me feel unpopular. But I couldn’t stop going on, even though it made me feel bad, because it was addictive.
My grades dropped
When the school year started, I checked my Facebook constantly after I got home. I’d do my homework for 30 minutes and then go on Facebook for an hour, wondering if there was anything new to look at. I was going to bed around 2 every night. My grades went from As and Bs to mostly Bs, and I even had a C in math and a D in Japanese. My parents freaked out. They asked me if I needed a tutor. I said no, because I felt guilty that they would be spending money on something that was my fault. They asked me if I was all right. I said yes, even though I was starting to feel creepy. Why did I care so much about what people I didn’t even know that well were doing?
Then near the end of October a girl wrote a story in our school newspaper about how maybe some people who were obsessed with Facebook had low self-esteem. That sounded like me. I hadn’t thought I was obsessed with Facebook because I had low self-esteem. I thought it was the opposite: because I was vain. I thought that the more people commented and “liked” my statuses or photos, the more they must like me. The article helped me see that I would rather think about other people’s lives than my own, and it was sad, like even I didn’t think of myself as worth paying attention to.
I felt bad because I was comparing my life to others’ online lives, but what I didn’t realize was that people want others to think they’re living exciting lives. No one is going to post pictures of being bored. It was dangerous to judge myself against such an unrealistic standard. I’m different online too. On Facebook I always seem like I’m in a good mood. I don’t want people to think that I’m a whiny person. It’s easier to project a personality that I want people to think I have. I could be wittier in my comments than I was in person because I could think before I typed them. I think people shouldn’t take the image people project on Facebook too literally. It’s not realistic.
I don’t think people should get rid of their Facebook pages. It’s impractical because a lot of people use it for school and everyone’s on it. To keep from going on so much, I use a site blocker, an application that blocks any websites you choose. I found one called StayFocusd that allowed me to set a limit of two minutes a day on Facebook. That’s long enough to ask project group members to email me instead. When I try to stay on longer than two minutes, the page disappears, a white screen takes its place and it says: “Shouldn’t you be working?” Those four words always seem to come when I’m about to be sucked in again.
I make more time for real life
Now that I’m on Facebook less, I have time to do things that are more important. I hang out in the living room with my family instead of being cooped up in my room, and I go out with my friends instead of making lame excuses so I can log onto Facebook. I’ve stopped using Facebook to measure my popularity. It’s just a fun distraction. Sometimes I still feel insecure, but it’s less because of Facebook and more of a teen thing.
I still have the two-minute limit on Facebook, although I turn it off sometimes on the weekends. I know it’s for the best, because I want to live my life, not relive someone else’s.