My Week without Facebook

Facebook, Source: Unknown

We’ve all been in the situation where we’ve been in the que at the supermarket, and there’s an old person in front of us, trying to use the chip and pin machine to pay for their shopping. They put their card in and they type the pin straight away and then think they’ve done it. Then the cashier has to explain that that they need to wait until it’s ready, then push ‘enter’, then type their pin, and then push enter again. Of course, we, the clued up younger generation can manage it fine, because we’ve grown up in this world where everything has a digital display and understand the principle of following instructions from a computer, but to our senior citizens, it’s a totally different ball game. So from that you would say that we, the younger generation, are better and smarter because we understand how these things all work, but is that really so?

There is a distinct difference between the generation of today, and the older generations. There’s even quite a difference between my generation (I’m 21) and that of my dad. Only 2 days ago he was telling me that as he was growing up, kids would go out with their fishing rods, catch a fish, and eat it for dinner. That just doesn’t happen now-a-days. All of our Grandfathers has noble careers like joinery or seafareing and all had great stories to tell. I am yet to meet anyone who’s Grandfather worked in a call centre, and for that reason, I don’t feel inclined to punish them for my wait at the supermarket.

While the great people of Britain now relax, having spent their lives doing all manor of practical and uplifting things, I feel that we, the younger generation, can’t do quite as much. And for this I blame Facebook.

To help me to explain what I am about to tell you, I’m going to tell you about a good friend of mine, who served with me while I was on my mission in Germany. His name is Davis. Now, Davis is probably the most motivated kid I know. He brings fun and excitement to every party. He loves basketball, in addition to many other pass times that could be summed with the phrase ‘getting out and having a life’. And it reflected not just during his leisure time, but also when it came to doing some work. Off he went, no discouragement, no attempts to waste a bit of time before starting work. And if I ever wanted to have a peek in an electronics store, that was not allowed, and for him, you could just see that he wasn’t withering away due to lack of exposure to the internet.

Now though, back to Facebook. Yes, there has been lots of social networks throughout the last 15 years. There was MSN, bebo, Myspace, and so forth, but none of them have really caught on like Facebook has, and none of them have quite the ability to suck away our lives as Facebook does.

What Facebook does is it sits there, in our second tab, and we all loyally check back to it every few minutes to see if someone has written anything, or uploaded anything, or is available to chat. It makes a very passive passtime, where, if you aren’t careful, you will spend hours looking at it and achieving nothing. Three years ago, they were telling us the average user in the UK spends four hours and twenty-three minutes a month on Facebook (Nielson), and that we should worry about that. Now it’s all over our billboards and cereal boxes, and according to some statistics, which I have no problem believing, people spend an average of 22 minutes a day (11 hours a month) on the site.

It stifles creativity, when your thoughts are ‘what shall I do after this? I know, I’ll go on Facebook’, our thoughts are then distracted from thinking of something vaulable and real to do. It suddenly becomes no longer the primary thought to get your house cleaned, or go out for a walk, or read a book, because Facebook is there, and has disguised itself as a quick time filler.

With less fulfilling passtimes, it leads to less satisfaction in life and more materialism, more wanting this and that, stuff usually you can’t fully afford. And, in all honesty, having experienced a bit of that myself, I decided that it was time for me and Facebook to end our relationship.

Now, to clarify, I haven’t left Facebook, I still use it. I have friends across the world, and it is a brilliant means for keeping in contact with them. But I have chosen to stop using chat, and not to have it run in my second tab. And what was the result? One of the most productive weeks since my missionary service in Germany.

It’s been easier to get to bed earlier, and therefore it has been easier to wake up. I found that the quality of my study of the scriptures was improved, it was much easier to concentrate. I got started on a project I’ve been needing to do, but haven’t wanted to start, which was to clear up and get rid of the rust developing on my car. I have also been working on tracing out our family history. On those evenings where I didn’t have a lot to do, I pulled out a book and started reading.

Books are great, they don’t have such a strong pull, and they usually really do improve you academically. They fill you with creative thoughts and inspiration, and bring balance which helps you in other aspects of your life. They also allow time to reflect, to ponder over what is important in life.While we don’t realise it, it is these things that the internet can often rob from us.

The point I want to make here is not that we should all drop Facebook and the internet and live in caves. Everything in moderation is good, it balances our lives, but take it out of moderation, which which Facebook it is very easy to do, and it does become a vice. It really is all about self control. Some of us naturally have more of it than others, but we can all do things that will help us reign over our worldly desires. Our older people didn’t have the internet, and so it was naturally easier for them to find more productive things to do. We do live in a different world to where they lived. One where despite the fact they don’t know how to pay for groceries, they have the last laugh.

Links and Sources

UK Facebook stats March 2011

BBC – Facebook still in fashion (2008)