Faceb00k: The Unhealthy Addiction

Allison Leavey, Journalism Student

“It’s not official until it’s on facebook.” About five years ago, that may have been the most ridiculous statement someone could have blurted out, but in today’s society, facebook has become almost as credible a news source, if not more, than sites like MSNBC or The New York Times. Phrases like, “I saw it on my newsfeed,” or, “Dude, he tweeted about it,” are what the instant-messaging, status-updating, tweeting, texting teenager’s of the younger generation take as the gospel truth. Social networking has become a viral trend among youth, and as facebook grows older, the dependence only grows stronger.

I will admit, I do enjoy scrolling through my newsfeed in times of boredom. I, like many others, will post status updates, pictures, and chat with friends. However, it was not until recently that I came to the realization of just how pointless, yet shockingly addicting, this nightly facebook ritual can be. Most of the people we connect with online are people we see everyday, yet we feel the need to communicate over a computer instead of picking up a telephone or having face to face contact.

I can recall three instances where facebook brought me breaking news; the death of Michael Jackson, Billy Mayes, and of course, the highly celebrated death of Osama Bin Laden. I found it mind-boggling that I logged online for some mindless browsing, but instead ended up having the most up-to-date and important news stories at that time delivered to me through a status update. After getting over the initial shock of the news, the real surprise was how fast people responded to current news. In the past hour, about thirty or more statuses were updated, explaining the same thing in a different, witty way. Who needs newspapers when you have a whole facebook community committed to delivering current events?

It seems that teenagers feel the need to update their statuses at the drop of a hat. When something exciting happens, it gets posted to facebook. Someone goes to prom, or a party, or on vacation, and pictures are uploaded. Nothing seems to come as a surprise anymore because everyone knows everything. The old saying, “secrets, secrets are no fun unless you share with everyone,” may be catching on. There are no surprises, our whole lives are posted in the “about me” section of our profiles.

Our whole identities are shaped on our facebook profile pages. With that, comes first impressions. Now more than ever, people begin friendships and relationships over the internet, starting off as “friends” on facebook and later turning into friends in real life. While that may seem like a valuable resource, it can easily shape a person’s opinion in a bad way, too. Normally, first impressions are formed when met face to face, however, they are instead being developed online more often. According to a study quoted in Newsweek article, “Making a Digital First Impression,” by Johannah Cornblatt, “photos you post online provide a wealth of information about who you are—whether you like it or not.”

Facebook is such an addicting sight, there have even been studies conducted about the unhealthy effects of logging on. In an MSNBC report, “Docs warn about teens and ‘Facebook Depression,’” studies have shown that facebook use is a contributor to depressive symptoms. “There are unique aspects of Facebook that can make it a particularly tough social landscape to navigate for kids already dealing with poor self-esteem, said Dr. Gwenn O’Keeffe, a Boston-area pediatrician and lead author of new American Academy of Pediatrics social media guidelines.”

I would really like to say that after reading some of these studies, I would quit my facebook addiction, stop repetitively logging into my account a mere twenty minutes after signing off. But instead, I will most likely continue my addictive behavior, and engage in another episode of scrolling through a newsfeed. For the select few that don’t have a facebook, I envy you. You are above the influence. My congratulations.