I was an awkward, brace-faced seventh-grader when I began my long and complicated relationship … with Facebook. My friend Alex introduced me to the site when she wanted to send some funny MadTV clips to my wall. When I stared back blankly, Alex’s jaw hit the floor.
“Wait, you don’t use Facebook?” she gasped. “That’s it; I’m making you an account right now,” she said, grabbing the keyboard to get to work.
Coming from a small middle school, I had no idea Facebook would soon take over my life. I didn’t understand the hype surrounding the site: My friends and I already knew everything about each other, spent all our free time together, and texted to keep in contact. What could I possibly be missing by not having Facebook?
“You can do anything with Facebook,” Alex raved. In five minutes, she taught me all about creating statuses, posting pictures, and chatting with people. And just like that, I was hooked.
There’s no question that Mark Zuckerberg’s vision behind Facebook is genius. In the 13 years since its founding, Facebook has consistently dominated the social media arena: It’s the most frequently used social media platform, with 1.86 billion monthly users and counting. It’s transformed the speed and distance with which people can interact, whether they’re a mile away or across the globe. And what truly distinguishes Facebook from fads like MySpace is its ability to evolve and keep users engaged.
Facebook is successful partly because of its extensive list of interpersonal activities. Users can chat, message, post, and comment on each other’s walls to instantly interact with and learn more about their peers. Members turn to the timeline to create their own personalized profile and witness their friends’ biggest moments, such as birthdays and job changes.
But Facebook is more than a medium of communication between peers: It’s a space users can utilize for business, news and entertainment. As a college student, I found Facebook particularly helpful for finding crucial information about organizations and upcoming events. Companies, organizations and clubs create Facebook pages to provide invaluable information about their causes and events.
Additionally, the site’s “News Feed” has become a resource for local, national and global stories: According to Pew Research, nearly 44 percent of adults turn to Facebook for their news fix. Users can also play games, express their responses to various posts with the Reaction button, and create group messages and event invitations. With so many possibilities, it’s pretty safe to say that no other site offers more entertaining applications and individualized features than Facebook.
Although I initially utilized Facebook primarily to contact friends, I relied on the site more regularly when I came to college. As a first-year, the site was clutch in helping me match the names and faces of my new peers.
But over the years, Facebook became an imperative part of my daily routine. Eventually, I’d start and end the day by checking Facebook; I’d pull up my News Feed when walking to class, taking study breaks, and even during face-to-face interactions with friends. I spent hours mindlessly scrolling through recommended videos and articles.
About a month ago, I decided enough was enough. I didn’t have the self-discipline to use Facebook in moderation, and deactivated my account. Though I hesitated to press the button and end my Facebook persona, I was ready to see, after nine years, how my life would change without the site.
I wish I could say I’ve felt liberated in my post-Facebook state …Yes, it was nice to no longer be bombarded by notifications, and I had fewer distractions throughout the day. I also assumed I’d freed up a huge chunk of time to devote to my studies, extracurriculars, and social activities.
But honestly, cutting the site cold-turkey was been anything but a breeze. Since nearly 82 percent of young adults use Facebook, not having an account means being isolated from the largest collective online community. By deleting my account, I’d limited myself from accessing not only my friends’ personal milestones, but also (and perhaps more importantly), events occurring at the Claremont colleges.
For years, I’d taken for granted how efficiently Facebook spreads news about clubs, school-run activities, and social gatherings. Without access to event pages or organizations’ personal sites, I was out of the loop. I craved Facebook’s instant ability to connect me to Claremont more than anything else.
What’s more, I began to think that my problem had less to do with Facebook than with my personal incapacity to productively use my account. In its absence, I started checking Instagram, Snapchat, and my email accounts more frequently. Ironically, my time online actually increased when I got rid of Facebook: I’d simply replaced one form of media with several others.
At the end of the day, the power of social media rests in the hands of its users. Facebook is not responsible for how (and how often) people use the site. Individuals with accounts are not obligated to post, share, comment, or even check the site. Users can and have maintained positive, healthy relationships with Facebook, and I applaud those who take full advantage of its infinite resources.
But for now, my account remains deactivated, at least until I find the discipline to operate the site in a balanced manner.
Katie Baughman SC ’18 is studying Economics and English.