Hachiko asks: I have been getting addicted to the Internet (especially Facebook). I can’t close it because my best friend and I live very far so we can talk there. I also play a game there called Youville, and am addicted to that too. Could you please help me?
Hi Hachiko –
Facebook is, I suppose, the most profound change in humans’ social world of the last decade. I don’t even know what would come in second place! It has exploded in popularity and importance so quickly that most of the world has been struggling to keep up with it – including trying to grasp what its advantages and disadvantages are. Besides its original intent to create a place for friends to meet online, it has contributed to the fall of empires, to countless reunions of lost contacts, and – yes – to millions of acts of thoughtlessness and cruelty.
I’m only a dog and don’t have nearly the imagination or wisdom to know all the advantages or disadvantages inherent in Facebook. But there are a few things I do know, and they all have both in them!
1) Facebook is an amazing way of getting news about yourself out to a great number of people. Whether that means advertising a new product, putting out the word that your beloved aunt passed on, or warning your fellow protestors to change the locale of your march. But it can also hurt you hugely. People tell where they are eating dinner, and find that doing that told someone that their house was empty and available to rob; people do something embarrassing at a party and suddenly all their friends know about it and perhaps even see pictures; and some people miss out on the effects of their posting even more – there was a man in the news recently who had escaped from jail and wrote on Facebook about each place he went. The police were able to figure out the direction he was going, and caught him and put him right back in his cell!
2) Facebook is a really fun way to interact with your friends. You can share information about music or movies you’re enjoying, you can talk about what’s been going on in your day, trade concerns about teachers, etc. It also is the most powerful tool for teenage bullying the world has ever known. Twenty years ago, if someone wanted to say something mean about someone else, they just told it to friends, or at worst wrote it on the wall at school, where it might be seen by tens or even hundreds of people – until it was painted over or torn down. Today, cruel lies can be posted on Facebook and seen instantly by more people than even the poster is aware of, and potentially can be impossible to remove (once they’re being passed on). As we’ve often heard, the trauma from this can result in horrible consequences, even murder and suicide!
3) Facebook can be a great way to meet new people. You might see something a friend’s friend posts that sounds so agreeable to you that you become their friend too. I imagine there are babies and marriages now, that have been created by such meetings! On the other hand, Facebook can also be used by predators, criminals, and liars who want to do terrible things to teenage strangers. It is terribly important that all teens be very careful about anyone they meet online, including on Facebook.
But that’s just me yowling on and on. You want to know what to do about it. Well, there’s one simple answer: Turn it Off.
I know it feels like you need to have it on 24 hours a day, but the truth is, you don’t. Your friend can post messages to you that you pick up later, and you can play Youville or other games just when it’s convenient.
Your choosing to use the word “addicted” is pretty smart, because one thing that happens when people become addicted to a drug is that they believe they absolutely have to have it. “If I don’t get a cigarette I’ll just break down!” for example, or “I can’t meet that person till I’ve had two drinks!” The truth is that those people absolutely can get by without a cigarette or alcohol, and you can take control of your life back from Facebook!
Start easy, though. Here’s the trick. Go on Facebook tomorrow, read what you want, and then click it off. Go and do something else for a half hour. Then come back, log on again, and see what you’ve missed. Once that gets easy, try it for a full hour, then two. Then, once that’s gotten easier for you, you do the big jump forward: log off of Facebook, but keep working at your computer! In other words, do work for an hour or two, without checking FB at all.
Once you’ve gotten used to that, you’ll find that it’s actually much easier to do things. You get through your homework much faster, you feel less stressed, and you actually have more fun on Facebook when you’re there.
And, Hachiko, this is a GREAT lesson for your life. Today you need to learn to control your use of Facebook. Maybe in a few years it’ll be the telephone. And someday it’ll be you forcing yourself to let go of your control of your children when they need to live more on their own. It’s a great skill to learn.
Meanwhile, if you haven’t Liked my page (AskShirelle), please do when you’re on next!!!