The Antisocial Network: Re-evaluating your digital friendships

By on April 11, 2011

By Richard Parker

Many students can relate to the experience of pacing in the main computer area of Ekstrom Library, waiting for an open computer. Among the screens you may scan during your wait are the following websites: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Of those sites, you are most likely to see Facebook being used.

Students may be checking their news feeds and notifications, accepting or ignoring friend requests, sending messages or chatting. When I used Facebook, you would likely find me in the library doing these activities as well.

After months of deliberating, I gave up Facebook three weeks ago. While Facebook gave me an avenue to keep in touch with friends, it was also diminishing the quality of my friendships. I’ve lost and nearly lost several important friendships as a result of arguments, misunderstandings and miscommunications that took place over Facebook. Much of this could have been prevented, had these conversations taken place in a more personal context.

Facebook was also a significant drain on one of my most precious and scarce resources: time. It often began the same way. I’ll just log on for a bit, check to see if I have any notifications and log back off. By the time I logged off, I had watched nine music videos, commented on photos of people I barely talked to, and wasted hours of valuable time.

The time I lost on Facebook couldn’t be gained back. I had to borrow time from other areas of my life. Sleep was almost always the first activity I cut back on, followed by study time. Ironically, the amount of time spent with friends was diminished as well. Since my procrastination time cut into these important areas of my life, the cumulative stress and fatigue built up over my improper time management diminished the quality of my time spent among friends as well.

Finally, I asked myself an important question: Why am I doing this? If you use Facebook or other social networking sites, consider this question as well. Is using Facebook making your life better or worse? Is it necessary for you to use Facebook? Is Facebook improving or degrading your friendships? What other ways can you maintain, develop and grow friendships?

For this last question, I have some suggestions on alternatives. The first is to exchange CDs with a friend. You could choose songs based on a theme, such as life, love or friendship. If you wanted to go further, you could write responses on why you think the other person chose each song and what the song reminds you of about the person. By exchanging music, you can hear each others’ lives.

My second suggestion is to share photos with each other. Some may argue that you can do this on Facebook. While I am aware of this, I also realize that there are numerous photos many of us will never see because they were taken before digital cameras reached the consumer market. Inside the dusty photo album that’s been locked in the attic for years, there are hours of laughter, embarrassment, tears and nostalgic joy waiting to be shared with your friends.

Take some time to consider Facebook. Find out if it is a positive or a negative influence in your life, your academic career and your friendships. If it isn’t, don’t fret. People were sharing photos, making friends and talking to each other long before this website was around. There can be a cultural imperative to utilize technology if it exists, but the existence of technology does not in itself impose a duty on you to use it.


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