Please read the previous post if you haven’t don’t so already.
This article was published in +977 (a Nepalese Lifestyle Magazine in Australia) in May- June 2012 issue.
We are the Facebook generation. If you are like me and millions of others then you have Facebook, Twitter, Skype and even a Blog. You can’t pass a single day without surfing the internet and LOL,XOXOand BRB are the most used words, if I may call them so, in your conversation. And you can’t imagine your life without your smart phone and definitely not without internet.
Facebook has changed the way we communicate with our friends and family. It has allowed us to be in touch with our friends and look at their lives in pictures or even videos. In my case, it has reunited me with my friends from my Kindergarten / preschool after 20 years and Facebook has helped me keep in touch with my cousins and relatives who live in different countries. I even became friends with my husband’s relatives in Facebook long before meeting then physically.
With its “What’s on your mind?” question (status update), it has allowed me to know how my friends were feeling and made it easy to wish someone a “Happy Birthday” which I would have never done otherwise and same goes with sharing photos. I used to email photos to multiple people before but now all I have to do is upload them in Facebook and tag the people I want to share the photos with. You know your friends have viewed the photos when you get likes and comments on them.
I have received the news that someone got engaged, married, had a baby, went on a holiday or even died (I am serious) via Facebook. These news would have never made it to my ears (or eyes in this case) if it was not for Facebook so I have to thank Facebook for all that. Also, I have used Facebook’s events function to invite people for birthdays. As everyone I needed to invite to the event was already in Facebook, it just made my planning a lot easier. It has an RSPV option which allowed me to keep track of the guests easily.
Twittering, Blogging and Skyping are a few other things apart from Facebooking that we think are an essential part of our life like the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. We feel we cannot live without them.
Twittering and following the tweets of celebrities and unknown people, writing a blog to an unknown audience and Skyping instead of talking on the phone has made our life super busy these days as it takes time to manage all our social networks.
So in this busy virtual life have you ever paused for a second and thought about the people in your life, the REAL people, yes I am not talking about your Facebook friends but the real flesh and blood people, friends, family, colleagues, neighbours, people you see every day, people you used to know and who had been an important part of your life.
Do you have anyone in your life with whom you used to pick up a phone and talk that you stopped because you are so busy with your virtual life now?
Do you have friends who live overseas and you used to write an email frequently but now stopped writing your emails since they are in your Facebook?
Do you feel better when someone calls to ask you about your holiday or do you feel better if they comment on your photos on Facebook?
I am asking these questions because I used to be very active on Facebook. I went through a phase (which many of you may identify with) when I felt like I was judged on the number of friends I had in Facebook. It put a lot of pressure on me to accept requests from anyone just so that I could push the number of “friends” ever higher. I have never accepted a request from a total stranger but I have from people who I had just met once and may never meet again in my life. I felt good and popular to have so many “friends”.
I wanted comments and posts on my wall and thought I definitely needed to maintain my Facebook page to keep in touch with former classmates, and relatives who live far away from me. I tried to chat whenever I was online and post regular updates to let them know how my life was rolling. I used to like and comment on other’s posts and photos regularly. I spent lots of time doing this.
Then there was a game called Farmville I played on Facebook. There were many games and still are but this was the one I got hooked on. It was simply too addictive. I actually used to time my life around it and even put alarms to remind me that I have to login and play the game. I spent a lot of time ploughing, harvesting this virtual Farm for points and rewards.
The game started on the lowest level so you wanted to complete it to get to the next one and then the next after that and so on. The game showered you with all these virtual animals and gifts so you can keep going. You even got ribbons that made you feel special. I swear, one time, I spent 3 hours moving my animals and trees to make the farm bigger so I could have extra plots to plant more virtual crops. I was literally becoming a farmer spending so much time on the game. If I had a real farm I’m sure I would have made a lot of money from those produce I grew at the farm.
When I talked to people around me, it was not only me who had that craze. Many of my friends were guilty of this and I saw lots of Status on Facebook saying “Can someone please gift me a horse”, “Why is no one sending me any pigs?” Pigs and Horses were all you thought of all day long. And they weren’t even real!
Can you believe there were people in this world even crazier than me about the game? They were making cheat sheets for the game and forums were flooded with the questions on how to make points easily so that you could climb up the levels and beat your friends. Also people were spending real money to buy virtual stables or pagodas. God, could we be any more unreal?
That’s the day when lightning struck me (metaphorically of course or I wouldn’t be writing this would I?) I asked myself – “What was I doing with my time on Facebook? Why did I have to be number one among my friends in this stupid game?” I also had no real desire for all of my Facebook friends to know that I went on a holiday or what I liked or who I was with. That day I went and cleaned up my Facebook. I organised my Facebook friends into groups according to their importance in my life. I made sure only a few people who really mattered to me could really see what I did.
Ideally, I should have deleted anyone who was not a part of my life anymore and kept only a few as my friends but I admit I was too chicken to delete them. I didn’t want to hurt their feelings. I was quite sure they wouldn’t notice but I kept thinking about the small percentage who would.
I realised that in real life I have only a handful of friends that I can count on, which means all 300+ friends that I had in my Facebook were not real friends, just people I know. They won’t be there when I need help or advice. They don’t feel sorry when I am down and won’t support me when I need a hand, so should I share my personal thoughts, feelings and my life with these strangers? My answer was definitely a big fat NO.
“I had the most wonderful meal today. :)”, “I went to a spa today.” and so on are just some examples of the Status updates that you can read every day on Facebook. Do you think anyone out there is really interested in that kind of information about your life? Do you care what time your friends wake up, where they go to, what they eat for breakfast, who they are hanging out with? If you don’t really care, do you think anyone else cares about your Status updates?
When I was doing a First Aid Training the other day, the trainer pointed out to us that in case of an emergency (touch wood it never happens) if you need to comfort anyone who is in distress, just go and hug them, as a hug works to calm a person. Real human touch always has magic that no words you type or any comments on Facebook can even compare to. I realised then that we are losing touch with real human bonding due to this virtual social networking.
Another thing that bothers me is the privacy on these social networking sites. I am an IT professional, so I use all my skills to take major precautions to avoid the privacy pitfalls that are ever present on the internet. I feel sorry for people out there who post all their details on social networking sites without knowing the risks that they face. Putting personal information on Facebook or online in general is not safe and can make you a victim of identity theft and cyber crimes.
Many people will like to have strict control over their personal information which is difficult if you are on Facebook, unless you are very careful not to divulge them. We all like to make sure our personal information is only visible to our trusted friends, not the whole world but the constant updates and frequent changes made by Facebook has made it difficult to keep control of the privacy of our information on Facebook.
First and foremost always be aware of what you are sharing online and with whom. You can edit the privacy option in Facebook so if you have not done so already please go and edit it to make your personal information secure. Make sure your contact information is private and control who can access your information like photos, wall information and status updates. It is easy to stop sharing information with total strangers. If you don’t know how, just Google it and you should find tutorials on how to do it. Be aware and alert every moment.
Someone wise once said, “We realise the value of time only once we are old” so let’s balance our life and utilise our time from now so we don’t regret it in the future. There is no harm in being on Facebook but also make sure you have friends you can connect to outside of it. Call a friend instead of leaving a comment on their post, try to hug a friend instead of “poking” them on Facebook and definitely have a few real friends than just the hundreds of virtual friends online. We should always admire and appreciate what is innovative so there is nothing wrong in building your social networks on Facebook but don’t forget the real world while you are chasing the virtual one.