Opinionbel: On Social Networks: Part 1

Facebook: My Heroin

I am a Facebook addict. I only go on the site one day a week (starkly different from ‘once a week’), and I use it vastly below the national average, particularly for my age and social bracket, but an addict is undoubtedly what I am.

I joined Facebook at a party (we made our own entertainment in them days) in my second year at uni, at the very end of 2005. It already felt like I was late to join in, even though it had only been available to Edinburgh University students since about the start of term. I had been openly scathing of it going anywhere at another party a couple of months earlier. I was remembering a very naff advert for something called ‘MySpace’, on TV (I jest not), and I thought the whole thing was pointless and badly aimed. But within weeks of starting, the previously perpetual parties stopped and I was locked to my computer, poking people instantly and completely replacing all human contact.

No. Apart from anything else I had to be eased into it since when I went home for Christmas the day after the Party Where I Joined there was (and is again now) no internet, because, you know, we live AN HOUR FROM THE CAPITAL. With my return to the 21st century, Facebook, if anything, improved my social life. All sorts of Bedlam parties and shows etc. were announced on there. I was using it mercilessly by the time I was the Production Manager for the theatre and running an arts festival.  It was a standard thing to go to a party, come home at 2am, and wake up in the morning to flick through the photos of your night, before heading in to lectures. There are three photos of my first year at uni, there are a BILLION of the years following. Also, I was able to update my phone book from ‘Jenny Mark’s Party’ and ‘Longhair Guy Anthropology’ to proper, actual names.

And so the pattern of my Facebook use was set:

1)      Promoting and finding out about RL events.

2)      Looking at photos.

3)      To remind myself (and others) of good party times and great lifestyles I have.

I remember mentioning to my pal, Ellie, that I always felt proud of myself when I didn’t go on the site for a day. She was shocked and said, ‘You really are addicted’. Oh Ellie, if only you knew. I was merely on the foothills. On, up the mountain I trailed.

The years rolled on, pals left uni and Scotland and nigh-universally went to London. I used FB to keep up with them. I used it to instantly be a ‘friend’ of the people on my new masters courses, to stalk and be stalked in return by chums, exes and strangers. The photos I clicked through with eyes glazed and heart-rate slowed, moved from parties to weddings and babies and my addiction kept hiking up that hill.

For a while in my first masters, I closed my account (in that weird zombie death way they make you – nothing is gone, Ishbel, we, your data, your memories, are all stiiiiill heeeere) while I was writing my dissertation. I fully intended to go back on when I was finished, but I remember walking home from the library one night and thinking about how I wouldn’t be able to check Facebook when I got in. I felt a very strong emotion. I looked at that emotion from all angles – was it frustration, was it release? Nope. It was loss. I missed finding out about my friends.  I missed chatting, catching up. I felt I might miss out. I was sad.

I have an addictive personality. And not in the way where you JUST CAN’T GET ENOUGH of me. In the way where I don’t drink coffee in case I start liking it, and then I really, really like it. Sure I’m a wuss who hates to break rules (I LOVE RULES), but I also avoided drugs because, well, look at me and Facebook. But, like those with eating disorders who can’t just give up food because they have a problem with it, I couldn’t just swear off Facebook (NB. I get that you don’t ‘just’ swear off drink or drugs, but you know what I mean).  Facebook was my heroin, but I needed it to, you know, socially network – to arrange events, to find out about auditions, to locate a video artist, to get the number of a tutorial agency someone (I can’t remember who) had recommended. I also wanted it for approabation, to have a carefully curated news diet that suited my views exactly, to look at kittens doing things, to read endless lists about how I might know I was middle class if I happened to DEFINITELY already know that. Scaling the heights of addiction stepped into the thin air when I eventually got a smart phone and Facebook was at my fingertips from the moment my eyes opened. I used Facebook for work and play, for my daily bread, but it was made of heroin, and it was in my pocket.

My pal Debbie, by shining example, showed me a potential path to freedom. Debbie is a live artist and writer who is much more productive, dedicated and further along in the profession than me. She has visibly tried several times to forswear FB, and has always returned to lots of folk writing ‘HAHAHAHA I LAUGH IN YOUR FACE THAT YOU TRIED TO TAKE CONTROL OF SOMETHING IN YOUR LIFE THAT YOU FELT WAS CONTROLLING YOU BUT YOU FAILED AND I LAUGH BECAUSE IT MAKES ME FEEL BETTER ABOUT THE FACT THAT DIDN’T EVEN TRY TO DO IT BECAUSE LOOK YOU COULDN’T DO IT AND NOW YOU’RE BACK IN THE CAGE WITH ME AND I LIKE IT BECAUSE ALL I HAVE IS THE FAILURE OF OTHERS HAHA… HA’. She then took up Facebook Thursdays. She did it as an experiment. She liked it. I watched. She was sometimes stressed about how much stuff there was to catch up on on Thursdays, but she ploughed on.

All-or-nothing. That is me. That is me and a lot of other folk who get addicted easily. I have had a drink, therefore today is a write off and I might as well get smashed. I have broken my diet with this one biscuit, I will punish/console myself with all this crap and give up forever, because I have failed forever again. One day a week, set, announced – this was a potential solution. I chose Thursdays because I work a lot on Thursdays and so can’t just sit on the computer all day. Also, I liked the idea of popping into the room that is Facebook on Thursdays to see Debbie and wave at her.

That was in September. And now Facebook Thursdays are my thing. I have occasionally gone on on another day to get a piece of information that I need and can’t get anywhere else. But I come back out. And that only happens a couple of times in a month. Debbie gave up on FBT because she felt like becoming known as someone who only does Facebook on Thursdays meant it was defining her, exactly what she didn’t want. I don’t mind that at the moment. I still love Facebook, and I’m still addicted, but my experiment is, currently, working.  I will post this blog on my Facebook wall on Thursday, and see what you all think.


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