How sociable are you?

Social Networking sites. You either can’t get enough of them or you just don’t get them. Where do you stand? Is it a case of “What would we do without them?” or “They are more trouble than they are worth?”

In today’s society it’s hard to remember a time before the likes of Facebook and Twitter. It seems that everybody has a social networking account, Facebook alone has 400 million active users. And I bet you are one of them.

Technology isn’t really my thing. I’m totally inept when it comes to anything more complicated than switching things on and off, so you won’t be surprised to hear that I was one (if not THE) last of my friends to get a social networking account. I didn’t even own a mobile phone until I was about 15. I was 17 years old before I even knew what a social networking site was. It was at this age, when I was at sixth form, that I was informed that texting was soo passé. The cool lines of communication were via Myspace. Apparently. However despite the fact that all my friends were social networking vetrans from having Bebo accounts since they were 12, I held off. I just wasn’t interested. Plus I didn’t have a clue how to set one up what with being technologically challenged.

Where my social networking began

It wasn’t until I got to university and all my new friends were asking “What’s your Myspace addy?” that I thought my lack of interest in social networking sites would be problematic. At uni I made loads of new friends and keeping in touch with them was important. Instead of texting or calling they would leave messages and chat via Facebook or Myspace. Internet sites were the place where meet ups, projects, deadlines, lectures and social activities were discussed. You got all the gossip about such and such on this course and thingy-ma-jig on that course. They were also a way of getting to know new people. It was one of my new uni friends that took pity on me and set me up a Myspace account. Reluctantly, in my first year at uni, I was dragged into the 21st century. Slowly but surely  I got into the swing of Myspace and happily trotted along. Some days I was more bothered with it than others but in no way would I have cared one way or the other if Myspace disappeared off the internet.

It wasn’t until my second year at uni, when I was sharing a house with my technologically up to date sister, that I signed up to Facebook. She informed me that hardly anyone was using Myspace anymore, naturally, and that Facebook was the future. To be honest I really didn’t see the point in having two social networking pages and told her so. However after some resistance I caved in, realising that the majority of my friends were in fact on Facebook. With the help of my sister I set up an account, and so it began.

Here we go

I have to admit that once I got a Facebook account there was no stopping me. I really don’t know what took me so long. When I was at uni it was a fabulous way of keeping in touch and in the know as far as my friends and family were concerned. I did become a little bit addicted to updating my status and checking my messages. But why? What’s the big deal with it all?

The pro’s of social networking sites:

1. As I have just pointed out sites such as Facebook are one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest ways to keep in touch with friends, family etc.

2. They enable you to share information, blogs, pictures etc with the people that you choose to.

3. Some social networking sites allow you to use an instant messaging service. Much cheaper than text.

4. Now I don’t like to use the word nosy, I prefer ‘interested.’ And if, like me, you are ‘interested’ in what is happening with with your best friends, mortal enemies, ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends etc all you have to do is check their status.

The con’s of social networking sites:

1. They can be very addictive. Did you know that there is now an actual disorder called FAD? That stands for Facebook Addiction Disorder. No joke. Really what that means is if you spend all your time on these sites you need to get a life.

2. The privacy issue. The risk of hacking, identity theft and so on and so on. This means: be careful! The privacy settings on my Facebook are set to the max. If you are not on my friends list, you aint seeing any information, pictures or statues. Sorry.

3. The risk of never really knowing who you are talking to. Just. Be. Sensible. Again, if you don’t know ’em, don’t add ’em!

4. Cyber bullying. This does happen and it’s mean. I’d like to think anyone reading this blog would be far too grown up and mature to enter into such things.

I have to admit that the privacy issues do sometimes worry me. You hear all sorts about people getting hacked and their identities stolen and about how, if you have one of these accounts, your information can be accessed all over the internet. But as long as I am careful I don’t see why these things should stop me enjoying Facebook and sharing things with my friends.

I have to confess to falling prey to con number 1 and becoming a little obsessed with Facebook for a while. While looking through some articles I wrote for assignments at uni I discovered ‘My week without…’ feature. It was the inspiration for this post. Here is what I wrote:

My week without Facebook

“ As of tomorrow I will be Facebook free for a week, all in the name of journalism. So I will see you all in 7 days. YOU BETTER MISS ME!”

I started off by breaking the news the only way I know how to break important news. I changed my Facebook status.

Knowing that will be the last time I change my status for a week makes me uncomfortable. My ever-supportive friends have assured me that I will never manage it. One friend in particular summed the situation up perfectly “ Facebook free? As if!”

It’s hard to believe that less than a year ago I didn’t even know what Facebook was. It was my sister who dragged me into the 21st century by proclaiming that I was practically a social outcast without a Facebook page and right then and there she set one up for me and I have never looked back since.

Facebook is where I find out all the gossip: what people think and what they are up to and it’s where I keep in touch with my many Facebook friends. Going cold turkey means not only am I not allowed to check my own page, I’m not allowed to spy on anybody else’s.

So under the watchful eye of my housemates my Facebook free week begins.

Day 1

Can’t reach my friend on her mobile and my first compulsion is to message her on Facebook but I cant because that would mean breaking the ban. I tell myself it doesn’t really matter. I’ve decided to look at this challenge as a test of my will power. There is no way I’m going to embarrass myself by giving in on the first day.

Decide to go shopping. This way I will be out of the house and away from the laptop. While walking around Meadowhall with my sister she makes a beeline for the Apple shop. I need some new accessories for the ipod so I don’t mind. That is until I see the new Mac on display and splashed all over the screen is Facebook. Typical! I quickly avert my eyes, make my excuses and leave the shop.

Back at home I check my emails and I have to admit that I am slightly tempted to take a sneaky peek at my Facebook page. I don’t because I’m a strong person, and once the weak moment passes I’m pleased to say that I don’t think about Facebook for the rest of the day. Maybe this isn’t going to be so hard after all. Hurah!

Day 2

“Your only on day two?” my sister asks. “ A week without Facebook would kill me.” She tells me that she could look at my page and tell me what is says but I think that would be cheathing. I thank her for the offer and politely decline.

I’m not finding it that hard. I’ve been keeping busy catching up with work so I haven’t really had the time to be cruising round social networking sites. Admittedly I have got more done than what I normally would without the distraction of Facebook chat.

Day 3

I’m not a gossip but I do like to know what’s what and who’s with who and today I feel totally out of the loop. Decided to stay away from the Internet except for checking emails, as the temptation is too much, twice today I’ve almost declared ‘sod this’ and logged onto Facebook to check if I have any life altering messages. What? You never know.

Oh and after explaining the purpose of this article and of my abstinence from Facebook to my mum she said, “ I’ve heard about Facebook. One of the girls at work has a page. Can you go on and set one up for me?”

Good God. You know what they say. If its not one thing its your mother.

Day 4

“ What day are you on now?” asks mum, “ Day four” I reply. “ Won’t your friends wonder where you are?”

Yes mum. Well, at least they would if I had any left. I’m positive by now my absence will have been noticed and my friends will assume (quite rightly) that I have abandoned them.

After a hard days work I finally get home and nearly blow this whole bloody thing by logging onto Facebook. I swear it was a totally unconscious act and I only got as far as the login page so it really doesn’t count.

Can’t be blamed for that little slip up. I’ve had a stressful day. All around me people have been checking their pages and spying on other peoples embarrassing party pictures. Felt thoroughly left out. To make it worse, while working on a project, one of my colleagues helpfully offered to set up a Facebook group so we could all keep in touch. What a fantastic idea!

Day 5

Weeks starting to drag and its starting to get on my nerves. Can’t remember how I ever managed before Facebook, I cant even remember what I used the Internet for. What’s the point without Facebook? It’s a phenomenon even old people like your mum and dad are getting in on. I’m bitter about being left out.

My sister is showing off pictures from her very eventful night out. Uploaded onto Facebook for the whole world to see so I am, of course, going to have to wait. This is a definite low point. It’s just been a bad day in general.

After a testing day I turn to friends hoping they can give me some support and tips on how to survive the remaining two days of this challenge.

Day 6

“ KEEP. OFF. THE. INTERNET” one friends parting, and ever so wise words to me after a long conversation about the challenge. I did most of the talking really.

Following this wise friends advice is easier said than done. I’m already suffering with serious withdrawal symptoms. I am Facebook addict after all (lucky for me admission is the first step to recovery.)

Go for a meal with housemates. They are buzzing with gossip straight from Facebook. I shut my ears. I am so close to the end I wont ruin it now. “Can we talk about something else please?” I bellow down the table. “ I’ll be glad when this week is over then we can have a proper conversation” quips a friend. You’re not the only one mate, trust me.

Just one day left. Thank God.

Day 7

My week as a social outcast has FINALLY come to an end.  For a week I have been filling my spare time with menial tasks to try and keep my mind off Facebook. By day three I had been reduced to cleaning the house and God forbid, watching Eastenders to try and keep me occupied.

Returning to Facebook feels like a special occasion. I can’t wait to catch up on all the goings on and gossip that I have missed, at this rate I will be Facebook chatting till the early hours.

But the one thing I am looking forward to most is announcing to the world that I am back…..by changing my Facebook status.

One more sleep.

VERDICT

As I log on to Facebook I see that familiar blue and white logo. Ahhhhh it’s good to be home. Even better is the fact that I have tonnes of messages which means I am both loved and missed. One friend, Helen, has left the message ‘Jembob, how hard was staying off Facebook? What an achievement!  Rofl.

I would just like to take this opportunity to point out that my name is not Jembob (imagine,) it is in fact Jemma.

In all seriousness this challenge has not been in vain. Yes I did miss Facebook but I also learnt some important things. First of all I never thought I would have the will power to see this week through but I stuck it out and I’m proud of myself. Secondly I have to admit that checking your Facebook page ten times a day is kinda sad. Once a day is more than enough and that leaves time for, well, life.

It pains me to say so but I think going Facebook free has done me some good as it does have the tendency to take over your life.  I stayed Facebook free for a whole week and the world didn’t come to an end. I needed that little reminder. I managed before I joined the Facebook community so a week away really shouldn’t have been so hard.

Would I go Facebook free again? Don’t push it.

Didn’t do so great did I? When I read this I laughed as I can happily announce that I no longer feel this way about Facebook. I no longer update my status when I have nothing to say. Once a day (sometimes not even that) is quite enough. No more do I feel the need to constantly check to see if I have any messages. I am looking forward to going on holiday later this year and having a whole two weeks computer and Facebook free. To be honest I think it is just a case of growing up a little, that and the fact that the novelty of it has well and truly worn off. The only novelty now is if it actually works properly.

Twitter is a whole different ball game. Yes I have a Twitter, but I’m a journalist, I’m ‘interested’ what other people and celebs get up to. I am nowhere near as obsessed with Twitter as I once was with Facebook and can easily see it for what it is: good, harmless fun. With relief I can say that I am not as free with my Tweets as some users who appear to update every few minutes. On the other hand thats probably why other users have more followers than me! Oh well. I can live with that.

Tweet Tweet!

To conclude this little discussion I have to say that I’m all for social networking. It’s just a part of my generation. As long as you know your limits, use them in moderation, understand the dangers and know the rules, I don’t see the harm in them. Taken as they should be, I think they are a great communicative tool, great fun, and great if you are an ‘interested’ kind of person (remember I don’t like the word nosy.) Agreed, they can be dangerous if not used properly and they are a total pain in the arse when Facebook has it’s ‘site maintenance’ and Twitter is ‘over capacity.’ But all in all I think they are useful and most certainly entertaining.

What do you think? I want to know. I’m ‘interested.’

Jemm xoxo

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