How Facebook stole my life

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In a university environment where procrastination dominates life and pretending an essay deadline doesn’t exist until a couple of hours beforehand is commonplace, Facebook rules supreme. The other day I told my friend about a couple that had recently started seeing each other; her response was just one word: ‘Facebook?’ She was deducing how serious a real life relationship was based on whether or not the girl had updated her status on a website. At that point it seemed to me that this cultural phenomenon of virtual living had gone too far.

With the rise of Twitter as well as Facebook it seems you can’t escape the cult of social media. We are bombarded with updates on our friend’s every activity, from going for a coffee to personal family drama that you really don’t need to know about. Even worse is when names pop up on your newsfeed that you definitely don’t know, or haven’t spoken to in five years, or the random friend requests from weirdly-named fake accounts with no traceable way of knowing how they found you.

The easy solution would be to not partake in the madness: delete your Facebook account. Well, it’s not that easy, is it? Because I decided to try just that; live without any form of social media for a week. The scariest thing was that I found it impossible. You can’t actually delete your Facebook account, you can only ‘suspend’ it, safe in the knowledge that at a click of a button your virtual existence is still perfectly in tact. And now that every smart phone going seems to have a Twitter and Facebook app built in, they’re unavoidable. Then there’s the question of the other forms of technological communication such as BBM and WhatsApp. Do they count? And, if they do, how on earth do you escape them? I still can’t quite get my head around BBM but it seems to bleep continuously, and the other day I managed to ‘‘PING!!!’’ someone while drunk without even knowing I was doing it. So, seeing as I am completely incapable of resisting the urge to log on every time I open my laptop I decided to highlight the top reasons why I really, really should…

Virtual Harassment

It’s bad enough trying to avoid talking to people you don’t want to in real life let alone in the comfort of your own room. Yes, we all love Varsity Events (and, of course, don’t forget the new Shuffle Nights) but five invitations a week?! If you’re like me and are bitterly regretting installing Facebook notifications on your phone but have no idea how to remove them, you’ll be familiar with the depression of opening a message only to be reminded that Toby ‘Beers’ Baker is the only person contacting you. It only took one week until my Babyloving friend felt it necessary to devote an entire day to discover how to block these invitations.

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The Embarrassing Tag

The phone notification meltdown occurs again in the middle of hall/the street/the library when ‘______ has tagged you in a photo’ appears on the screen. It seems inappropriate to flee from wherever you are to get to either a computer or enough wireless coverage to view the evidence of just how embarassing you were the other night. It will undoubtedly be so awful you have to detag. For some unbeknown reason, Zuckerberg has now made it ridiculously difficult to do this: you untag and yet you’re still tagged; you ‘unfollow the post’ which you weren’t aware of following in the first place, you’re still tagged; you finally ‘remove tag’ and have to list the reasons why. ‘I look like a sweaty mess’ is not an option.

Stalking

We all do it and some of us are scarily good at it. I thought finding the fit guy from Balliol Tuesdays based on a first name and college alone was bad, or amazing, depending on how strict you are about invasions of privacy. However, my friend’s more disturbing story put me to shame. Driving past a girl every day on their bus route, him and his prepubescent pals discerned her school from the logo on her uniform and proceeded to trawl that entire school’s network to discover her name. They then went as far as to display banners adorned with her name and various sexual invitations in the bus window. There has to be a harassment case in that one somewhere.

The inevitably unwanted Facebook Chat

Instant messaging is a genius invention; it’s free, quick and simple for the technologically retarded among us. It’s genius when you actually want to speak to people, not when it acts as a gateway for the multitude of online nutters you have accumulated over the years to randomly ask you ‘How’s life?’ Less awkward before you popped up, thanks. And now we have ‘video chat’ as well, aka just another version of Skype. I was slightly disturbed when ‘researching’ this article (seen anything weird on Facebook recently?) my friend told me a very persistent stalker once hacked her webcam through her account. I found this hard to believe but then again I wouldn’t know an IP address if it hit me in the face so I am slightly scared now. Especially since the same guy has just ‘random add’-ed me.

Do I want to know what you’re reading/listening to/feeding your stupid Farmville creatures? No.

The trend of reading the newspapers online is positive in many ways, mainly that it makes news more accessible and appealing to a wider range of people, especially students. However, as an English undergrad it is quite daunting that the future of printed journalism looks increasingly short lived; our employability going down yet another notch. I’ve also realised how much weird shit my friends are interested in. Nothing truly newsworthy ever seems to be read by anyone on The Guardian app; just a lot of interest in betting on how deranged Beyonce’s baby’s name will be, why eating carrots now gives you cancer or yet another article about she-who-must-not-be-named giving Magdalen the thumbs down. I also read the other day that Boris Johnson had been kicked out of the Conservative Party. I got inordinately excited and then realised it was three years out of date, as half the articles I come across seem to be. I have to say, Spotify updates are slightly more entertaining as people never seem to realise that the music they’re listening to is being seen and subsequently judged by the entire Facebook community. Discovering the rugby playing ‘lad’ you live next door to listens to Joni Mitchell, on loop, is worth a laugh at least.

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Status Warrior

Facebook can be divided into two groups of people; those who stalk to their heart’s content but rarely post anything personal or incriminating about themselves for fear of embarrassment, and those who just don’t care. I have a strange, scornful respect for these people; I cannot imagine being so secure in my own ego to think that anyone would want to see a picture of ‘what I cooked for tea tonight’ or care how many packets of crisps I’ve got through during my essay crisis. That being said, I have kept a Facebook friend purely for the inane quality of his incessant status updates such as sharing Megan Fox’s tweet, ‘We live in a world where losing your phone is more dramatic than losing your virginity’. FYI, if I wanted to hear from Fox, I’d strike up a conversation with a crumpet.

I realise coming to the end of this, that Facebook may not be designed for misanthropes like me with disdain for any form of sharing emotional expression with the world. However, while the voyeuristic nature of social media is worryingly addictive I’m still not going to make the effort to learn how to remove the apps from my Blackberry or go to the lengths of personally setting my server to restrict the amount of time I can access these websites. I would be far more efficient in the amount of work I get done and reclaim hours of my life, but then I wouldn’t have seen the latest viral video of that weird kid expressing his perverse love for ‘Briona’, which would be a real shame.