I am known at my church for not being on Facebook. Really. Facebook at our church is a popular way for people to keep up with each other. If you search for me, you will find that I have an account. However, I only use it to help manage our youth ministry’s Facebook page. If I am honest with myself and with you, the main reason I stay away is because I’m sure I would become addicted. Yes, I am aware that many youth pastors utilize Facebook to keep up with students, and that can be a positive way to use it. However, I find other ways to communicate with students, and my wife (who does use Facebook) alerts me when she thinks it would be good to contact a student to see how he or she is doing.
Here’s the bottom line: Facebook is addictive. Like many drugs, it has its benefits when being used correctly, but it also has its detriments. So, discernment is needed, and like all media, overdoing it results in negative consequences. I admit that I can be too engrossed in a book and ignore some other wonderful things that life has to offer.
This New York Times article discussed teenagers who have found that they need to cut back on, take a break from, or stop using altogether Facebook. It’s a good reminder that even things that seem innocuous at first can negatively affect our lives–and our relationship with God.
By mutual agreement, the two friends now allow themselves to log on to Facebook on the first Saturday of every month — and only on that day.
The two are among the many teenagers, especially girls, who are recognizing the huge distraction Facebook presents — the hours it consumes every day, to say nothing of the toll it takes during finals and college applications, according to parents, teachers and the students themselves.
Some teenagers, like Monica and Halley, form a support group to enforce their Facebook hiatus. Others deactivate their accounts. Still others ask someone they trust to change their password and keep control of it until they feel ready to have it back.
For one 18-year-old boy completing a college application, Professor Turkle said, “Facebook wasn’t merely a distraction, but it was really confusing him about who he was,” and he opted to spend his senior year off the service. He was burned out, she said, trying to live up to his own descriptions of himself.
“You’re getting a feed of everything everyone is doing and saying,” Ms. Simmons said. “You’re literally watching the social landscape on the screen, and if you’re obsessed with your position in that landscape, it’s very hard to look away.”
It is that addictive quality that makes having a partner who knows you well especially helpful. Monica said that when she was recently in bed sick for several days, she broke down and went on Facebook. And, of course, she felt guilty.
“At first I lied,” Monica said. “But we’re such good friends she could read my facial expression, so I ’fessed up.”
As punishment, the one who breaks the pact has to write something embarrassing on a near-stranger’s Facebook wall.
After several failed efforts at self-regulation, Neeka Salmasi, 15, a sophomore at Greenhills School in Ann Arbor, Mich., finally asked her sister, Negin, 25, to change her Facebook password every Sunday night and give it back to her the following Friday night.
Neeka quickly saw an improvement in her grades.
Still better, she said, is that her mother no longer visits her room “every half an hour to see if I was on Facebook or doing homework.”
“It was really annoying,” she said.
Last year, Magellan Yadao, 18, a senior at Northside College Preparatory High School in Chicago, went on a 40-day Facebook fast for Lent.
“In my years as a Catholic, I hadn’t really chosen something to give up that was very important to me,” Magellan said in an e-mail message. “Apparently, Facebook was just that.”