I became a citizen of the Facebook universe in circa 2006 and tasted for the first time, the pleasures of rampant social networking. Despite coming from the professional field of Public Relations and having represented the buzzing world of hotels for the better part of my career, I always seemed to saddle the fence between extroversion and introversion. I had friends but few.
My professional networking was mostly business with only some that I got really close to. Then, the floodgates opened – I was liberated by entering into the free for all world of Facebook as it unleashed its powerful influence over me. I was suddenly, like so many others like me, introduced to this whole new world where there was no limitation to what could be shared, how much of it could be shared and with how many.
Looking back to that time of initial euphoria, it is now a case of once bitten more than twice shy. I speak from experience. I have done it all. I have used Facebook as if it were my secret paramour and spent late nights way into the wee hours of the morning with it. I have had a passionate relationship with it and have used it completely in all its facets – exchanges, messages, notes, pictures, games, applications …… you name it and I have not only tried my hand at it but become quite a pro, for whom a daily fix of Facebook has been as important as eating or exercising.
After all this time I have, now, been hit squarely in the middle of my eyes with the sore fact that I have miserably done myself in. Precious time has been wasted, less stuff accomplished, less of real joys and rewards of daily life cherished – in short, less of all positive outcomes that come from good, well-planned, organized, disciplined, healthy living.
So as I turn over a new leaf, I wish to share my thoughts on the perils of being ensnared and trapped in the world of Facebook, the advantages of extricating oneself from its clutches and how big doses of wisdom can make it work for you in the most optimal manner.
Here is my list of fundamentals that I wish to adhere to in order to regain my sanity and to connect to the real world around me –
I will fight the urge to check my Facebook profile every few hours in the day and thereby rid myself of FOCD – the Facebook Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that seems to be afflicting many around the world. Because, really, I do not NEED to check the site even twice a day.
I will not let the “View of myself” get swayed easily by the Public Opinion of my Facebook Circle. I do not mean to say that I will be in a self-absorbed cocoon and keep myself immune to what friends – Facebook and real – think about me. But I will stop putting a lot of premium on the likes, unlikes and comments that are, more often than not, resting on the shifting virtual sands of a Timeline.
I will desist from becoming an open sharer and transform into a sensibly thoughtful networker – mindful of others’ time, inclination, interest and space. Do I really think that people care about when I woke up, what I had for breakfast, who I bumped into at work, what my kid wore to the playground, what anniversary gift my husband gave to me, what part of the world I am travelling to, which sea I am taking Scuba-diving lessons in, whose threads am I wearing to that boring party. This is not to say that I will recede into a shell. No. But I will be more conscious of what I unthinkingly share and will be more judicious by choosing more meaningful and purposeful things.
In my Facebook communication, I will resist from commenting on and updating my status about just everything I seem to be doing – shopping, attending a funeral, getting a haircut, taking my dog child to the vet, walking, getting up with a headache, eating a commonplace or fancy meal, driving on a NH, getting stuck in horrible city traffic, meeting a friend, bumping into a foe, changing a flat tyre or the kid’s diaper, watching a movie, eating the overpriced popcorn…you get the picture.
A picture is worth more than a thousand words. And everybody appreciates a good picture or two or maybe three. I will stop boring my friends with hundreds of shots of my mug, my pooch’s face – however cute it may be, my travels to the most exotic locations in the world or just to my one horse-cart hometown, the food I eat at home or at a luxe restaurant, the labels I wear to work and party or the rags I wear at home.
I will reinstate the family to its sacred place in my heart and stop turning personal moments into a social tamasha. I will love my family dearly but seriously stop putting up pictures when my kids are in my lap or when I am snuggling with my husband/boyfriend/partner, feeding my new born or getting cake smeared on my face at the office or post pictures of my new haircut that I am ecstatic about or the old, prized records that I still get mushy over, or while preparing a meal or picking up my pet child’s poop, you get the drift.
I will kill the urge to be a braggart and refrain from putting up messages, pictures about my latest acquisition, accolade or jackpot.
I will stop weighing my popularity / likeability according to the strength or weakness in numbers of my Facebook family. I will grasp the fact that this has no bearing on my real self. Come to think of it, some of my closest friends may not even be on Facebook or may have deactivated their accounts.
While still understanding the power of social media and the reach of Facebook, I will wake up and smell the coffee and understand that my mere clicks are not going to change the world. If I really want to make a difference then I will use Facebook as a medium and put all my might into real action.
Above all, I will reclaim the realism of my actual life and forsake the fun, foolish, fantastical world of Facebook fiction. I will realize that my time is important and that each passing moment in the Facebook world gives me that much less time to accomplish all that I really wish to achieve, that chatting with friends within the confines of chat boxes and comment columns is just not the same as getting out and meeting them in flesh and blood, that reading notes, updates and messages can never be as satisfying as getting lost within the pages of a good book, that sending hearts to my children or husband on the site can never measure up to hugging, kissing, loving them in person.
I may think that I am God’s gift to mankind. But I must come to terms with the fact that I am just a speck on the virtual walls of others.
And yes, I will enjoy this precious gift of life and attempt to do all that is on my bucket list in real time rather than frittering away precious hours leading a virtual existence in a make-believe world.
How’s the following for a mental, physical, emotional swap –
I will actually use my green fingers to grow something rather than tip-tap away on the keyboard to plant trees in Farmville.
I will attempt to meet friends over coffee rather than exchange fleeting messages on Facebook or leave comments on their pages.
I will try and go out to do volunteer work at an animal shelter or read to the blind or teach at a slum rather than simply “like” a cause and “share” it.
I will enjoy the beauty of nature with my eyes, relish my plate of food and be thankful for it, participate in the joyful moment that is presented to me rather than get busy behind my camera to click innumerable images to then be shared with my virtual friends.
I may just want to make some effort to call a friend on their special day or go that extra step to send a hand-written note than just type out a perfunctory “H.B.” “H.A.G.D” on their profiles.
I will try and spend precious time with a friend-in- need rather than send soulfully detached words of wisdom or support over the Facebook freeway.
I will be truly happy in the happy times of my family and friends, solemn during their sad times, supportive when the going is tough for them, congratulatory during their winning moments and counseling when I see that I can make a difference with a word or two rather than simply overusing the dispassionate “Like” button or cowding the disembodied “Comment” space. Yes, I have seen people use the “Like” button even to a “I am missing my baby / I drove my partner madly to the hospital as he was getting a heart attack / I am preparing to sue XYZ airline for losing my baggage / I almost choked on my crab while at a fancy dinner with my gal pals.” Come on guys, is Facebook making thought-less, no brain zombies out of us?
I will not tell myself the huge lie that I am an avid reader. I will return to the charms of my musty books that have always stood by me.
I will not assume that my flashy, frivolous, free-spirited writing on Facebook is a fine example of literature. I will inject passion and action into the book that needs to be finished and the articles that must be written for meaningful platforms.
I will perhaps go back to riding, tennis, walking, jogging or whatever I used to have fun with in all those wonderful growing up years rather than waste valuable time – that can never be recovered – in playing nonsensical Facebook games.
Facebook gives a whole new meaning and impetus to “Neighbour’s got a new car.” Comparisons may be odious elsewhere but not so, on Facebook which has become such a trsuted keyhole for peeping into other people’s lives or being openly invited by them and comparing what they do and we don’t. My life is a result of my choices, Karma, action and inaction. God and they alone know if all the roads leading to my friends are paved with gold or dust, gore or grime and whether they are rock solid or precariously laid out on shifting sands. No comparison can ever be true or satisfying.
Henceforth, I am staunchly going to practice Carpe Diem and seize the innumerable opportunities a day in my life throws up at me. No more frittering away time of so much worth on the fleeting pleasures of Facebook.
I will always remember that Facebook is a mere means to some of my ends. It is not the mega matter on which my life depends. The Facebook world, for an individual and not a marketeer, is largely phantasmal, unreal, totally virtual that at best helps one in connecting and de-stressing. Nothing more, nothing else. Hence it will not be allowed to swallow large chunks of my life into its bottomless vortex.
As I get on a path of enlightenment, May Facebook and I meet each other less frequently and impinge on each other’s life and space even more rarely. We will meet; yes we will but only as long lost lovers who still have that hushed up feeling for each other but for now must part ways.
Finally, I comprehend that Facebook is not the all-consuming monster in my life. It is just a via media, a sometime ‘time pass’ and connection / communication tool. I reclaim that I am the Master of My Universe!
L. Aruna Dhir is a Hospitality & Feature Writer and Columnist for some of the world’s highest ranked Hospitality publications including ehotelier.com, Hospitality.Net, Bizcatalyst360.com. Her industry writings are used as references in case studies and hotel schools. A Freelance Writer since 1987, Aruna is also an avid blogger (www.luckyaruna.blogspot.com and www.larunadhir.blogspot.com)