Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Upgrading (but not updating) My Status

It happened on a cold, overcast December afternoon. There I was, attempting to study for a final, but instead skimming my Facebook news feed and watching “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant” on TLC. Funny, isn’t it, how we often claim that there aren’t enough hours in the day, complain that we have way too much on our plate, or attempt to function on only two hours of sleep? Where is all our time going?
While I’ll resist my urge to proclaim that Facebook is causing the downfall of humanity (simply because I’m a guilty Facebook addict myself ), I’m convinced that our culture of social networking is definitely harmful to one of our most precious commodities: time. I will often find myself on Facebook when I sit down to write a paper. The children I babysit fight over the computer every afternoon because they all want to get on Facebook. While I used to defend my Facebook and Twitter behavior as keeping in touch with friends or taking a temporary mental break from schoolwork (My synapses are hurting, okay!), there’s no denying that my time spent reading about someone else’s life is negatively impacting my own.
Statistics from the Facebook website indicate that there are over 500 million active users on Facebook, that 50% of active users log on to Facebook every single day, and that people spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook. Just think about it. Maybe without Facebook (or Twitter or Myspace), people—myself included—would invest their time in more productive things—perhaps studying longer, exercising, doing their jobs, or focusing their attention on driving instead of looking at a mobile device.
Although there are various claims to the amount of time the average person spends on Facebook, a widely accepted amount from a study in January 2010 revealed that the average person spends seven hours a month on Facebook. And although I often try to deny it, I guess I can be labeled as “average.” It was on that unproductive December afternoon when I had my light bulb moment. I knew it would be hard, but I decided I would give up Facebook for a year. An entire year. Of course I’ll wait a couple of weeks so I can get my Facebook fix a little longer. But yes, my 2011 New Year’s Resolution would be to abandon Facebook.
Once I had made the decision, I thought about what this would mean for me. Short of stripping me of my sanity (I imagined myself wandering the streets, shouting my status for all those to hear. “Kelly is on a walk!” “Kelly is in a relationship!” “Kelly is Thank God it’s Friday!”), I figured that it would benefit my life overall. In fact, I might even make better grades next semester. Or maybe my relationship will improve if I’m no longer stalking my exes. Sure, I might miss out on some social events because I’ll never receive the Facebook invite, but maybe I’ll finally make time for all the stuff I’ve never gotten around to.
In an undergraduate psychology class, I once learned about Higgins’ Self-Discrepancy Theory. If our actual self differs from our ideal self, we are motivated to change. Ideally, I was adventurous. I was discovering. I was trying new things. I was active. I was making the most out of my short life. In reality, I was a somewhat lazy, Facebook-stalking, computer addict. That was who I actually was. And that had to change.
In the year ahead, I will dedicate myself to a year of ideals. I am going to train and run a 10k. I am going to start volunteering. I am going to take cake-decorating classes, which is something that has been on my to-do list for over a year. I’m going to become a political activist (or at least do more than just actively voice my complaints). I’m going to start the book club I’ve made excuses not to start. I’m going to finally take the pole-dancing class at the gym that I’ve been too nervous to try. And finally, I’m going to write. And write a lot.
            Maybe, while I’m exercising, volunteering, dancing, reading, and writing, I’ll discover something new about myself. Hopefully I’ll have time to tell you about it. Because you won’t be reading about it on your news feed. 

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