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My Month Without Facebook: Part III

Peering over a computer screen at a coffee house.
Peering over a computer screen at a coffee house.Associated Press

I can imagine the first week away from Facebook is similar to that of an avid drug user abruptly quitting their drug of choice. Feelings of anxiety about not knowing who, or if anyone was writing on my wall were attacking my thoughts. The perpetual self-justification that one hit of News Feed would be all I needed to get me through the day was making me sweat.

But the hardest part about the first week of quitting the social media marvel that has captured more than 500 million users was the consistent realization that literally everyone around me was on Facebook.  Everywhere I'd go, computer screens would be proudly boasting the beloved social color scheme of Facebook-blue and Wall Post-white.


I could play I-Spy something red and flawlessly pinpoint who in the coffee shop needed to clear their Inbox and who needed to check their most recent friend requests. And during these moments of visual eavesdropping, I realized it's not just me who has the Facebook addiction, it's everyone.

Facebook anonymous?
Numerous stories and studies have been gradually surfacing all over the Web about the new wave of Facebook addicts. Such stories as a 2009 piece by CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen about a mother who ignores her 12-year-old daughter's cry for homework help because she is "sucked in" to the world of Facebook.

Another story mentioned a married woman requesting to be Facebook friends with a long lost boyfriend and eventually getting a divorce over an unpleasant wall post expressing discontent with her current husband.


The recently published Oxygen Media and Lightspeed Research study reveals 57 percent of women ages 18-34 talk to more people online than face-to-face. These stories are slowly affirming the power Facebook has over the human brain and surfacing the potential repercussions of Facebook addiction.


The new grapevine
Week two of my journey was a little easier to manage than my previous week of hellish, disconnected torture. My mother rented a condo in Myrtle Beach for the weekend of July 4, so after work and classes on Thursday, I jetted across the great state of South Carolina and half of Georgia with my brother and my girlfriend and was looking forward to a weekend filled with sunshine, relaxation, and of course, no Facebook 

However, after arriving, I soon noticed family members discussing the daily Facebook News- a sight that would put Matt Lauer to shame - and quarantining those who had not seen the most recent tagged picture.


I remember thinking, "Could it be? Has Facebook replaced the weather as the new go-to conversation? Will it eventually be commonplace to pass a stranger in the fruit aisle at the grocery store and mutually exchange comments about Facebook's new privacy settings?"

What I noticed was that people seem to use Facebook as a jumping off point to lead into the next conversation. Whenever a moment was filled with a single ounce of awkwardness, Facebook seemed to swoop in and save the day. In a conversation among two or three, one friend would react to the moment of silence with an almost naturally conditioned remark about a mutual friend's status update, relationship change, or newly updated photo album, which would then lead into more in-depth dialogue. It's become the new grapevine.

The conversation of images 
After the escape from reality that was the July 4 trip, I quickly settled back into my daily routine of school and work. A few automated days were filled with proposal writing and professor lecturing, when out of the blue I received an e-mail from my step-dad attached with seven or eight photos from July 4 weekend. To my disappointment, the photos were not enhanced with captions or comments.

Although these photos were beautified using the latest PhotoShop software complete with red-eye reduction, the photos seemed to stare at me blankly, radiating an almost lifeless aura.


I began to wonder why this was and realized I desired a specific kind of photo tweaking. The added pleasure only close friends can give by sharing silly thoughts or jokingly jealous commentary regarding one or two different images. The kind of alteration that brings new life to an image and new meaning to an album. The kind of social satisfaction only Facebook offers.

Originally published in the Athens Banner-Herald on Sunday, August 15, 2010, Boxkite Media Web Design, and informitivechris.blogspot.com.

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