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When the Facebook Snowball Becomes an Avalanche

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When I joined Facebook a year and a half or so ago, little did I think that the social networking site would become a ginormously addicting and time-sucking pastime. Damn those geniuses that came up with the Facebook idea! Actually, I wish it were I who had conceptualized the scheme, because if I had, I’d be laughing all the way on the many trips to the bank. Take my involvement, for instance. What started out as an innocent snowball has rolled into an avalanche of epic proportions.

My previous exposure to Internet social networking was woefully lacking. In 2006, I joined Gather, having been enticed to go there by Buzz Agent. For the most part, I liked the site. It was easy to use. It was bloggy; it was creative. The humor was free-wheeling and contagious. The most seductive thing about the site was the ability to earn a sizable amount of money and gift cards. The rest of my Gather experience was mixed. The site was not well monitored, and questionable practices regarding member interaction, continually shifting terms of service and subsequent violations and posting of copyrighted material bothered me. Even so, I managed to make a lot of good friends there, ones that I still have.

However, all “good” things must come to an end. By the end of my stay there, I was spending so much time on Gather that I could barely do anything else. So like a junkie, I went cold turkey and said goodbye last New Year’s Eve. I wanted to concentrate on seriously writing this year (which I have). In the interim, I turned to MySpace for connecting.

Initially I joined MySpace for purposes of parental stalking. (One child was under 18 at the time. I wouldn’t be much of a parent if I hadn’t monitored her Internet usage.) The kids made the exodus from MySpace (now considered ‘out’) to Facebook (now considered ‘in’) not long after I followed them to MySpace. I’ve since found that when your adult children are too busy to call you on a regular basis, checking their Facebook pages can fill in the gaps and either raise red flags and alarm bells or allay your worst fears.

My college-aged son invited me in after Facebook opened their doors to everyone. Only a year ago, I was checking in sporadically, sometimes not logging on for weeks. I couldn’t understand how some could spend all day long on the ‘Book, mostly because the some of the applications were uninteresting and others were difficult to comprehend. (So, shoot me. I’m old and unless software is easy, I struggle.)

Then during the summer, Facebook began to change its platform. At first, even savvy users were flummoxed, so you can imagine that it took this dinosaur a couple of weeks to decipher the changes. Once the bugs were ironed out, I found it easier to post links, especially to my articles on Blogcritics, Associated Content and elsewhere. I also noticed everything else about the site was easier, too. I discovered the instant messaging feature, which makes connecting to friends even easier. You no longer had to coordinate your friends to Yahoo, AIM or Skype, as it could all be done on Facebook.

Over the fall, I noticed I was spending more and more time on Facebook. It could have been the word game applications. I’m a sucker for words, and now that I didn’t have to read a tangible dictionary or do Sunday crossword puzzles in the Detroit News, I could find my word fix on Facebook. Scrabulous, Scramble, Pathwords — these are all compelling and effortless games, just the kind of amusement that appeals to me.

It could have also been that times were bad and I was using Facebook as an escape. When business takes a nosedive, your house loses 60% of its value in two years, taxes increase, your retirement and the kids’ college accounts vanish and the economy collapses, a person has to do something to keep the negative thoughts at bay. Hanging out at Facebook during the workday can temporarily erase thoughts of hard times, much like the movies did for those suffering during that Other Great Depression. If things get really bleak, I can visit the “I am Fluent in Sarcasm” group and recharge myself with a bit of twisted humor. Of course, then the workday ends and reality bites, but at least there was that snippet of reprieve.

Then I noticed an increase in my friend requests. Most of these were people I already knew from (gasp!) Gather. And several writers with whom I regularly correspond tell me I should use Facebook to “get the word out” on my novel. Where once an aspiring author would use resumes, sample writing and cold-calling publishing houses or agents for self-promotion, it is now the Internet that’s the tool du jour. In addition, my son the musician is using it to post some of his tortuous original compositions and to link performance video to his page.

Using Facebook, I’ve also hooked up with close and distant relatives, old friends I'd thought I'd forgotten, high school classmates and people in the publishing business, along with my children’s friends and teachers. It’s been a wonderful and eye-opening ride.

Yeah, right. That’s what I say to justify my time there. I keep telling myself that “social networking” is a good thing, yet find myself goofing off there more and more. That is a bad thing, a very bad thing. Perhaps I should resign myself to the theory that I suffer from an addictive personality disorder and expose myself to my demon 24/7. Maybe that’s the cure. Oh, I forgot. I did that during the month of November, when I the only writing I was doing was on my novel. During the workday, I would play on Facebook, so that when I came home to write, I would have my fill of nonsense and be immune to the silliness temptation, and therefore was able to concentrate on my novel.

That was only partially true. When December 1 rolled around, I found that I had not only made significant progress on the book, I had also managed to acquire a full-blown Facebook addiction. They don't call it "Crackbook" for nothing, folks. One of my good friends scheduled an online intervention, successfully nagging me every time she noticed me logged on. I call her a nag, but I need her to nag.

I have since seen the error of my ways. In the blip of time on this planet, I am but a nano-milisecond of flash. I’m old, and I don’t have much time, so I am writing as fast as I can. In the spirit of the New Year and turning over a new leaf, I am resolving to cut back on my Facebook usage. In tobacco terms, I’m hoping to go from three packs a day to one stick a week. This, I know, is a lofty goal, but one I am confident I can achieve. I’ve done it before.

After all, previous experience tells me when the Facebook snowball becomes an avalanche, it’s time to move to a tropical island.

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About Joanne Huspek

I write. I read. I garden. I cook. I eat. And I love to talk about all of the above.
  • those gaps, flags and fears — oh my! — are the very reason this momma can’t seem to stop a-bookin’…

    as for smoking – well, let me know what works and what doesn’t; i sincerely want to know…oh what a cruel world it is that in 1978 i was uncool for not smoking, only to find myself uncool in 2008 for smoking…

  • Then I guess I won’t ask you to be my friend. Nice piece and good luck with the novel.