To his Facebook a student once swore
I'll update my status no more.
The time that I waste's
Better spent face-to-face.
For the rest, face-in-book, I'll explore.
My 18-year-old son called me with some remarkable news the other day, inspiring the limerick above.
He had shut down his Facebook account. This came as a surprise to me because he enjoyed Facebook and spent a lot of time on it.
He's a first-year student at Auckland University in New Zealand. He told me he often began many of his study sessions by logging on to Facebook to check his account. The quick check would often last at least a half-hour. He said he couldn't afford to waste the time.
I was impressed.
First, the maturity to self-regulate was a logical, strategic move given that he wants to do well at school and finds the work demanding.
Second, Facebook is his major platform for interaction with friends. For middle-aged me, the social networking site is more of a billboard where I can publish links to my writing. For him, it was a way to connect, tease, commiserate and have fun with people he knew. It seemed like he was making a sacrifice.
I asked him about it.
He would lose touch with some people, he said. But many he could still text. Or, imagine it, even connect the old-fashioned way, face-to-face. He'd also found that his "friends" list had grown bigger than he needed anyway. Just before closing his Facebook account, he'd done a "cull" of his friends, he told me. From 240 to 140.
His friends reacted to his Facebook deactivation with surprise. "Where did you go?" was the most common comment he told me -- as if he had left town. In fact, he had disappeared. From a certain -- and very common -- cyber reality anyway. But his student friends, when he saw them in person, did not criticize his actions. Just the opposite. Once friends discovered he'd dropped Facebook because he felt he spent too much time on it, many of them said: "I should do that, too."
This all made sense to me. Facebook is a rare part of the human experience which affords you the chance to declare friendship with someone you have never met and whom you may not even know. Losing such "friends" can't be too hard. (Have you ever been tagged or poked by a Facebook "friend" and struggled to recognize them or even place them in some sort of context? I have.)
I am proud of my son -- and it has nothing to do with whether he is on or off Facebook. He's honest, caring, athletic, musical and loves to dance. He's good at computer games. He follows the Lakers avidly, can dunk in pickup games and also thinks about the ultimate meaning of life.
And he used to use Facebook often. Ironically, Facebook was a great way for me to stay in touch with him between phone calls. (We are separated by a common ocean, the Pacific.)
But he had the gumption to unfriend the Big Friend-making machine and detach on-line from his peer group.
Or at least that was the situation until a couple weeks ago. Then, suddenly, he was back on Facebook -- commenting, posting links and photos, wisecracking with his mates. He dramatic exit from Facebook turned into a vacation.
I asked him why -- using a Facebook message of course.
He messaged back saying it was "just real handy to talk to people about stuff when you couldn't actually meet up with them ... like now or whenever you get this today."
That made sense to me, too. Of course, there's email and all the other ways to connect, but Facebook allows you to connect or just be available to lots of your friends at once, no matter where you are.
Yes, I suppose that sounds a bit like a commercial. But it's not really. I'm not a big Facebook fan myself. And my son was proving an inspiration for a second time around the subject.
First, he'd taught me that it's possible to leave Facebook. Then he taught me, it's possible to come back.
The Facebook vacation. I saw the headline: "Steven is no longer active on Facebook. And he may never be again. That's up to him."
Suddenly, I couldn't resist following in my son's footsteps and an hour after this blog goes live -- and I post it on my Facebook page -- I will deactivate my Facebook account. ( I love the irony.) According to my son, all you have to do is go to the account section -- on the top right -- and then down to account settings and then to deactivate.
My son is back on the 'Book, but for me it's goodbye. For now at least. I'm looking forward to my vacation.
Do others out there on the web have similar stories? How are you coping with the time-eating computer virus that Facebook can bring? Have you taken a vacation from Facebook? Use the comments area below and let me know your experience.
Follow Steven Crandell on Twitter: www.twitter.com/stevencrandell