Nonstop Facebook

CHRISTOPHER WIRTH

Hammering wildly at the
buttons of her BlackBerry
Curve Smartphone, Allegra
Chirino checks her
Facebook account and comments
on a friend’s status
update. Chirino, 21, is a
mathematics education
major from Southampton.
Like most college students,
she is constantly trying to
balance her academic life
and her social life; relying
mostly on social networking
sites to help her keep in
touch with family and
friends. After all, it’s much
faster than mailing a letter
and a heck of a lot more
convenient than a lengthy
phone call.
The fact is, user-based
sites like Facebook have
become the new marketplace
for social interaction
and mass communication.
Over the past decade,
social networking sites have
been an increasingly useful
tool for people to stay in
touch. Whether they’ve
moved cross-country and
want to keep up with mom
and dad, or their work
schedule is just a little too
hectic for an active social
life. More recently, they
have become a new kind
media flooded with advertisements,
businesses,
artists, and non-profit
organizations. Facebook in
particular, even played a
part in the recent uprising
in Egypt – allowing activists
to communicate and organize.
However, for some, this
simple act of keeping in
touch has become a social
obsession.
In addition to having a
Facebook account, Chirino
also has a profile on
Tumblr, Foursquare,
Myspace, Formspring,
LiveJournal, Xanga, and
Photobucket. She also
makes a point to check
YouTube on a daily basis, so
that way she can keep up
with whatever new viral
video people happen to be
talking about. It’s a way of
“keeping up-to-date” she
said. “I want to be able to
know what people are talking
about and be a part of
the conversation.”
But what’s the need for so
many different accounts on
so many different sites?
“They all provide something
different,” Chirino
explains. “Facebook is
changing things that I used
to like so I go to other places
that might do it better.”
For example, although
Facebook has “notes”
where a user can edit and
post heaps of information to
share, blog sites like Tumblr
are specifically designed
with the blogger in mind.
No need to deal with pesky
location updates or event
invitations from friends on
Tumblr; everything on the
site has to do with blogging.
Tumblr is similar to what
Xanga and LiveJournal once
were, but is certainly more
cutting-edge and timely.
Despite having a multitude
of applications for
socializing, Chirino confesses
that Facebook is her
favorite; she checks it at
least five times an hour, and
spends more time commenting
on friends’ posts
than creating her own.
Fidgeting with her
BlackBerry, Chirino
explains that it is completely
synced up with her
Facebook, Twitter, and
Foursquare accounts.
Whenever something happens
on those sites, she gets
a free message sent to a
mobile application on her
phone.
“Facebook is my home
screen for my browser. So
whenever I have a free
minute or just any period of
down-time, I check my
news feed,” she said. How
often is that down-time, you
ask? Well – a lot.
Every morning, before
getting dressed or brushing
her teeth, Chirino checks
her news feed on Facebook
to see what happened while
she was sleeping.
“I look at Facebook so
much I could tell you how
many friends my top four
friends have,” she said and
then spouted out names
and numbers, which I double
checked after. She was
spot-on with almost every
one.
She even went as far as to
guess the number of mutual
friends they had as well.
Chirino sat for a moment
with a sour expression on
her face, “Actually saying
out loud how much time I
spend on the internet is
making me sick to my stomach.”
On average, Chirino
spends about nine hours a
day on Facebook.
“It makes me feel like s–
t,” Chirino said. “Instead of
living my own life, I feel like
I’m living vicariously
through everyone else.”
You might think her case
sounds a little extreme, but
the truth is:
She’s not alone.
According to
Techcrunch.com, Facebook
had 149 million
users in the U.S. as
of February 2011. 70
percent of those
users logged in on a
daily basis.
Worldwide, the
social networking
site is quickly
reaching the 600
million user mark.
In combination
with the rapid
growth of
S m a r t p h o n e s ,
usage has skyrocketed.
Now, users
don’t even have to
be at home to check
their notifications.
They can be at the
mall, a public park,
or anywhere that
their phone can get
a signal.
Patti Hemko-Alloway, a
social and behavioral science
professor at Bucks, lent
some insight on the growing
addiction to websites
like Facebook – “For one
thing,” she said “I believe
that the people addicted are
more introverted than
extroverted. And the second
part of it is that society
as a whole is so voyeuristic.
We love to watch other peoples’
lives. That’s why we
like reality shows so much.”
Alloway suggests that an
addiction to social networking
sites is not much different
from an addiction to
drugs or alcohol. “Just
because you’re not injecting
yourself doesn’t mean it’s
not an addiction. An addiction
is defined as something
a person keeps doing even
though it is interfering with
their life.”
And like all addictions,
there are consequences.
Alloway said “Socially, it’s
going to make a person
more isolated – keeping
them away from friendships
and actual relationships.
It keeps you in your
cocoon, so that you can’t
grow. It might start impeding
on school and work
too.”
A Kaplan survey of 500
top colleges found that 10
percent of admissions officers
acknowledged looking
at applicant’s profiles on
social networking sites. 38
percent said that what they
saw “negatively affected”
their views of the applicant.
A survey executed by
Careerbuilder.com said that
20 percent of companies
confessed to looking at
applicant’s profiles before
deciding to employ them;
33 percent decided not to
make a job offer after
reviewing the content.
For Chirino, the consequences
are very real. She
checks her Facebook during
class and throughout doing
homework, which has
directly affected her grades.
Currently, she’s struggling
to keep her grade point
average (GPA) at a 3.0,
which she needs to fulfill
her graduation requirement.
Right now, it’s at a
2.6. If she can’t get her GPA
up, she won’t be able to
graduate on time. Due to
changing requirements for
teachers, Chirino will have
to take 3 extra years of
schooling if she flunks out,
just to get her bachelor’s
degree.
“I wasn’t this addicted
two years ago. My grades
have gone from 80s and 90s
to 39s and 42s” Chirino
sighed. Because she spends
so much of her time in class
checking Facebook, Chirino
has to meet with a classmate
during the week to copy the
notes she missed.
Chirino continues to check
her phone and, realizing
what she’s doing, laughs to
herself. “I want to cut back,”
she says. “But give it a week
and I’ll probably be right
back to where I was. It’s
part of my life now.”