By Elana Zeltser
Recently, my sister forwarded me an interview with college student Jake Reilly, who embarked on what he called his “Amish Project.” For 90 days Reilly didn’t use TV, cell phone or internet. Reilly said he was distressed over the all-consuming and addictive nature of such superficial means of communication, and set out on a mission to live without them. He said the experience changed his life.
My sister called me that day, desperately trying to convince me to deactivate my Facebook with her for 30 days, a less abrasive version of the project Reilly created. Enjoying Facebook while I was on the phone with her, I laughed, said “no way,” and continued to flip through photos of a friend I hadn’t talked to in six months.
After we hung up, I wasted the next half hour skimming through someone else’s “happy birthday” posts and began to reassess my decision. Something Reilly said struck a chord with me. His fundamental frustration with the site was that profiles only represent the superficial aspects of daily life. The more I thought about this, the more I began to agree. People post the most flattering photos of themselves doing the most fun things with the friends they find most exciting. In this virtual world where “liking” is the only emotion, it becomes so easy to get caught up in the presumably delightful lives that people work so hard to project.
I weighed what I would gain and what I would give up by disconnecting myself from Facebook, and with a swift click of the deactivation button, I decided part of the fun would be figuring that out along the way.
Even though I would have been quick to say that Facebook was merely a form of entertainment, I was curious to see how much of my social life was actually chained to the blue and white bars of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s prison.
Throughout the rest of the weekend I was surprised to find I did not miss the networking experience much at all — rather it was somewhat liberating. Despite occasionally moving my mouse to the Facebook shortcut on my Safari out of habit, I had free time to fill that most likely would have been spent scrolling up and down my newsfeed.
As the school week rolled around, with it came the inevitable tests and assignments, and I began to realize Facebook’s true importance in my life. It was not, as I previously thought, simply for my own personal enjoyment.
Instead, I began to understand that Facebook is a tool for me: a resource more important than Moodle or Outlook. I simply had no way of reaching countless people with whom I could discuss an upcoming test or assignment, ask a quick question or help a classmate out. I only have a few phone numbers, but I can reach practically anyone in any of my classes through Facebook. I missed wishing a few friends “happy birthday” because I never got the update. I fell behind on the proceedings of clubs I am in that post on Facebook groups. The Fanatics page, for instance, posts regularly about events that I would have a hard time hearing about any other way.
It became clearer and clearer to me that by failing to comply with the technology-oriented world, I ran the risk of falling behind. Facebook may serve to be the ultimate tool of procrastination, but it is truly a double-edged sword. The site also acts as a quick and reliable avenue of communication essential for the overly stressed and busy high school student.
Reilly was definitely right in that social media has become something of an evil in our society, but I have come to find, at this point in my life, it is truly a necessary evil.