When I was at the age of fourteen/fifteen, me and all my friends and classmates all used to log on to our computers after school and head straight to the first social network website we had ever encountered.

It was called ‘Bebo’ and we were all using it. It allowed us to ‘friend’ each other, write to each other and send private messages, all while sharing little tidbits of our lives we never got a chance to inside the school walls due to ‘rules’ and ‘regulations’. It was the first time we really got a chance to express ourselves truly to one another.

We shared our music, our opinions and said things we couldn’t say in school without getting detention. It became how we communicated with one another. We didn’t have internet phones or 3G, but we still had our computers and that was enough. Not long after that came MySpace, but that died down quickly. Then came MSN and that took the trophy for the ‘place to be’ online. But just like Bebo, it wasn’t long before these other social media pages were pushed to the back of the ‘cool’ list when a new website came along. When I was seventeen, Facebook came in to my life and from that moment, a monster was created.

What is Facebook?:

Creating my new Facebook account, I was excited to experience a new social network and have new ways to get hold of and communicate with my friends. I put my profile out there back when I was known as Josh Nicholas Thomas, and I began to add everyone I’d ever come in to contact with. Yes, I was one of those people who thought that the more online friends you had, the more popular you were. Not the case anymore, but it still didn’t stop me.

I had my best friends, my acquaintances, my college classmates, my tutors and even my mother and her friends on there. The site allowed me to update my ‘status’ and tell my online friends what I was up to, how I was feeling and keep them updated on my drama in my personal life, something I unfortunately used to post regularly. I won’t lie, I used it as a diary more than anything. Another thing it allowed me to do was upload photos and ‘tag’ people in them, letting me create photo albums and show everyone my life in pictures. I was getting really in to these new tools and features and it wasn’t long before I found myself on it more and more often. Then, something happened which made my infatuation even worse…

Going mobile:

When I got my first smartphone in 2008, I was thrilled to find that the internet was easy to access on the go. Bear in mind, internet on your phone was only just becoming ‘a thing’ so I was amazed. I could google information on the train, watch YouTube videos on the walk to college and even download apps to entertain me. One of these apps was, of course, Facebook. I used it to access my account away from my laptop and computer, and I was scrolling through my news feed and responding to wall posts and messages during times that I shouldn’t have been, like in college classes and meetings in work.

My boyfriend at the time was also beginning to pick up on how much I used my phone to access Facebook and it was beginning to affect our relationship. But still to this day I use my phone to access my Facebook page, though not as much as I used to. I don’t post as much anymore, especially not my personal drama, but the mobile phone has definitely fuelled my addiction for mindless scrolling and habitual ‘liking’ of friends updates. But what is it about Facebook that has us all doing this? Why do we always seem to click on the Facebook logo on our phones when we’re bored? What keeps us going back? Well, I asked around.

What’s the big deal?:

Since Facebook made it’s way into our lives, there’s no denying that it’s changed a lot of ways we do our day-to-day activities. For example, when I wake up in the morning, one of the first things I do is grab my iPhone and go on Facebook to check my notifications, respond to messages and comments and probably upload a status or an inspirational quote photo (yeah, I’m one of ‘those’ guys). Even though I only get about 6-7 hours of sleep during the night, I still feel like anything could have happened during that time that I could have missed out on and it’s one of the reasons why I’m sat there scrolling until I reach the last post I read the night before. I began to ask my friends if they did the same thing and all of them did. They are as addicted to their phones as I am, but what is it about Facebook that’s got us whipped? I asked one of my closest friends and she had this to say:

“My whole life is on my phone and Facebook plays a huge part in that. I don’t have everybody’s numbers so when I want to hang out with certain people, I get in touch with them via their Facebook accounts. Sometimes I even do it with people who’s numbers I have got. But that’s not all I use it for. I love celebrity gossip and Hollywood news and Facebook tells me everything thanks to the numerous groups and pages I’ve ‘liked’ and joined. I also love seeing gossip and drama from people I know in real life. When someone uploads an angry status aimed at their partner or friend, I head straight to the comments and watch the arguments unfold. It’s the best! It’s wrong and tacky to put your problems on Facebook and I literally cringe for the people who do it, but at the same time I’m thankful to them for giving me entertainment. Those are some of the main reasons I love Facebook. I really don’t think my life would be the same without it there!”

After she gave her opinion, I kind of agreed with her. I also love gossip and news, be it Hollywood or Pen-Y-Fan, it’s always juicy to see what scandalous stuff is happening in other people’s lives. It’s nosey, I’ll agree, but we all do it, and it’s so much fun. I miss Jeremy Kyle every morning, so this is the perfect replacement for that. Other things I love about my news feed is seeing what my friends are up to. I don’t have random people on my page, only close friends and people I actually know, so it’s nice to see updates I care about. And I also love sharing my updates with them, whether it be an article I’ve written, what I’m up to, a quirky status about an awkward date I’ve been on, or even a selfie. I love seeing them from other and love sharing mine with others. What else is Facebook for, eh?

Come to the dark side:

Although most of us don’t see how drastic our addiction can be, there comes a point when you realise exactly how much time you spend on it and how much you should probably cut back. Lately I’ve been looking into the addiction and rise of social media and it’s something I love writing about. I love talking to people about their social media confessions and sins and interviewing them about their habits online because I, as an addict, can relate and agree and I feel less alone knowing that I’m not the only one who takes note of who doesn’t write a birthday message on my wall so that I can return the favour on theirs. (No, seriously, I fucking know who you are, I saw it was your birthday and decided not to write on your wall since you so kindly didn’t write on mine. Karma.). It’s pathetic, but I do it and that’s one of the downfalls of the site. It can turn you CRAZY.

For example, when my ex and I broke up recently, I spent so much time looking on his Facebook, checking his updates and seeing who he was talking to and who he was adding. It’s a little bit psycho, and it can hurt like hell when you see them tagged in a ph
oto or status doing fun things with another girl/boy. It can also ruin friendships. Recently, something happened where I was accused of giving more attention to other friends that I was to one girl. I have a few different groups of friends, and I always like to hang out with them so it wasn’t meant as malicious in any way, but like I said, Facebook brings out your crazy. Before we know it we’re stalking our enemies, over-analyzing certain situations and becoming a social media monster.

Take a damn break:

Not too long ago I became self aware of my social media habits and screamed ‘I NEED A MOTHER FUCKING BREAK’ to my friends who’s jaws all dropped at the mention of me leaving social media for more than an hour. They all doubted that I would last, but that evening, I saved all the photo’s I needed to save, told my Facebook friends they would have to contact me through other mediums and then deactivated my account. I was officially ‘off the grid’ and I felt a huge difference in my life.

The first couple of days were a little bit strange, I won’t lie. I found myself clicking on Facebook while I was bored only to be reminded that my account wasn’t there. I also had to find other ways to get my gossip, which I struggled with at first. It was also a bit frustrating for my friends. Two of them in particular nagged me to get back on Facebook due to the fact that they couldn’t check in with me, making them look like they were drinking at Costa or Starbucks alone.

They also couldn’t tag me in photos, which for me, was nice. This made me feel good knowing that my personal life was now exactly that. Personal. I could go somewhere without people knowing where I am after a friend has ‘checked us’ in and put up our location. I could look like complete shit and not have a photo of me in my pyjamas and greasy hair tagged on Facebook. It was like I was a ghost and knowing that nobody knew what I was up to, made me feel free. But like most good things in life, there was also a down side.

I couldn’t promote my blog as much as I could before, I couldn’t get hold of certain people and I couldn’t see what my friends were up to and missed out on a LOT of the gossip. I would be talking to people in the street and they’d always say ‘didn’t you see it on Facebook?’ when I ask them what the gossip is. It got frustrating. I ended up lasting a whole month, just like I planned, and I had never felt prouder of myself. It was like giving up smoking, or going on a diet. I needed an extreme amount of willpower.

On 26th December 2013 I joined Facebook again after my detox and ever since, I’ve been planning on doing it again, but I’m going to wait until I’ve fully planned out my upcoming social experiment (more on that over on my blog, soon. Check my main column page for the link). If you’re like me and feel you need a break, then go for it. Click deactivate and enjoy the silence. It’s so refreshing.

Generation – Obsessed:

So to wrap it up, it seems that I’ve listed quite a few valid reasons on why we’re addicted to Facebook based on my own experiences. It’s no secret that I’m part of a generation who is glued to their phones. I’m 23, and most of me and my friends discovered the wonders of the internet when we were teenagers and social media was how we communicated. Things haven’t changed. They’ve just made it easier for us to access it.

And that’s mainly why we love it so much. It makes everything EASIER. Why buy gossip magazines when you can go to your News Feed? Why bother getting a birthday card when you can ‘write on their wall’? Why go and get professional photo’s done when you can whip out your iPhone, take a selfie and use a cute filter to complete the look? There’s no denying that we love it, and yes, the majority us are addicted. The others mostly are, but just deny it. Well, not all of them. Some are lucky and haven’t got completely sucked in.

Next week I’ll be looking at Twitter and how that’s become a part of our lives. So expect hashtags, ‘tweet speak’ and more than a 140 characters.

Thank you for taking time to read this column and if you like what you’ve read then head over to my blog #CandidlyJosh (JoshThomas.blog.com) to read more of my stuff where I talk more about social media, fashion, music, relationships, confidence and so much more.

Until next time,

-Josh

xoxo

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