I tuned into the Facebook Obsession on CNBC last night only to find out a few surprising facts about the social network that has spawned everything from controversy to admiration. I sat entranced, even willing to watch the commercials for fear of missing a bit of the documentary. It turns out Mark Zuckerberg’s two billion dollar creation has united a girl from Ohio with her biological mother in North Dakota, helped police departments across the country track down criminals and jump-started Obama’s presidential campaign. While Facebook does yield significant political, economic and most importantly, social benefits, I have to wonder what is happening to the value of face-to-face communication. There’s something incredibly unique in being able to observe the expression on someone’s face or the tone of their voice. Do people appreciate a Facebook IM over a call on the telephone or a conversation over a cup of coffee? Call me old fashioned, but I really hope not.
I deleted Facebook for three months this past semester and I’ve probably never been so productive in my life. I used the computer only for schoolwork, research, e-mail, weather and checking the news. I probably learned more in one hour on the computer than three hours on it back when I had Facebook. I spent more of my time away from the screen doing things I really enjoyed like reading, running, spending time with friends, immersing myself completely in college life, etc. I didn’t miss the website I always turned to when I was bored or tired of doing schoolwork. Yes, it’s a great connection to my friends abroad, a welcome respite from work and a good source for information about events and businesses I wouldn’t know about otherwise, but do I really need to spend time on a website where I waste about 30 percent of my time probably looking at pages and pictures of people I barely know?
I eventually brought Facebook back after those three months and I was immediately sucked back in. The documentary definitely opened my eyes to many benefits of the website, but Facebook still offers me little opportunity for productivity or learning. Delete Facebook for a week and see how much you accomplish. Some of us just can’t do that but I’m willing to guess there are many Facebook users out there who may surprise themselves.