When social networking sites go bad

Published 1:41 pm Saturday, July 4, 2009

As of late, my time at home in the evenings have been consumed by Facebook.

Just in case you’re out of the loop on the “world-wide web,” Facebook is one of the many social networking sites that allows you to connect with other people.

On the website you can post pictures, information, update your status (what you’re doing/feeling at the moment), send private messages, join groups/causes and even play games.

I’ve had my Facebook account for about four years now, and it’s been a long running joke with a lot of my friends as it’s easier to catch up with me through a good old fashioned phone call than messaging me on the site.

But then within the last few months something changed. I began to check my account more often and reconnecting with several of my high school friends who I hadn’t spoken to in nine years. And then came the college friends (and an advisor) I had left behind.

Over the past months, I’ve learned about marriages, children, careers and even deaths on Facebook…and, of course, there’s stuff I didn’t want to know.

So started the nightly routine of checking the Facebook news feed, which show’s updates on your friends, and messaging people.

While I don’t think my nightly check on the Web site is an addiction (yet!), I can see where one could possibly get addicted to Facebook.

Before you think, “Internet…addiction? Nah.” Oh, my friend, there are plenty of articles and reports on it.

In fact, according to a study by Salary.com, Americans spend 1.7 hours of their workday on the Internet. If that’s just at work, I would hate to think of how much time we spend on the Internet at home.

CNN recently had a story of a mother who was addicted to Facebook. One day her daughter asked for help on homework and the mother refused to because she was busy on Facebook. The daughter went so far as to go upstairs to her own computer and send an e-mail to her mother asking for help. But, of course, the mother was on Facebook and therefore did not see the e-mail.

It’s a pretty ridiculous story, but a common one now days. According to CNN, therapists are seeing more and more people crossing the line into social dysfunction with Facebook.

Among the ways to deal with these compulsions, many experts suggest setting a time limit for yourself, keeping a diary of how many hours you’re on Facebook or block the site all together.

Then of course you could just unplug the computer and place it in the nearest closet.

When it comes down to it, Facebook and other social networking sites are a great way to keep in contact with people you would have probably lost contact with over the years.

The benefits of joining such a Web site outweigh the downfalls.

As long as you keep your use of the Internet in check, social networking Web sites won’t go bad.

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: amanda.vanderbroek@r-cnews.com or call (252) 332-7209.