My Addiction to Social Networking

My Addiction to Social Networking

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My Addiction to Social Networking Part 1

My Addiction to Social Networking Part 2

I wake up most days and go straight to checking my emails -- there might be something important that I should respond to.

Then, I check my Facebook. I reply to notifications, scroll down my wall to see what everyone was up to last night, dish out some “likes”, and retaliate in the three or four “poke” wars I’m currently engaged in.

After that, I check my good friend Rob’s Tumblr, called Coffin School. Thats a blogging website that he updates with funny, cool and interesting stuff. It’s a great morning pick-me-up and it’s usually third in line in my list of social networking checks in the morning.

After Coffin School, I check my Soundcloud - a music sharing website - to see what music my friends have posted recently and who has checked out the songs I've posted.

By the time my digital morning routine is finished, I’ve somehow seen part of the lives and innermost thoughts of a couple hundred people.

Facebook has somewhere around 500 million users around the world. According to Facebook itself, people spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook.

One avid Facebook user I spoke to in San Francisco, Elisa, told me she checks her Facebook about ten times a day. But that’s still below average for her friends who she says check their Facebook upwards of 30 times a day.

“People are involved,” Elisa said. “They update their statistics or put up links, or just see what other people are doing.”

When people vent about very private things publicly, there’s sure to be drama, she says.

“I’ve seen people write about their issues - mostly about guys or beef or gangs and bad relationships that didn’t go as expected.” Those are the types of discussions that churn out the drama.

She says she does her best to avoid the drama by not friending people she doesn’t know.

“They say on Facebook enemies are friends. If I don’t know a person and we don’t have mutual friends or when people post things talking about somebody else, I don’t comment,” she said.

As for myself, sometimes I’m not sure who is in control of my social life: Facebook or me.

I’m in the category Elisa was talking about: those people who check their profile pages upwards of 30 times a day. At my lowest of the low, I sometimes find myself refreshing the page a few times just to see if there’s anything new in the few seconds it takes the little spinning beach ball to settle again.

Sad, I know.

That may sound like a lot for some people, but it’s not rare at all. There has never been a time when private citizens handed over their privacy so easily and so willingly.

Dominique Dismuke, 24, of Fairfield, California feels my pain. She’s a heavy social networking user, with accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr and at one time also on MySpace (that’s all but forgotten now). She checks and updates them all the time.

She says she spends about ten hours a day on the networking sites she uses.

“In the morning, I really feel like I have to check all three just in case someone answered something or wrote me a message. It’s kind of like checking your voice mail - it’s like I have to check it.”

But Dismuke used to be a lot worse, she says. She used to get her Facebook notifications sent to her phone in text messages in order to stay constantly connected, but realized that that was a little too much. Whatever was on Facebook would still be there whenever she checked her Facebook account.

Twitter has around 18 million users. Those users send 1 billion tweets a week. The average number of accounts created per day is 460,000 - everyone seems to be tweeting away. Dominique follows 100 fellow Twitter-ers.

She’s cautious of imposters using fake names or claiming they are famous people or friends. Social networking websites are strange places where skeletons jump out of closets without warning. Trolls run wild, and beef is almost always what’s for dinner.

Dismuke says she has a friend who tweets really mean things to celebrities in the hope that they will write him back and cuss him out. “It’s the attention,” she says. “Because everyone can see all of this. When they respond to you, even if it’s bad it’s just that they said something to you.”

There are times when Dismuke wants to stop using the sites she frequents just because they can be stressful, and she can never really know who she is talking to.

“It just gets really catty after awhile. People will make fake Facebook pages because you blocked them so they can see your page,” she said.

I tried to shut my Facebook down a few weeks ago. At first it felt good, refreshing, like I had clicked off some switch that was letting off a really irritating noise that I didn’t realize was bugging me until it was silent.

But then, as the days passed, I found my fingers typing Facebook into my search bar when I wanted to type something else. Did Facebook want me back or did I want it back? Eventually, I gave in to my own will and reactivated my profile.

You win Facebook…you win.

For us young folks, if social networking sticks around we will presumably have most of our lives documented. The good, the bad, and the ugly will be on display for as long as the Internet is around. Old friends, new friends, family, coworkers, and old lovers are and will be closer than ever before. I am a strong believer in leaving the past behind, because some things need to be forgotten. But social networking makes that very difficult.

The more we invest in these sites, the more of our actual selves we put onto a digital platform, and the more attached we become to our online selves. It’s the first and only time any of us have had the chance to be seen exactly as we want to be seen by others, whatever that may be.

Perhaps that’s why social networking shows no signs of slowing down.

Donny Lumpkins, 23, is a content producer for Richmond Pulse and New America Media.