Boy, do I feel like a loser whenever I try to explain to people that I’m limiting my Facebook use.
“Why?” is the first question they ask, as if they’re really not aware that one of the biggest social networks is also one of the biggest time-wasters around. Truth is, it doesn’t feel like a waste of time anymore, it’s become such an integral part of our lives: wake up, check Facebook, brush teeth, check Facebook, go to work, check Facebook.
But to explain why I limit its use (to weekends, with my husband holding onto my password) I’d have to fess up to being able to spend entire hours—no, days!—lost online between my 1,500 friends and the news articles they post, arguments they start and pointless quizzes they reel me in with that I somehow feel compelled to take.
Sure, I can convince myself some of it is for work, as I’m a member of a dozen professional groups that provide invaluable information, but then, I’d have to gain my attention span back from .25 seconds to actually do that work. Which is what I’m doing when I go off the damn thing during work hours.
But here’s the rub: I feel so left out. I feel like those grade-school years when I wasn’t allowed to watch TV on school nights, so whenever someone started a conversation, “Did you see that show …” and then remembered my house rules, they’d drift off to someone more hip to pop culture, leaving me alone with my books.
But now my exile is my own. I don’t know what meme everyone’s talking about; I don’t know what news stories are important (what, am I supposed to just read the newspaper and decide for myself?); I can’t follow the latest mini-controversies, which will be over by the time I check my status updates on Fridays.
It makes me feel kind of old.
But then last week, when I got a must-read Internet list (I’m still subscribed to a few of those to help me), called “A Teenager’s View of Social Media,” written by an actual teenager, I changed my perspective. The 19-year-old University of Texas guy is interested in social media’s role in society and wanted to give the perspective of the real teenage audience, as opposed to older marketers or researchers who examine the trends but are not of them.
“I’m here to provide a different view based off of my life in this ‘highly coveted’ age bracket …” and he breaks it down by social network: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr, Yik Yak and Medium.
If I thought I felt left out and old before, this whole treatise made me feel like I was visiting from another planet: I’d never heard of Yik Yak, don’t sext enough or send enough racy pics to use the disappearing Snapchat app, will not understand Tumblr no matter how many times it’s explained to me, wasn’t aware that Medium was anything but a news site, don’t think Twitter is pointless like most teens, and I feel sad that Instagram is the most-used app among teens because all I seem to get on my feed is pictures of food—which just makes me hungry.
But at least we’re on the same page about Facebook. Here’s what he says:
“It’s dead to us. Facebook is something we all got in middle school because it was cool but now is seen as an awkward family dinner party we can't really leave. It’s weird and can even be annoying to have Facebook at times. That being said, if you don't have Facebook, that’s even more weird and annoying. Weird because of the social pressure behind the question, ‘Everyone has Facebook, why don't you?’ and annoying because you'll have to answer that to just about everyone in classes you meet who makes an attempt to friend you or find you on there.”
So maybe I’m not such a loser for trying to quit Facebook. Or at least limit myself. Maybe I’m too young for the network. Too cool!!
I’ll let you know as soon as I read his next installment, “What Teens Really Think of YouTube, Google+, Reddit and Other Social Media.”
Now if only someone could tell me what Reddit is.